Anybody who has any experience with toddlers and young children knows that they can be beautifully melodramatic at the best/worst of times. To us, their behavioral "outburst" can seem so pointless and unreasonable... but the irony behind that is that it is ENTIRELY purposeful.
Have you ever been speaking and been interrupted by a wide-eyed eager child who just HAS to tell you that they went to a birthday party two months ago? As coaches this is something that we experience often. It only takes one child to start talking about their experience and it almost becomes a free for all story time for everybody who has also been to a birthday party recently.
This is because they are all developing right on Que. They have now entered "The Egocentric Stage."
This means that they believe everybody thinks, feels and see's exactly like they do. This isn't a bad thing! This is just how they will learn. They need to experience the world through themselves first, before they can process other peoples feelings.
Egocentricity is unavoidable and fighting against it will prove fruitless. Instead expecting it and having educational tactics ahead of time to redirect the behavior will prepare you all for success!
During this stage children have not yet grasped the concept of "intentions". To them everything is deliberate. If you comfort a child by saying it was "an accident", that means essentially nothing to them. They don't understand yet what that means. If an action happened to them... it was supposed to happen, because it has effected them and nobody else. At least according to them.
Instead redirecting their response to one of their own PERSONAL experiences can facilitate them in understanding. If a class mate has accidentally hit them on the head passing by, relating this to a time they accidentally knocked something or someone can be a great way to redirect and calm them.
Another common scenario is when children have some form of disagreement about who is playing with what. You will most likely have one of them come running over to you telling you that they WON'T let THEM play with THEIR toy. As easy as it would be to sort the situation out for yourself, this is a very important lesson opportunity in communication, bargaining and object possession. Instead, think about how you might be able to direct both children to a resolution. Do they need to use their words explaining what they want? Should they come to the conclusion of taking it in turns themselves or can you guide them to it? Do they understand that maybe the toy doesn't belong to them? It might take longer and it might feel like you are talking in circles... but trust me it will be worth it in the long run!
Being egocentric doesn't mean the child is unkind or selfish. It is literally the purest form of personal discovery and personal development. Once they have learnt all their is to know about themselves, they will have the skill set to learn about those around them.
Just remember what is logical to us... is not for them. Not yet. But with your patience and guidance it will be one day.
Do you have any children that are currently going through this? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Signing off for now,
Would you like to read more about the developmental stages? Here are some good reading resources:
"My Grandma's Dog Died - How ego-centrism shows up in preschool classes."
"Piaget's 4 Stages of Cognitive Development"