We have all probably made this parenting mistake the moment we first set eyes on our newborn baby. We instantly begin to perceive and relate to our precious children as if they see and think like we do as adults. Yet, the world is brand new to those precious little eyes just awakening to the sights, sounds, and senses of every kind.
With the early years of babyhood and beyond, we all have basic physical needs such as breathing, food, water, sleep and more. Then comes the need for safety, whether it is keeping our bodies safe, the family unit, health, a roof over our heads, a job. Then, according to Maslow’s 1943 A Theory of Human Motivation the next basic need to build on is friendship, family, and at some point along the adult journey sexual intimacy.
From there we are seeking to broaden self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. The next level of needs is what Maslow called self-actualization, such as morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts. Maslow considered this fifth level of his pyramid a “growth need” that enables a person to reach his fullest potential as a human being.
So, how does a child first see the world around him as he moves through these levels of basic needs? According to Marko Nardini, et.al., in his presentation to the National Academy of Sciences (2010), Fusion of visual cues is not mandatory in children, it seems, unlike adults, children are able to keep information from the senses separate and perceive the visual world differently. “Human adults can go beyond the limits of individual sensory systems’ resolutions by integrating multiple estimates (e.g., vision and touch) to reduce uncertainty. Little is known about how this ability develops. Although some multisensory abilities are present from early infancy, it is not until age ≥8 years that children use multiple modalities to reduce sensory uncertainty.” Results show that using two kinds of depth information together does not happen until very late in childhood, around age 12.
This also means that your 6 year old , although unable to experience fusion of different stimuli actually, “ . . . enables them to outperform adults when discriminating stimuli in which these information sources conflict.” They can also “ . . . show speed gains consistent with following the fastest-available single cue. Therefore, whereas the mature visual system is optimized for reducing sensory uncertainty, the developing visual system may be optimized for speed and for detecting sensory conflicts. Such conflicts could provide the error signals needed to learn the relationships between sensory information sources and to recalibrate them while the body is growing.” Maybe that is why us “adults” get more easily confused at times and can’t easily detect sensory conflicts with all the sights and sounds surrounding us daily.
If this is how children visually see the world in those early years, one can only imagine how they handle sensory inputs by us parents! Maybe that is why our young ones always seem to catch us doing or saying something that precedes their profound questions starting with the wondrous word WHY, such as “Why did you do that?” What a word that is . . . “Why.”
What happens when they hear you laugh, cry, get mad? What happens when they are cold, hungry, neglected? What happens when we treat our little ones with remarks like, “"You're so hopeless" (or "lazy" or "stupid") or “Don’t bother me. I’m busy” or “Don’t cry. Don’t be a baby” or “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” The list goes on.
Another wondrous thing about our young ones is kids seem to have a natural inclination to see the world as purposeful rather than natural causes. Mountains are they for animals to climb; trees are there to give shade. Children want to see everything as having a precise function in the grand scheme of things.
According to Newsweek (11/5/2007), Mind Matters: How Kids See the World, “University of California-Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo suspected that the strong childhood preference for purposeful design might actually be a lifelong default position, one that is eclipsed but doesn't actually disappear as we gain experience and form beliefs . . .” Lombrozo tested Alzheimer patients on this with the results being the same as a child’s view of the world, everything having purpose. It wasn’t so much how it world works as much as its function in the scheme of life and living.
Then there are some experts who extend children’s view of the world as designed and with purpose with an instinctive belief in God as the Designer. That works for me! How about you? Maybe it’s us seemingly more “mature” adults who try hard to remove that connection in our children since so many believe the mind to be the “all in all.” Which way do you lean? Possibly, we adults have so very much to learn from our young children the wonders of the world and us as human creations, designed for a purpose. How about us slowing down enough to gain a glimpse of their wondrous world? It just may enlarge ours more than we could ever imagine!