12 Common Developmental Themes

  1. Crying and the need to be close to a parent are a young child’s most basic communication tools. Children develop a healthy sense of competence and self-esteem when a parent responds to a child’s distress by offering comfort.
  2. Young children have a strong desire to please their parents, although parents are often unaware of it.
  3. Separation anxiety is an expression of love and fear of loss rather than manipulation.
  4. Young children fear losing their parent’s love and approval.
  5. Young children imitate their parents because they want to be like them.
  6. Children blame themselves when their parent is angry, upset, or when something goes wrong. Children are very egocentric, which leads them to overestimate their role in the relationship.
  7. Young children believe that the parents are always right, know everything, and can do anything they wish. This belief in the parents’ authority goes hand in hand, often ironically, with children’s belief in their own power and their determination to assert it.
  8. Children feel loved and protected when parents are confident about their child-rearing practices and enforce their rules about what is safe and what is dangerous, right and wrong, allowed and forbidden.
  9. Toddlers and preschoolers use the word “no” as a way of establishing a sense of autonomy, not out of disrespect for the parents.
  10. Babies and young children remember. They have well-developed memories from an early age, and their capacity to remember begins before their ability to speak about their memories. Memory is particularly vivid for events that evoke strong emotions, such as joy, anger, or fear. The memories may not be completely accurate because they are influenced by the child’s affective state and cognitive level, including their understanding of cause-effect relations. Children are keen observers of what happens around them and may remember it for a long time afterward.
  11. Babies, toddlers, and preschool children feel intensely but don’t yet know how to regulate their emotions. Intense crying, tantrums, and aggression are expressions of distress and a need. Children are too immature to express these strong feelings in socially acceptable ways.
  12. Conflicts between parents and children are inevitable due to their different goals, personalities, and developmental agendas.

1st edition: Lieberman & Van Horn, 2005; 2nd edition: Lieberman, Ghosh Ippen, & Van Horn, 2015

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