“What’s that? What’s that?” two-year-old Joshua asked about every new person, place, item or sound encountered on a shopping excursion. Tim and Marcy, Joshua’s parents, began to realize that their chances for a conversation or a cup of coffee on this outing were futile. Joshua’s behavior made it truly “out of the question”.
Joshua fussed to get out of his stroller, and as soon as he was free to walk, he ran towards items of interest. As soon as his “What’s that?” question was answered, off he went in another direction in pursuit of the next novel experience. Trying to keep up with Joshua exhausted Tim and Marcy.
As we watch our children, we can see that they are attracted to activities in these five areas:
- Sensory perception
- Understanding of the order of people, places and things
- Developing social skills and relationships
These five time-sensitive areas for learning in the child create a driving force for the child’s actions, demeanor and conduct. When we can recognize these forces of development within the child, we can be of genuine assistance as the child creates his or her unique personality, and grow into an individual who contributes to the whole.
When we consider Joshua’s behavior by looking at these five sensitive periods of learning for the child between birth and age six, we begin to see how a child’s actions are based on these distinct developmental needs.
With Joshua’s “What’s that?” question, we can see his need to learn new vocabulary while understanding the order of these new items, and how they relate to his previous experiences. Joshua frequently would continue asking ‘What’s that?” until a color was named, thus helping him learn the words for various colors. Joshua had a need to move as he ran to see new things. Being a quiet observer was not part of Joshua’s learning style. Joshua’s shopping trip helped broaden his social experience, as well as strengthen his relationship with his parents as he learned to trust their input.
Frustrated and tired after this shopping expedition with Joshua, Tim and Marcy had almost decided not to take Joshua on any more outings. When they discovered that Joshua’s behavior was driven by his natural development to acquire critical skills, Tim and Marcy took a fresh approach to family excursions.
Instead of trying to include Joshua on their errands, Marcy and Tim decided to design outings that would focus on Joshua’s need to have experiences that aided language, movement, sensory skills, social development and understanding the order of the world. Tim and Marcy, instead of being impatient with what could be seen as Joshua’s demands, refocused on Joshua’s conduct as exploration necessary for him to build new skills.
Tim and Marcy learned to see situations from the viewpoint of a child, a child trying to create his unique personality. This perspective helped Tim and Marcy anticipate Joshua’s behavior in various situations. When they saw Joshua’s behavior as a way to meet his learning needs, family outings became fun for everyone. On the outings when they found time to sip a latte, Tim and Marcy enjoyed discussing Joshua’s progress, instead of complaining about his behavior.