All grown up now, we have mastered the skills required to be self-fulfilling, purposeful, wonderful adults, but somehow, somewhere along the way we forget the innocence that once existed in us. We forgot to embrace and keep close that inner child, that Peter Pan we vowed would never grow old. We have forgotten how our young enquiring mind was crucial to growth and development during childhood. Sometimes the idealistic view of our youth can get lost and as adults we become stuck - stuck going round and round, like a wheel spinning faster and faster, in the same place, really going nowhere. The groove it cuts becomes deeper making it harder for us to get out of the rut we later find ourselves in.
Is it possible to find again that part of us that was critical to learning new things, new adventures, and really embracing life with fervor, eagerness and uncaring of what others thought? Let us learn to be the one who recognizes that our inner child still exists, giving praise, encouraging enthusiasm and childlike curiosity and the effort it takes in making our journey a full circle. As adults we should always gravitate towards inner fulfillment and existentialism, where we are responsible for determining the authenticity of our choices. Only by remembering who we were, and understanding who we are, can we connect and bridge the gap to that part of us hidden away.
Not sure how far that will take you? Then look at some of the concepts of the psychosocial developments of early childhood (what it means to be a child):
Children are free of the restrictions that society places on adults. They are free to explore, learn, understand and develop concepts; engage in activities that promote growth and are especially allowed the freedom to be themselves. How can we make those our positives? Cognitive development in early childhood is where logical and operational thinking is not yet possible. It’s not yet possible because of – centration, egocentrism, focus on appearance, static reasoning, irreversibility, conservation, among others. Understanding the meaning of these words and then applying it to fit our needs would be a good beginning.
“Centration” - A characteristic of preoperational (2-6 years old) thought in which a young child focuses on one idea, excluding all others
“Egocentrism” - Piaget’s term for children’s tendency to think about the world entirely from their own perspective
“Focus on appearance”- preoperational thought in which young child ignores all attributes that are not apparent
“Static reasoning”: preoperational thought in which young child thinks nothing changes. Whatever is now has always been and always will be
“Irreversibility” - preoperational thought in which young child thinks nothing can be undone. A thing cannot be restored to the way it was before a change occurred
“Conservation” - the principle that the amount of substance remains the same even when its appearance changes.
Children proudly practice and then master various skills – they can pour juice, zip pants, or climb trees and are undeterred by overflowing juice, stuck zippers, or a perch too high to climb down from. Faith in themselves sometimes called “protective optimism,” helps them try new things (Lockhart et al., 2002). So the thought here would be to encourage our enthusiasm at mastering something new as we once did.
Children develop self-awareness; they feel guilt and realize their own mistake. More people believe that guilt is a more mature emotion than shame because guilt comes from within the person (Kochanska et all., 2002; Tangney et al., 2007), whereas shame comes from outside and depends on other people. Guilt and shame help children develop moral values. Let us also not forget the meaning of morals and how they can impact our everyday life. According to Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Positive Psychology –
When your day-to-day decisions are in constant conflict with the values you consider important as human beings, you often develop stress and anger. Constant conflict between what you value and what actions you are forced to take can lead to a variety of mental and physical damages.
So let’s rethink the actions we take and make decisions we can live with, knowing that it is the best decision made at that time. Decisions once made should allow no regrets or you can fall victim to the cycle of “hindsight bias” – where knowing the truth afterwards allows us to think we should have known better. Consider mistakes a learning tool, forgive and move on (whether it’s yourself or someone else).
Through child’s play we can evaluate motivation and understand why we do the things we do. There is “intrinsic motivation” and “extrinsic motivation.” Intrinsic motivation is doing something for the joy of doing it. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside, something done to gain praise; e.g., a musician who enjoys making music, or one who plays for the reward of the applause. For most part children are intrinsically motivated, they enjoy learning, playing and practicing whether or not someone else wants them to. When playing a game, they might not keep score; the fun is in playing, not winning. They invent dialogues for their toys, concentrate on works of art or architecture (building blocks) or converse with imaginary friends. For the adults learning to aid our inner child - let us keep our circle of friends close and learn how to play again. Let us be absorbed in our creativity especially when it makes sense to no one else but us.
The final thought in this article describes another childhood attribute called “animism”- this is the belief that natural objects and phenomena are alive. Many children believe that clouds, mountains and trees have feelings. Or finding a dead bird brings tears and requires a burial ceremony. A dog might be told wishes and worries’ thinking a pet understands and sympathizes. Stories may include animals or objects that talk and help people. In fact attempts to measure animism in children found that many children simultaneously hold rational and magical ideas (Meshcheryakov, 2005). Magical happenings and saying are common, like wishing upon a star or an eyelash, holding one’s breath when passing a cemetery, or saying, “Cross my heart and hope to die”.
Regarding animism, not only Piaget, but adults may have underestimated children. Adults who are bemused by children’s superstitions need to remember that talking animals are found in every religion and that many adults encourage children’s illogical, quasi-religious beliefs when they promote Santa Claus and the tooth fairy (Barrett, 2008).
Does any of this resonate? Remember that not everything needs to be logically and methodically explained and just because something cannot be seen, means it does not exist. You breathe air, but can’t see it, remember. Me? Among other things, I do follow NORAD as they track the flight path of Santa’s sleigh every Christmas Eve. Who is NORAD? - North American Aerospace Defense Command. Check out the link below for the full article - NORAD's Santa trackers pull out high-tech stops - and happy reading. Excerpt of the article below, posted on 12/22/11 on USA Today……
For 365 days of the year, NORAD is dead serious about tracking the skies over North America. But beginning at 3 a.m. Saturday, the generals and air-sovereignty commanders will be telling Virginia that, yes, there is a Santa Claus. And they've got the satellite tracking of his sleigh to prove it.
Calls to 1-877-Hi-NORAD will be answered by one of more than 1,200 volunteers who crowd into the call center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. For many it's a family Christmas tradition. The calls have been a tradition since 1955. According to the story told, the local Sears ran an ad that year in Colorado Springs telling local children they could call a number to hear where Santa was. But the number listed in the ad was one digit off and instead the red hotline phone rang at what was then Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's precursor. "It was kids calling looking to talk to Santa," Lewis says. Each year at www.noradsanta.org, families can track Santa's flight across the world — live. Last year the site had more than 15 million visitors. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/story/2011-12-22/santa-tracking-norad/52166662/1