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Do you know why your children do what they do?

Updated: May 1, 2020

Trying to understand the motivations of another person and the reasons why someone might do what he or she does, can be a futile endeavour.    After all, one can never really know the whole story of another person or what they need.  Yet, we grow believing that someone might know us better than we know ourselves. 

This is a very important idea when it comes to our children, because it appears,  we apply a different rule to them altogether.  

Perhaps we can all admit to a degree, that it is difficult enough for ourselves at times, to understand the reasons and motivations of why we do what we do.   It is interesting then, that when it comes to understandingwhy our children do what they do, we may not consider that they can offer knowledge to us, about themselves. We still largely relate with children as if we need to figure them out. Or worse, we train them into acting in certain ways that suit us more than them. 

Of course when children are very little, adults have to consider and then interpret, the child's actions in order to meet their needs.

As children grow, we can begin to let them do more self-exploration and meaning making

-  According to what they feel and think for themselves. 

Many parents today are seeking to better understand and gain a deeper awareness of their own motivations, in order to transcend their limited past. It could be said, that the philosophical dictum ‘know thyself’is more alive as a concept today, than it was in Socrates times.  

Even so, with all this self enquiry, it is still presumed that adults can interpret their children’s experiences or question why children are behaving in certain ways, without even asking the child what they feel and what they might need directly.

The Indian philosopher and sage Rabindranath Tagore declares “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time”. However adults largely continue to relate to children and instruct them from what has been learnt in their own time without apprehending that the child itself holds a great deal of potential waiting to be expressed. (Excerpt from my upcoming book).

The search for the meaning of our experiences begins very early for us all, and when the outer world does not reflect our own deeper motivations in life we can become despondent with life itself.   Rather than developing a solid sense of self as children, many of us grow up insecure in our direction and actions. Often many of our experiences are left unspoken.  We fear the consequences of making utterances about what matters most or that we even matter. From our very beginnings it seems we learn to hide what we really feel in order to be loved and nurtured. We deny the feelings that we either have no way of expressing or have no safe space to explore.   As a result our behaviours, complexes and illness become the best way to communicate what we need.

It seems natural to consider,  that one will become unstable or imbalanced if the experiences of 'being in the world' are understood from a fragment of one’s potential and not a full expression.

Even with best intentions and noble attempts to understand and support children as they ask  'why a child is doing what they are doing' many adults miss the ever-present indications that lay in the child’s responses to life.  Regardless of the label we give them, it is our children’s challenges that offer us information about their important needs.  These indicators can be missed because our children reflect our unmet needs and we often cannot see this. 

A child who is cold and distant is expressing information about their need for love.