Are Children Saner?

What happens to us? Adults know so much more than children, but some of us don’t seem nearly as good as children at knowing our needs and functioning in relationships.

This question was prompted for me by reading David Schnarch’s The Passionate Marriage (pp. 347-348). [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] Schnarch reports research by Edward Tronick at Harvard Medical School on infants and their care-givers (usually the mothers). Tronick studied the interaction between the infant and the care-giver and found that it was remarkably interactive. He found that the infant and care-giver went in and out of ‘synch’ with each other. What’s more, the infants sometimes broke the contact and they soothed themselves when the care-giver broke the contact. Tronick has recently published a book that gives the details on this research, originally done in the 1980’s, and much else: The Neurobehavioural and Social Emotional Development of Children. [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]

That people are regulating their emotional life at such a young age I find astonishing. It strikes me that we adults often aren’t so good at this.

It occurs to me that sometimes older children are saner than adults too. That question, “Why?” is often infuriating because it is so difficult to answer.

The justice of the cry, “But that’s not fair!”, gets overlooked because children are weaker and so easily over-ridden.

Children also seem to be remarkably resilient and creative. If, as adults, we were dropped into a world where we were far physically weaker, where the rules weren’t explained to us, and where sometimes the rewards didn’t fit the rules, how would we do? Pretty much all of us have been through this as children, and mostly we did pretty well — which I find pretty remarkable.

If you spend time listening to people’s stories about their past, I think you’ll be amazed at how well they’re doing, rather than how badly they have messed up their lives. At least this is what I have found. With this in mind, I find it easy to be an optimist.

I also have a question: what happens to us? Adults know so much more than children, but some of us don’t seem nearly as good as children at knowing our needs and functioning in relationships.

So, I’d like to ask you for your ideas. Please feel free to disagree with my ideas about children and adults. Disagreement is most welcome and encouraged. Do you think children are better at some things than adults? If so, what do you think happened to us, so that this is true?

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