Children are on a path of socialization — learning how to be a member of community. This is a life-long process of integrating the customs, values and rules of their society but it is most intense and crucial during early childhood. We often don’t realize just how many rules children must learn and follow each day because they go unnoticed to us now as something we “just do.” For instance, Anna Tardos, a child psychologist at the Pikler Institute in Budapest, Hungary, once counted over 100 rules during a simple snack time with children. Snack time rules can include staying at the table with food, not eating someone else’s snack, keep your napkin on your lap, don’t dump out your water… The list really can go on and on.
Here is an example of the process of socialization:
We have all experienced an awkward and uncomfortable time when we are joining a new group and are unsure of the “rules.” It is hard to not really understand or be able to follow through with all that is expected of you. A child also feels tension in these moments – after there is an expectation that she follow a rule and before she has taken on the rule as something we do. This inner tension can sometimes be seen outwardly in moments of conflict. We can support this process by being mindful of the rules and expectations we have for our children and by striving for a no-blame approach when dealing with conflict situations.