Tracker Pixel for Entry

Staging Area

by Dr. Elizabeth Nawrot | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Live and Learn | November 5th, 2014

My daughter was once bitten so hard by a playmate that a forensic lab could have matched the bite mark to dental records in order to identify the puny perpetrator. While this pretty much undermines the daycare’s policy of keeping the offending child’s identity confidential, the fact that kids of this age bite is not all that surprising. Between the ages of about two and five, children often bite one another for a variety of reasons including expressing emotion and language. Biting is also an extremely effective tactic for getting another child to drop a toy you want.

That might sound mean, and indeed you might be tempted to punish the offending child, but in reality kids of this age don’t really have the necessary cognitive maturity to be mean. They just haven’t reached that stage of development yet. Psychologists distinguish between hostile aggression, those acts that are designed to hurt someone, and instrumental aggression where the child uses aggression in an egocentric way as a means to an end. The two-year-old simply doesn’t have a mental concept of what other people want; they only know what they want and in the case of biting -- not to mention throwing a tantrum at the check-out lane at the Target -- how to get it. It isn’t until about age five or six that kids reach the stage where they understand that other people too have desires, thoughts, wishes, and intentions, and that these might conflict with their own.

Parents are used to the idea of stages, and we use it for better or for worse to explain and excuse a variety of our kids’ behaviors. From tantruming two-year-old to back-talking teens, we tell ourselves “It’s just a stage.” Many child development theories also use the idea of stages. Some have left our lexicon with a variety of well-worn phrases to describe stages in development, including Freud’s “anal” personality and Erikson’s “identity crisis.” Jean Piaget was the original arm-chair psychologist whose theory of child development relied on observations of his own three kids. After describing a stage in his oldest child, he went on to make predictions and devise tests of his theory with the second and third.

Theory-testing aside, there are other advantages of noting the stages of child development. For one thing, it’s nice to have a heads-up when your kids are about to experience tough times, from precocious puberty to the first day of college. As parents, it’s natural to try to apply what we have learned from one child to the next. With one now in college, my husband and I have come to learn a lot about how to prepare our youngest for this next stage of development. Our oldest even took us to task for failing to provide him with important childhood experiences that he realized in retrospect were valuable after all. He even created a list of complaints against our inadequate parenting: failed to force me take up a musical instrument; did not insist that I do more community volunteering; denied me the opportunity to experience more character-building failures (it turns out that these are all necessary components of a college application essay). He taped the list to his bedroom door, Martin Luther style, and when the complaints reach 95 we are compelled to lead a child-rearing reformation.

If child rearing involves learning from the mistakes you make with your first child, then we can surely use the list to do better with our next child. Like many parents, I hope to do better with the second one as her success represents our retirement “backup” plan. That's why they call it child rearing: “child-backing-up” just doesn't sound right. It’s more like a traffic sign you see outside the teen driving school. What I’ve learned about the stages of child development might not be enough to propose a grand new theory, but it helps me to get through the day-to-day struggles of raising kids. After all, I knew enough not to get angry with the little boy who bit my daughter. And when she was sent home the next day for biting the other kids I just sighed and reassured my husband, “Don't worry, she’s just going through a stage.”

[Editor’s note: Dr. Nawrot is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Child Development Lab at MSUM. She earned a Masters degree and a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley, and has been working on her M.r.s. and M.o.M. degrees for nearly 20 years.] 

RECENTLY IN

Live and Learn

Tracker Pixel for Entry Aaland Law Firm

Recently in:

FARGO - Barking dogs don’t bite, but they’re noisy and excitable. The day Zebediah Gartner, an Anishinaabe from Fargo, was released from Cass County Jail after being pulled from a sweat lodge by Fargo police, the “dogs”…

Photos provided by Kensie WallnerRound 1: Rye WhiskeyThe 75 Delmonte (whisky sour; tiki twist) 2 hollowed pineapples, save top for garnishment8oz Woodford Reserve Rye2oz Zaya Rum8oz pineapple juice8oz lemon juice2oz red…

Thursday, March 2, 7-9 p.m.Harry D. McGovern Alumni Center, 1241 University Dr. N., FargoFree and open to the public. No RSVP required.Music by Cat Sank Trio, The event features the official book launch for six of the most recent…

Citizens and voters, including Republicans, are upset by the the first month of the present administration. Republican leaders advised congresspeople to hold town hall meetings during the week-long Presidents Day recess.Molly K.…

North Dakota bigotry, a national one-week strike, and plutocratic plunderingFirst, a rant about the Republican North Dakota Legislature. There’s no doubt there are about 70,000 North Dakotans you consider to be second-class…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

All About Food

​Farm to table

by Elizabeth K. Neshem

Meat production in the United States is reaching record highs, making many items in grocery stores more readily available to consumers.Agricultural producers are conscious of the unpredictability in prices for their commodities.…

Music

​Band of brothers

by Sabrina Hornung

As youths, members of the punk-country band Lucero cultivated their love of music at the neighborhood haunt known as The Antenna Club, which was known to host matinee hardcore shows. But in a city like Memphis, home of the iconic…

A virtually critic-proof three-ring circus of toy-based programming and winking self-reference guaranteed to give even the most devoted admirer whiplash, “The Lego Batman Movie” duplicates some of the charm of its 2014 Phil…

On February 24- 25, Unglued Craft Fest returns to the Plains Art Museum in Fargo for its 7th annual event, to give us all a chance to see, touch, enjoy and purchase items from local, regional and national makers while enjoying…

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the Viennese musical prodigy is a household name with a prolific catalogue of work. Even to those largely unfamiliar with classical music his name calls up musical genius, Einstein with music. During his…

Humor

What is acceptable comedy?

by HPR Contributor

By Bill LucasYou may wonder about the title. Whenever we hear someone’s opinion I think it is important to know a little about them. We all are offended by many things that are due to our experiences in life. We may be able to…

When an opportunity to meet, dine and drink wine with a winemaker of Nick Goldschmidt’s stature was presented to me, I just had to seize it without hesitation and book a Valentine’s Day Dinner at The Boiler Room. I had briefly…

On May 26 of last year cell phone use was directly linked to cancer. Our Government’s National Toxicology Program (NTP), part of the National Institute of Health, released a preliminary report stating, “Two types of cancer were…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“The most complete and happy victory is this; to compel one’s enemy to give up his purpose, while suffering no harm oneself.” -Belisarius“I view the United States of these last years of the twentieth century as essentially…