Why Study Childhood?

why-study-childhood-picPart of being child-sensitive is trying to see what the world feels like from the child’s perspective. That information is valuable to us, because it helps us see the child’s needs more clearly. It helps us respect the child. It helps us communicate more effectively.

As we’ve seen, one way to know the child’s viewpoint is to remember what it was like to be a child. Another way is to watch children and listen to them. A third way is to learn from people who have studied children.

One of these experts is Robert Coles, a professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Coles received a Pulitzer prize for his five-volume Children of Crisis series. He has spent over thirty years listening to children. In an interview about children, he said, “They offer us a chance to see a good part of what we are: human beings struggling to figure out what this world means.” Coles urges us to “regard children as fellow human beings yet to be constricted and constrained the way that some of us have been as we have made the various compromises that are called growing up.” He says, “The point is not to romanticize children but to understand the… perspective they have… They are new on the block, so to speak. As a consequence they have a certain kind of openness of mind and heart.”*

There’s another reason for trying to see the world from a child’s viewpoint. Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). If for no other reason than this, childhood is worth a good, long look.

In God’s Kingdom, we are all children of the Father. So, as it happens, we are children teaching children. We can all rejoice to hear him say, “Let the little children come to me… for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14)

*Robert Coles, “The Man Who Listens to Children,” Storytelling, Fall 1992

-from Child Sensitive Teaching. ©Karyn Henley. All rights reserved

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-Photo by psymily at morguefile.com

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