Child Psychology Article: Why Child Psychology Should Be Focused on the Study of Children's Needs
Child Psychology is about understanding the nature of children and their needs .
Most psychologists today focus on behavior, but behavior is only a symptom of a deeper need. In fact, many trained professionals forget that their profession was originally designed to study the human spirit (the root word of psychology is "psyche" which means spirit.)
How has child psychology gone so horribly astray? If you've taken a Psych 101 course in college, then the name B.F. Skinner probably rings a bell. Skinner was a student of John Watson, who was the Father of Behaviorism. Watson believed that psychology was all about behavior—that we shouldn't concern ourselves with the mind or human consciousness. In one full swoop, Watson turned an art into a science and transformed human beings into machines.
Watson even practiced his rigid theories of psychology at home. In his book, Psychological Care of Infant & Child, he claimed that children should not be coddled and should be touched as little as possible. According to him, picking up babies when they cried made them dependent. Children should not be hugged or held in a parents' lap. Kisses were to be doled out sparingly and noted on a chart to make sure they weren't excessive. His recommendation for toilet training: at the age of eight months, parents should strap their child to the toilet seat (for hours if necessary), until they went the bathroom. It may come as no surprise that two of Watson's four children committed suicide as adults. At home, the Father of Behaviorism was no father at all.
Why do I bring up Watson? Because his work lives on. B.F. Skinner applied Watson's theories rigorously in the lab and formulated the premises of operant conditioning—the punishment/reward system on which our society is based (speed and you'll get a ticket, be "good" and you'll go to Heaven) and is the way that most of us view child psychology today.
In fact, most parents use Skinner's strategies at home. Children are rewarded for good behavior and punished for behavior that is inconvenient or unacceptable to adults. Children's behavior is "shaped" and "reinforced." Problem is that studies have shown that punishing or rewarding children into "good" people, doesn't produce moral human beings. In fact, it often creates the opposite—kids who learn how to get away with things, to avoid being punished and who only act the part of the good samaritan when there's someone there to witness and reward their "good" behavior.
Unless you have done extensive research on child development and child psychology, the strategies listed above are what you primarily rely on to raise your kids. You may have questioned their humanity; you may have noticed that they often don't seem to work. Punishment backfires and makes kids more defiant or it causes them to withdraw and hate themselves. Timeout doesn't work. Rewarding kids doesn't teach them how to be caring human beings.
Rather than questioning the premises on which these strategies were based, you've probably questioned yourself. You've thought, "I just need to be more consistent" or "Maybe I don't get it. This is how everybody raises their kids, this is what the experts recommend." And the ever popular, "I was raised this way and I turned out okay." Sound familiar?
Well, I'm here to tell you that there's nothing wrong with you, but there's definitely something twisted and inhumane about these strategies. Behaviorism was a step back into the Dark Ages—it turned child psychology on its head and has led to a century of socially-sanctioned child abuse. What's important here is to learn from our mistakes and move on.
In order to raise caring human beings who feel good about themselves, we need to connect with and engage our children. My Connection-Engagment Parenting class will teach you what you need to learn about child psychology and how to become the kind of parent you've always yearned to be. To find out more, see the link below.
About the author: Laura Ramirez has been writing and posting articles to her web site for over nine years. Please consider leaving a donation for Laura so that you can support her continuing efforts and enjoy the spirit of giving too.
Laura is the author of the award-winning parenting book, Keepers of the Children, which teaches parents how to raise children to develop their natural strengths and grow up to lead uniquely purposeful and productive lives. It is a journey of self-discovery for child and parent. Laura gives speaking engagements, keynote speeches and teaches an online parenting class.
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