Yara manyan gobe, is a popular northern Nigerian saying meaning children are the leaders of tomorrow. You ask a child what he wants to become in the future and he replies with “I want to be a footballer”. This is okay because, at that stage, the child is replying to you out of pure passion and adoration for the profession and not because he understands what it truly means for him to become a footballer. But that does not necessarily mean you should throw what he is saying out the window. Here is why.
It is true that at the earliest phase of childhood, children are driven more by emotions rather than logic. Generally, newborn babies will cry when they are hungry, sleepy, or sick. Thus, generations of parenting have allowed parents to interpret this signal in many ways to enable them to understand what the baby wants. They understand that a baby may cry and rub his eyes when he is sleepy, or cry and suck his tongue when hungry. This means that children know what they want even before they can express it.
As children grow, they begin to feel more than just hunger and sleepiness. They start experiencing emotions of joy, sorrow, fear, and surprise. As time goes on, these simple emotions evolve into more complex ones like pride, hope, confidence, guilt embarrassment, and empathy. Then, it is at that stage that a child begins to develop his unique likes, dislikes, wants, and personality in general. It is also at that point that a child needs to learn how to manage his emotions.
Unfortunately, this is where the problem arises as the average northern Nigerian parent is likely to be ignorant of these developments and usually ends up infringing on the child’s mental rights. Unfortunately, a child’s mental state is very fragile, and continuous abuse of it may affect him psychologically as regards how he behaves, controls his emotions, or socializes with people in the future. Therefore, understanding why a child thinks the way he thinks and acts or reacts the way he does, and acting appropriately on it will not only support his present but help in building and shaping his future self and personality, based on who he is. This brings us to study the concept of child psychology. What is child psychology and why does it matter?
What is Child Psychology?
Child psychology/child development is the study of the subconscious and conscious childhood development. At the same time, it is the study of the psychological processes of children, their uniqueness, and their development.
Initiated in 1840, when Charles Darwin began studying and collecting data on the growth and development of his children, child psychology went through a German psycho-physiologist and American educational psychologist namely William Prayer and Stanley Hall respectively. These two put forth methods and periodicals to child psychology and education.
By the 20th century, the field of child psychology was further defined by the development of intelligence tests and the establishment of child guidance clinics. In modern child psychology today, Jean Piaget regarded as its founder, developed a theory of acquisition in children, where he described the stages of learning in childhood and characterized children’s perceptions of themselves and the world at each stage.
Key Areas of Child Psychology
Moreover, five key areas of child psychology are outlined including development, milestones, behavior, emotions, and, socialization. Each area having its sub-areas. Our point of focus here is ‘development’, which in this article proves to be crucial of the five. Child development has three areas of focus namely; Physical development, Cognitive/intellectual development, and Social/emotional development.
1. Physical Development
This refers to the physical changes a child’s body undergoes from birth and usually happens in a mean predictable manner. Usually, your child will roll his head up, roll over, crawl, walk, and run. Physical development also includes the acquisition of gross and fine motor skills which means the ability to use one’s big muscles to carry out activities like walking, and also the ability to use smaller muscles like their hands and fingers to pick up small objects or holding a spoon.
These different skills and developments of children usually occur within a specific time frame or window and are guided by developmental milestones from the first six weeks to seven years of infant-hood.
2. Cognitive/Intellectual Development
This include reasoning, imagination, language, and thought. Cognitive development refers to all processes children use to gain knowledge. It is the intellectual learning and thought processes of a child, mostly influenced by genetics and the environment. Nowadays, babies show interest in their environment before they have the language to express it.
3. Social/Emotional Development
Social development deals with learning to relate with other people. It is how a child develops values, awareness, and social skills necessary to relate with people around him. Emotional development refers to how a child feels, understands, and expresses his emotions. The emotional development of a child has a major effect on his social development because the way a child feels understands and expresses his feelings has a direct impact on how he relates with other people and gain social skills.
Social skills that children may develop include trust, friendship, conflict management, and respect. These are greatly influenced by the amount of love and affection a child receives. Failure to attain these social skills may later pose difficulty for children in creating and maintaining satisfying relationships with others in the future.
Every parent strives to their best to see their children develop physically. They are overjoyed when their child takes his first step or says his first word. Enabling a child to attain his physical development milestones has never really been a problem. However, the same cannot be said for the other two development areas.
Learning to express and regulate emotions healthy has proven difficult for many children. Therefore, in this article, the effects of understanding cognitive/intellectual development and social/emotional development of a child by parents are aspects of child development to be focused on. This is because they are given less attention to raising children in Northern Nigeria.
Why is Understanding Child Psychology Important?
We worry about what a child will become tomorrow yet we forget that he is someone today.Stacia Tauscher
If you want your child to attain greatness tomorrow, believe in who he is today and make him grow. This does not involve forcing the child to be someone he is not or making him suit your needs. A child is an individual of his own and not an extension of who you are. Knowing who your child is and aiding him to be the best of himself is the way to go.
1. To Improve a Child’s Mental Stability
Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves.Jean Plageat
A child is one who goes through several schema in which he explores different phenomena around him constantly learning and unlearning. At that stage, he is discovering himself and needs guidance and support more than education. A mentally stable child is a child who has been allowed the freedom to make his own decisions and mistakes from infant-hood. To allow child freedom of mind is to improve on his self-identity and mental stability.
It is easier to build a build strong children than repair broken adultsF. Douglas
Rather than overburden and confuse your child with the manual of life which you have acquired, support your child by knowing that it is okay for him to discover, try and make mistakes or succeed on his own. Thus, watch him closely and guide him where possible. This continuous trial and error will equip him with more understanding of his self and deter him from developing personality disorders.
2. To Build a Child’s Empathy
Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them, they remember what you are.Jim Henson
By understanding and respecting a child’s emotional needs, you are teaching them how to respect other people’s feelings, emotions, and wishes. An emphatic parent is far more likely to raise an emphatic child than one who disregards the child’s feelings and get what they want through manipulation. Try to see and understand the world through your child’s eyes and the reason why he/she is hurting or doesn’t want to do a particular thing. That way, you make room for communication and teach your child that it is okay to not have your way all the time. This will go a long way in enhancing his emotional/social development.
3. To Enable a Child to Become Independent
To take children seriously is to value them who they are right now rather than adults in the making.Alfie Kohn
Boost your child’s self-confidence and independence by valuing and trusting in their instincts and decisions right here and now. Otherwise, you can choose to keep seeing and treating your children as infants and not valuing them as individuals. However, it does not stop them from growing emotionally and cognitively out of the prison you have built for them.
Instinctively, your children will slowly begin to demand privacy and independence from you as they grow. If you do not give it to them, they will take it for themselves. Value your children even when it is difficult for you and do not treat them merely as extensions of yourselves. They too require most of the things adults require even if you feel they have not financially earned it or even deserve it.
This will improve their cognitive and emotional development and boost their sense of independence to enable them to perform even if you as a parent is not there.
The more risks you allow your children to make, the better they learn to look after themselves.Roald Dahi
4. To Maximize a Child’s Potential
If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.Alfie Kohn
There is no limit to what a child can achieve once you provide the right environment for him to develop. Sometimes, success is not measured by how much someone makes but by the satisfaction they can achieve with their unique talents.
If we want our children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs.Nicolette Sowder
Now and then, a great painter or a great lawyer arises to become a hero among others because he/she has been supported up to his full potential. I rather have the best bricklayer as a son than the worst engineer or doctor. Forget societal standards or stigma and help your child attain his full potential.
5. To Pass Onto the Child Better Values
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.Mother Theresa
They say you cannot give what you lack. To instill love and respect in a child, you must first give the child love and respect. Demonstrate good values to your child, help him develop physically, mentally, and socially and watch him become a great human being. They say what you don’t know cannot hurt you, but guess what, children nowadays start knowing at a very young age. They may not be actively conscious of it but they are aware of all the damages being done to them at an early age and one day they will remember, but it will be too late to do anything then. So cut the toxic trend and understand your children today.
Know who your child is and do not force them to become other than who they are. A child’s emotional and cognitive development is just as important as their physical development. There is no room for one to give way to others. As such, child psychology is evolving every day to help us understand and raise our children better. Therefore, we must all join this trend and make sure our children grow healthily in all developmental aspects of their lives.
The use of the pronoun “HE” or “HIS” to describe a child as seen in this article is not intended towards any gender discrimination or preference. It was implemented under harmless intentions to make reading and understanding easier.