Child psychology: a practical guide for parents
Childhood is the stage of change par excellence. In order to support the children that go through this turbulent stage, there are not always professionals with a thousand and one specialization degrees and years dedicated to studying in the academy to know how to face the challenges of caring for the youngest, but, in most cases, fathers and mothers moved by their will, their capacity for effort and, of course, the love and attachment they feel for their children . They are the real experts on the subject.
However, this does not mean that these parents should not benefit from the knowledge provided by child psychology , given the large number of hours they spend and the high stakes involved in their relationship with their children. This is a field of research and intervention in which there is much to learn and even more to discover, and it can be extremely useful when it comes to knowing the mental processes and behavioural styles typical of the youngest.
What is child psychology?
Within the branch of evolutionary psychology (also called developmental psychology), which is responsible for the study of behavioural changes in human beings throughout their lives, the childhood stage is of particular importance. In this vital phase there are a number of situations that cause, on the one hand, many changes in our body, and on the other, we are especially sensitive to these internal dynamics as well as those that have to do with the environment in which we grow and learn. That is why it is common nowadays to use not only the concept of developmental psychology, but also, more specifically, that of child psychology .
Child psychology has important connections with biology and with psychopedagogy , so that its most important fields of study have to do with the behavioural and neuroendocrine changes that children have to experience and, on the other hand, the educational styles and learning strategies that can best be adapted to them.
Below you can see some of the great conclusions about children’s minds that have been reached through the lines of research in child psychology.
Understanding Sons and Daughters: 7 Keys to Child Psychology
1.The stage with the most changes
The stages of cognitive development with which evolutionary psychology works place special emphasis on the period that goes from the first months of life to adolescence , since it is in this age range where the greatest number of stages occur. This is what happens, for example, in Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.
This, of course, has implications for child psychology. The development of cognitive abilities (such as intelligence, memory, etc.) develops at more or less the same rate as the more observable changes as a person grows. This means, among other things, that it is not uncommon that in the first ten or twelve years of a child’s life his or her personality, tastes or habits seem to change radically in some respects.
2. The moment of greatest plasticity
Many studies suggest that childhood is the vital stage in which the brain is most likely to change with the most insignificant external stimuli . This means that certain learning can be done more easily in the first months or years of life, but it is also possible that certain context-related phenomena negatively affect both the cognitive development of young children and their emotional stability.
3. Tendency towards self-centeredness
One of the main conclusions reached by both child psychology and neuroscience is that all children have a clear tendency towards a style of egocentric thinking. This does not mean that their morality has been developed to make their needs and goals above those of others, but that directly their brain is not prepared to process information concerning society or the common good. This ability will appear with the myelinization of certain neural circuits that connect the frontal lobe to other structures.
4. There are many reasons not to use physical punishment
Beyond the ethical dilemma of whether to physically punish children, a growing body of research reinforces the hypothesis that this option has negative effects that should be avoided. To know more, you can see the article The 8 reasons not to use physical punishment against children .
5. Not all learning is literal
Even if the youngest children do not have the ability to grasp the subtleties of language correctly, only a very small part of what they learn has to do with clear statements and firm sentences about reality (usually coming from parents or teachers). Even at such short ages, actions teach more than words.
6. Children act on purpose
Child psychology teaches us that, although their behavior may seem chaotic and impulsive to us, there is always a logic that guides the acts of the youngest . In the same way, they may have problems adapting to certain contexts if they do not come to understand why certain rules should be respected. The proper fit between our visions of reality requires good communication with our children, adapting the discourse to their capacity to understand more or less abstract concepts.
7. More is not always better
Although it may seem counterintuitive, trying to get children to learn as much as they can in the shortest time possible is not recommended . The development of their brain is dictated by times that do not have to keep up with the difficulty curve of the lessons they are trying to teach. This means, for example, that at certain ages it is not appropriate to give them lessons that involve dividing or multiplying, even if they have learned the previous steps that would enable an adult to learn these subjects.