How often are we frustrated when our child appears to refuse to learn the right way of performing a task?
We worry about our child’s ability to understand what we are demonstrating, or asking our child to do. Does she have a hearing problem? Should I be worrying about his ability to learn? Does he have ADHD and is totally distracted? Maybe it was that one beer I had in the first trimester. Whatever the potential cause for worry, the more the child doesn’t meet our expectations for success, the more we worry. The only way to reduce our parental concern for our child’s ability to cognitively grow is for the child to demonstrate that growth through the usual manner of “CAUSE and EFFECT.”
For example: On Saturday I ask my child to make cookies with me, which the child does. I demonstrate safety and health concerns (washing hands, hot baking sheets, etc). On Sunday, while making breakfast together, my child seems to have “forgotten” everything that I taught yesterday. At first, I may be charmed, but quickly the charm fades to confusion (why isn’t my child following yesterday’s example?), then alarmed, then determined and then, well, I either decide that I have a child who is going to “march to that different drummer,” or my child does not have the ability to cognitively grow at that rate of a “normal” child; and, I am in a form of parental grief.
From the good folks who created the Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks–Review Draft, Nov 2004, we have some “benchmarks” for a child’s ability to use Logic and Reasoning in their goal to demonstrate that they can utilize Cause and Effect. Here are their remarks for Children ages 36-60 months:
Some Indicators for Children:
- Identifies objects that influence or affect other objects (e.g. “The food coloring makes the water blue.”)
- Asks “why questions to show effort at understanding causality (e.g. “If I do this, why does that happen?”)
- Predicts the effects that an action will have on objects (e.g., it will be dark when you turn off the light.)
Some Strategies for Caregivers:
- Encourage child to play independently, discovering causal relationships on own.
- Engage child in activities that demonstrate cause and effect (e.g., cooking projects, planting seeds to watch them grow).
- Discuss cause and effect with child (e.g., explore what it takes to make flowers grow).
I believe that we have to be very careful about the lessons that we teach and that our child teaches us. From 3 to 5 years of age, our child is in a very fast growth spurt (although we may not think of it this way when we are having to take deep breaths and calm ourselves from repeated refusals to follow “the rules.”) How we teach and cope with our child will have long-lasting (into adult) effects. We want our child to learn to be safe, to ask questions, to be aware of self and others, to seek answers, to be caring of the world around him—it is during this precious stage of “Cognition and General Knowledge” that our child will build her own beliefs about how to learn, who to trust, and the importance of experimentation, causality, and the joy of learning.
Be gentle with your child’s questioning and also your child’s determination to “do it my way.”