In almost every circumstance that I have been involved in or witnessed where a child is having difficulty with another, it can usually be traced back to their caregiving adult. There are always exceptions as sometimes there are biological abnormalities that can lead to certain behaviours. In the majority of the cases, the adult is usually the source of the problem. I am not blaming the adult or adults in these situations. I believe wholeheartedly that the hardest job on the planet is being a parent.
Let me explain a little. Nathan Wallis talks about the first 1000 days of a child’s life being the most important. During this time the foundations of a child’s development are built. A child’s brain at 3 years old weighs 1.2kg. A fully developed adult brain weighs 1.4kgs. When a child is born the brain weighs about 350 grams. With so much learning, development and growth going on in the first 3 years, this period is literally the opportunity of a lifetime! Because we learn socially, the dyadic relationship between the primary caregiver and the child is undoubtedly the key to success.
Paul Dix has written a book called “when the adults change, everything changes”. So many people think that it is ‘what’ we teach our children that matters. It’s not what, it’s how. How do we interact with our kids? How do we behave in their presence? When the adult changes, everything changes. What is a baby’s most important learning tool? Imitation. A baby receives huge learning gratification by copying words, actions, facial movements or expressions. That baby will get into the habit of imitating those closest to them and stick with that winning formula as they grow! That is why children pick up the traits of their parents.
The children who come to Food for Thought display a range of reflexive behaviours. On so many occasions a child has called me a horrible name to start off a sentence. They are just repeating the actions of the people with whom they live. It is not on purpose, as just after they say it, they realise their mistake and say sorry. It is very common in the community to start off a sentence by naming someone with an obscene word. The violent reaction is also integrated into their actions. The first response to hit, ask questions later! It becomes automatic.
In brief, children learn their behaviours from adults. If it isn’t a learnt behaviour, then it is a response to something that is going on at home that they can’t resolve. So, mums, dads, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunties, grandpas, grandmas, and caregivers, think about the behaviours that are affecting the kids closest to you!