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:

FARGO – The city is requesting help from the public to produce one million sandbags in preparation for the 2019 Spring Flood. There remains a 10 percent chance waters will rise up to 40.3 feet, higher than the flood of 2009. Two…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.com“North Dakota (and Minnesota) nice” is an attitude, a stereotype, and a way of life that has permeated our region, as well as perceptions of the Midwest, since as long as people have been…

Friday, March 22, 6-8 p.m.Red Raven Espresso Parlor, 916 Main Ave, FargoDigital photos from North Dakota’s backroads. Hornung has been exploring the roads less traveled for close to a decade. Carefully documenting and collecting…

“North Dakota Nice,” is a phrase that I see getting tossed around more and more these days. Many are sincere and others display yet another facet of our disposition that’s not nearly as desirable. Yes, we’re professin’…

The Battle Between Extreme Capitalism And Democratic SocialismAfter Vice-President Mike Pence representing racial and extreme capitalism ended his scathing rant about democratic socialism at the Conservative Political Action…

The eighth week of this year’s HPR Cocktail Showdown was another tripleheader for our panel of judges. On this particular week, we found ourselves focused on a trio of downtown dining and entertainment establishments to visit…

In rural Minnesota, outside of Park Rapids, Amy Thielen was attempting to light her wood-fired oven. It is in her brand-new kitchen that she hopes to teach cooking classes out of, which is a far cry from what it was when she and…

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra has had its fair share of guest performances headlining its concerts over the years. They all have impressive resumes, their fair share of awards, and worldwide recognition. However, bringing…

FARGO – Most people know the Trail of Tears that followed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The U.S. government – under the direction of President Andrew Jackson – forcibly removed tens of thousands of Natives from their…

Hidden away in the tiny North Dakota town of Lefor I find Karen Valley, an author and an artist. She is without a doubt the artist’s artist. Her soul is art, talent and words. Meeting her is a true experience in finding a soul so…

To many people unfamiliar with the wide range of the musical genre, the word ‘opera’ conjures up stereotypical images of people in period costumes and large women in Viking garb singing in foreign languages. The truth, however,…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

I’ve got a problem. I need to write a column that is going to be kind of critical of three people I like, and I’m trying to figure out how to do it without making them all angry at me. Their names are Sara, Doug and Marvin.…