Kids aren’t little adults. While the physical differences are obvious, the psychological ones are not, particularly as kids and teens appear more sophisticated than previous generations.
Here are a few key differences.
- More egocentric. Children experience the world from their own very limited perspective. When something bad happens, they are more likely to wonder about the impact on themselves, rather than on others. In adulthood, we call this narcissism. In childhood, we call this normal.
- More trusting. Most children fortunately haven’t had a lot of bad experiences with other people. They tend to be trusting, or in cases vulnerable, to the influence of others. Trusting others is positive in many ways, as it gives parents and other loving adults the opportunity to guide young people. However, this also means parents to be cautious about the impact of peers and others on our kids.
- More reactive to stress. I have a variety of ways to deal with a difficult day. I can talk with my spouse or friends, challenge my unhealthy ways of thinking about things, play basketball, or run a few extra miles.Most kids don’t have sophisticated strategies to deal with difficult times. Therefore, they are more susceptible to tough times. With preschool kids, you’ll see stress manifested in problems with eating, toileting or sleeping. Older youngsters reflect their stress in their behavior.
- Shorter attention span. Most children and teens don’t have the ability to sustain concentration on a single task for an extended period of time. Kids need lots of time to exercise, do nothing and just give their body and brain rest.
- Little sense of perspective. An 8-year-old told me that her mom always screamed at her. I asked the girl to keep a diary of how many times her mother yelled in the seven days between our sessions. The youngster came back and had recorded three times.Most kids think in terms of extremes, which can be very aggravating to adults. They will frequently use the words “always” or “never” to explain their feelings. They have a difficult time understanding the nuances of a situation.
- Very needy of attention. Kids need a lot from us to maintain their psychological well-being. They need lots of hugs and affection as young kids and continued attention as they get older.
Adults mistakenly think that their teens don’t want their approval. Teens need and want it, but it just has to be done in a more subtle way.
These special characteristics of childhood are both fun and challenging. Enjoy them. They don’t last very long.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the November 22, 2015, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Kids shouldn’t be treated like little adults” Gregory Ramey, PhD]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.