This post is a continuation of this one.
There are tons of ramifications of missing out on those early childhood milestones - ones that effect our kids for the rest of their lives. Piaget was one mentioned by Katharine Leslie that I remember from my college days. She quoted a lot more recent studies of the developmental stages too. (edited to add: Apparently most of what I quoted here was Piaget)
I mentioned some of the issues with not acquiring the basic building block of object permanence - the inability to attach to or trust someone who disappears the moment they step out of sight, but there are more long-range consequences to this as well, including the ability to reason.
Infants don't have access to their emotions or logical thinking. All of that is done in the fore brain which they don't have access to yet. They operate on the "Sensory Motor" level until about age 2. This means they use their 5 senses to create meaning - smell, hearing, vision, touch and taste. They rely on your brain to tell them what's going on and how to respond. They can sense your biorhythms and can tell you're lying.
From 2-6 they're in the "Pre-operations" stage which means they create meaning through fantasy.
Ex. 1 If you show a child a man and ask if he is a man or woman, the child will correctly identify him as a man. However put the same man in a wig and a dress and the child under 6 will say it's a woman. Over age 6 the child will correctly identify him as a man.
Ex. 2 Katharine Leslie's daughter refused to wear boy's underwear because she thought she would automatically have a penis - which would disappear when she removed them.
From 7-11 they're in the "Concrete Operations" stage which means they create meaning through reality. It's not until age 12 through adulthood that we are able to create meaning from thought without needing sensory input ("Formal Operations"). Blah, blah, blah...
So here's the example that hit home for me. Kids with arrested development at the Preoperations stage (which is common for children of trauma), are not able to understand how we can infer things without seeing them. If you can't see it Mom, it didn't happen. You can't know.
- Two-year-olds hide behind the couch to "make a stinky"... how did you "know" their diapers weren't clean?!
- Your child's face is covered in chocolate, but you weren't there to see them eat it. You can't know they did it. You weren't there!
- Let me say that again, If you can't see it, you couldn't know! They are very visual and must touch or feel everything.
- Your child feels that you are persecuting your child "illegally" if you figure out/ assume/ intuit/ put together... anything.
- If you know that your child is the one who usually steals, is the only one who had access to whatever item it was, and you found it hidden in the suspected child's room (or in their hot, little hand!) your child literally does not "get" how you could accuse them... their brain does not work that way so they don't understand yours.
- Not Me and his cousin Ida Know live in our house. My children know that it wasn't themselves who did it so it must be Not Me or Ida Know. The reason they know is that Mom couldn't have found out because she wasn't there to see it
- Added to this is "wishful thinking." Kids can want something so badly that they believe it, so it is true. I firmly believe that they could pass a lie detector on this. It becomes their reality and I don't think they even remember that wasn't how it happened. This is HUGE in my house. I think because Kitty (and possibly Bear) are stuck in this "Pre-operations" stage.
For a child stuck in pre-operations stage, if you are out of sight, your instructions won't stick either.
To get the child to do something they need to be told in black and white. "I want you to bring me a glass of water with two ice cubes," not just "do it" or "bring me a drink." They forget what you ask them to do and/or don't remember how you like things, so they bring you what they would want. Instead of a glass of ice water you might get orange juice full of crushed ice.
This is mindless intentionality. The child is doing what comes naturally, not deliberately defying you on purpose.
This child has brain damage. If we put effort in early on, it will slowly get better, but we can never assume it is "fixed." Effective treatment doesn't mean the behavior stops. The goal is to limit/ contain it until we can live with it. We need to shift our parenting paradigms from issues of intent and control to issues of brain dysfunction.
We're not dropping our expectations, we're just changing them. We have to change how we think about them and give ourselves a chance to mourn the loss of our idealized child. We have a right to say, "I hate this kid."
To help a child with object permanence you can try memory games and other things that build concentration to help them move through this stage. Attachment is not possible until they "get" this.
Another problem for our kids is that they often adopt belief systems or world views that make them feel "in the know." These beliefs can be quite wrong, like thinking errors.
The following is the list of common beliefs that Katharine Leslie put in her book, When a Stranger Calls You Mom. I have to say Bear definitely believes most if not all of these. Kitty believes a lot of them.
I swear it's like she's living in my house.
- Those who love me will hurt me.
- It is safer to get my needs for closeness met by strangers or those who are not important to me. (Can you say, "Kleenex girls"?! I knew you could.)
- I have to look out for myself, cause nobody else will.
- I have to hurt others before they hurt me.
- I lose myself (I will die) if I become who you want me to be (like you).
- I might as well lie, no one believes me anyway.
- I'm forced to lie when people ask me questions.
- People should stay out of my business.
- If I want something than I should have it.
- If I see something I want I should take it.
- People make me mad.
- When I'm mad I don't care who gets hurt.
- People deserve what they get.
- If I don't get what I want you are to blame.