Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Earlier introduction of useful tools

During the years I was in graduate school, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget was the focus of much discussion.  He was a theorist and child specialist who focused on observations related to the fact that little children tended to think that the sun or moon followed them around but that older children didn't think so.  Children of a certain young age could watch a tall columnar bottle being emptied into a flat pan and think that there was more liquid in the flat pan than there had been in the bottle.  I learned that Piaget said he was sometimes asked the "American question": How can I move my child from the more primitive type of thinking into more mature thinking?  

Americans seem to have a worldwide reputation for being impatient.  As an American and a sometimes impatient person myself, I can see the advantage of having faith and being able to wait contentedly until the right stage or development or product arrives.  But I can also see the advantage of a little push, an occasional experiment, a gentle indication that might make things go more smoothly for those younger than us and those to come than they did for me and earlier generations.

One of the most fascinating things about dealing with children is the need, from time to time, to fashion explanations that educate but don't confuse or frighten.  I seek simple language using terms already understood but explanations that both contain the germ of truth and also extend knowledge, at least a bit.  In fact, I have long felt that for a fast, understandable introduction to a subject, get a good children's book on it, say one for 5th graders.  That age child can understand most things but doesn't have a vast background of knowledge.

As Benson and Daniel J. Siegel and many others try to show how to adopt valuable mental exercises into our health practices, new insights into meaning and possibility are created.  Benson referred to a reflex in our bodies, like the alerting reflex when we hear an unexpected sound.  Siegel refers to brushing our brains regularly in the talk linked in the post below, just like we have adopted the practice of brushing our teeth or our hair.  For a rocking-good trip through the new mental tools and applications/versions for kids and their parents together, I doubly recommend Susan K. Greenland's The Mindful Child.

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