When I was teaching my first course in Developmental Psychology, I learned that there were several historical conceptions about the nature of children. These ideas influenced me a great deal and taught me a new way to think about children.
The book discussed four possible conceptions of childhood. The first was from back in medieval times. Long ago children were seen as miniature adults. They were treated like adults. They were expected to act like adults. This meant that when they broke a rule, they suffered the same penalties as adults. If they caught stealing, their hand would be cut off.
A second idea of childhood was that children were innately bad. This meant that parents had to keep their children in line with strong discipline and always be on the lookout for problems.
A third concept developed around the time of the Renaissance. Rousseau believed that all children were innately good. If we could take them out to the country away from all influence, they would ultimately be good people and immune to social pressure.
The fourth concept was the idea of tabula rasa from John Locke. This idea meant that all children enter the world as a blank slate and learn everything from their environment.
I was a new parent at the time. My first born was about 6 months old. So faced with this information, what concept did I think was right? That decision would guide my way of parenting.
The more I thought about it, I realized that all these ideas came from observing children. They all had some truth and validity. There really was not one right or wrong answer. The key was what to figure out which concept does each individual child fall into?
Do you have any children that are more mature for their age? Do they act like an adult? It does not mean you have to cut off their hand, but you may need to parent them in the style that fits them. Or do you have a child that just seems to do the right thing most of the time? Or how about the child that seems to have a black cloud hovering over them as trouble follows them? Or do you have a child that seems to be influenced by the environment and the people around them?
This is simply one paradigm to use to try to understand where you child is coming from. Do you see any of your children in these descriptions.
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