Young children are egocentric

People have insisted that children share, share, share, and that’s because them not sharing would reflect on the adult or the parent, but the child can’t.  They have to fully possess or else they cannot share.  So I would never ever say that to a child.  You need to share.  I would say ask him if you can use it when he’s through, which is just enormous respectful of the child. 

Things to think about

Piaget, a founding father of early childhood study told us that young children were egocentric until seven or eight years old, and Bev tells us again here.  Do you incorporate this into your program?  How?
Do you educate parents about the things children can not do while in this egocentric phase of development?
What is something that your parents said to you that you have said to your own children or the children in your care?
Are you under the spell?  What things can you do to help break the spell’s control over your interactions with children?
Bev says if we do not respect children when they are in the egocentric stage, they will stay this way all their lives!  What can you do today to respect the egocentrism of young children?

Highlights from Playful Wisdom
by Michael Mendizza featuring Bev Bos and Joseph Chilton Pearce

Frank Wilson, is a Stanford neurologist and the author of The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. More brainpower is devoted to the thumb and hand than the entire body beneath the neck. How is this brainpower developed? Playing with three-dimensional objects. Wait, let me repeat, more brainpower is devoted to the thumb and hand than the entire body beneath the neck. Frank explained that every physical movement creates an inner image of the body’s position in three-dimensional space, a form of kinesthetic imagination or embodied cognition we call proprioception. Upon this embodied imaginative foundation, we later add symbolic and metaphoric forms of imagination. Imagine a child with a rich three-dimensional sensory foundation and a child who skipped or was deprived of this three-dimensional foundation and leaped ahead to two-dimensional symbolic abstractions. One chased the dog on a grassy hill and the other rode in a stroller touching a screen. Which of these two children would you expect to expand their capacity for critical and creative thinking, empathy and problem solving? Easy! The child who experienced and developed a brain relating to the natural three-dimensional world. And this neural foundation is established very early.

One of the things that I think about with children, and it’s so obvious when you watch them, they are egocentric.  Their main concern is themselves.  They don’t the ability to share.  One of the things, and as children have gone more public parents have, lots of people have insisted that children share, share, share, and that’s because them not sharing would reflect on the adult or the parent, but the child can’t.  They have to fully possess or else they cannot share.  So I would never ever say that to a child.  You need to share.  I would say ask him if you can use it when he’s through, which is just enormous respectful of the child.  Well as all of these things we expect children to do that they cannot, that the brain cannot do yet because they’re egocentric, share, take turns, say I’m sorry, collect information, making moves for children is the most bizarre thing in the world.  We need to just be there to assist them and guide them without making them afraid of everything they do.  You never make rules for children.  People are always appalled in workshops when I say that.  Oh my goodness, well we have to!  Where did we ever get that idea?  That’s what I always want to say to people.  Where did you ever get that idea?

I think one of the things, and I’m off track here a little bit but I want to say something, somebody asked in a workshop one time, they said, “Bev, if we know all these things about the brain, if we really can see on brain scans we can begin to understand what this brain is about and certainly that has been a gift of this time, is that we can understand these things.  Why do we keep doing these things over and over again that we know are not okay.  They don’t help people grow to their optimum, and how many of us ever do that?”  I said I think when we’re tired and we’re weary and we don’t know a better way we do what our parents did and what our teachers did and a man said in the audience, he said, “You got it partly right,” and he’s a good friend and he said, “What it is Bev is that we’re all under a spell and a spell is not intellectual.”  A spell is just something that you’re under the spell of whatever.  It’s not mystical.  It’s just you’re under a spell and I think that that’s one of the greatest things we have to overcome.  What’s part of the spell?  One of the things that we do in workshops we say tell me something that your parents said as a child that you have probably said to your child or said to somebody “You’re gonna poke your eye out.”  “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”  “How many times have I told you?” and the kid automatically thinks the parent can’t count.  So there’s these things that come back and I think that one of the most important things that we have to do, as people who really care deeply and passionately about kids, is help parents, help teachers, help adults find a spell that is greater than the spell of the way they were parented and to recognize that, to take a breath.  All of us do that, go back to the spell.  And I think that that’s pretty important.  Now when you put that together with the fact that children are egocentric and then we have the spell of what our parents said, then it’s really hard for us to let go and understand this kid can’t do certain things.  Life is just filled with stages.

When we complete one stage we can move to the next and it’s a natural thing, it’s how it always has been.  What are we so afraid of?  That our kid won’t be decent kids?  That our kids won’t share as adults?  Well I’ve got to tell you, there’s just a whole heck of a lot of things that you never shared as an adult.  I don’t share my clothes.  I don’t share my husband with somebody else.  I don’t even let people drive my car because I like it a lot and I just don’t do that.  So I think that we just become so unrealistic.  We don’t understand that life is just, there’s a natural progression to things.  These kids will be able to share once they have fully possessed this.  They’ll be able to take turns when they know they might get another turn later on, that it’s just a natural thing or I can go find something else to do.  But when they’re in that egocentric state we have to respect them otherwise they stay that way all of their lives.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when I’ve seen a more egocentric state of affairs.  You see it when you travel.   You see it on the road.  You see I think beyond the great big picture of us not being a very generous world, I think it’s in the details of every day.  People pushing ahead of you.  People bumping into you.  People being thoughtless.  That’s because they weren’t honored.  And I have to tell you that I think it’s hard to go back and get it again.  I think it’s hard.  It’s in your childhood that all of this happens.

My nephew, a really bright interesting father and works in downtown San Francisco, he says that in his office the CEO’s that he works with, the people, the bright people still solve each problem like they were four years old.  It’s one of the things that I think about.  If somebody doesn’t help you through those stages they don’t recognize them as important and I think the thing is, I think it’s easy when a kid is a particular age that’s a particular easy time.  You know 3 year olds are very wonderful but you hear people talking about the terrible 2’s but the terrible 2’s is when that brain is just exploding and growing.  Every time a kid goes through a stage like that I say oh boy that brain is just really going and I think 6 is a really hard age for kids to be.  Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me.  The teacher will tell you something quite opposite, they’ll say but they’re very well liked.  But that’s that emotional brain kind of thing that the kids are going through at that stage.  If we don’t recognize and honor and respect kids at every stage, support them, then they stay stuck in those stages.  And you hear them.  One of the things that you hear people saying which almost the lowest level of moral development, well that’s not there.  Well that’s such a low stage of moral development.  You ought to be past that!  Well you know that happened and let me see if I can figure out how to make this work.  What can I do next?  How can I figure out this part of my life?  Because life is not fair an awful lot of the time but that’s a 4 year old, that’s not there but when they’re stuck there then I think it’s very difficult to go on and we ruin other people’s lives.  We don’t establish very deep meaningful relationships because we’re stuck in that place and I think it’s one of the tragedies of childhood, is that we’re not respecting children when they’re egocentric and paying attention to it, helping them work out the conflicts, whatever people want to call it, I don’t know if I’d call them conflicts or not, not assisting them in that growth.  And some people think they are but I think what it is so often is adults having power over kids instead of power with kids and power for kids.