by Hanna Vock
This is an excerpt from the minutes of a parent counseling session. I was talking to the mother about her cognitively very advanced toddler. This is the same child who at an even younger age (crawling) moved across the 3-group kindergarten to find the ball bath again. This is described in more detail here: Plans, Drawings, Sketches, Mind- Maps; there it is right away the first example.
Now David is 1;1 years old and the mother needs counseling.
„The other day old friends visited us for a few days, David was there for the first time. But it was not all nice. David still gets really nasty as soon as any of his toys are even touched. Now he has a real confrontation therapy with the two somewhat older visiting children in the house, who also speak a different language. It has already become somewhat better. But until he becomes a friendly host, it is probably still a long way for him…“
„Let’s try to explain the „nasty behavior“ of this smart and actually very friendly child.
David (1;10) is now – as indicated by the frequent „mine“ with which he loudly defends his things from a distance – in the middle of the developmental phase in which he is establishing a concept of ownership for himself for the first time.
Every concept that a child is just developing for himself is extremely important to him for a certain period of time and prevents composure in this matter.
Now David panics that his newly acquired concept of ownership will be challenged. He wants it to be accepted and respected by the environment.
Also, of course, he doesn’t have the perspective that the visit is only temporary. He has gotten into a longer lasting situation in which his property is being disputed. And he can’t yet calm himself down with the fact that the children will be leaving soon, that is still beyond his mental capabilities.
Do the other children ask him if they can take some of his things? They should always do that, even the somewhat older visiting children should try that.
I could imagine that he will show his nice sides again as soon as he realizes that his property is respected in an active way.
A child that has already developed (so early!) a concept of property reacts (rightly) just as sensitively as an adult, just not yet as confidently, calmly and differentiated. (Of course you can use our toilet without asking, but maybe not write on my laptop without being asked or try on my bras…)
It is true that many children also fight back earlier when a toy is taken away from them, i.e. snatched out of their hand, but this is something different. They react angrily or disturbed because they wanted to continue playing with it – not because they consider it their personal property. David, however, can’t stand it when a toy that he himself doesn’t even want to play with at the moment: he already knows that it belongs to him, it’s „mine“!
It should also be considered that the two children are not yet familiar friends for David. Imagine that a guest who is still quite a stranger would simply go to your things and do so again and again despite your protests.
In fact, children feel similarly, as shown by the angry, desperate protests of small children who are in this phase of development, „I have personal property“, which for many children takes place much later. They react especially desperately when the parents also criticize their behavior (and thus take the side of the „aggressor“).
This stage of development and its current expression absolutely does not mean that David will not learn to share or give away. So you don’t have to let fear of the future enter into your feelings. He may soon become quite a charming little host, as long as someone isn’t about to mess with his developing mind.
So the only way you can help him now is by guiding the two host children to ask him
his permission and respect his answer (it’s different from kindergarten!), and by asking David to show them his toys and give them something to play with (because they need something to play with, too). But he will only be able to do that, and only when he realizes that the other children respect his property.“
The parents took the advice. And David, two months later, did indeed become a child who was remarkably good at giving and sharing. His quick mind had now developed the exciting concept of „charming host“ for his social behavior, for which he received appropriate validation.
Comment Hanna Vock:
If the child had been three years old at the time of the consultation, the parents would probably not have been so surprised that the child wanted to guard his property. Then, of course, linguistic explanations would have been better received by the child.
But the child’s early mental development led to a misunderstanding between all parties, frustration for the child, annoyance for the other children, and worry for the parents.
At the time, the young child was animated by the brand new realization:
I know that this is all mine,
and I can already express that.
Date of publication in German: December 2020
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.