Babies enter the world protected by an “incubator,” an invisible protective shield offered by parents and caregivers. In this space we try, and most of the time we achieve, to make them feel safe, protected, loved, cared for and attended to in their needs.
In this way, they do not spend their time and energy dealing with survival issues nor do they have to protect or defend themselves from anything or anyone and they use all their energy to grow, be interested in the world, play, learn, interact with others. Over time, they come to obey love and trust in their parents and caregivers rather than out of fear of loss of love or abandonment, or a feeling of guilt, as happened in previous generations.
Until four or five years old, the guidelines come from outside. The little ones need adults to guide them in their behavior; they cannot always regulate it themselves nor do they “know” about codes of coexistence, risks, what is best for them or what is good or bad for them. They learn this in many experiences in which adults understand their desires and their anger when those desires are not fulfilled, put it into words so that they feel heard and understood, and set limits on their actions.
Over time and with repetition, children internalize these guidelines and manage to talk about what happens to them and abide by them instead of responding impulsively.
As we say in the story Coco and Mini, there are four fundamental areas that we have to take care of no matter what so that they pay attention to us: health (dress up, take medicine, get vaccinated, not too much television, etc.), safety (cross the street hand in hand, do not touch sockets, take care of what you put in your mouth, and others), ethics (lying, taking out without permission, hitting, biting, spitting, etc.) and general well-being.
The latter implies not allowing them to do things that bother others or complicate our family environment. For example, not letting them eat candy or cookies at any time because if we allow it, they will probably not eat the healthy food that we prepare for them later, and this would lead to us getting angry with them and ruining the atmosphere at the table.
The moral conscience
The “ought to be” of the little ones is external. Around the age of five, these guidelines become internalized and they begin to obey because their parents – now from within them, in the memory of previous experiences – lead them to do things well; They no longer need such a close brand.
In many areas they do what we expect of them, sometimes because they got used to it (to bathe, or brush their teeth at night before going to bed), or because they incorporated it into countless shared experiences and know what is appropriate or correct, what is right or wrong.
Each one does it at their own personal pace and we will have to be attentive to which topics we can leave in their hands and others in which we will have to continue setting guidelines. This is especially difficult when what they have to leave behind is very attractive, or what they have to do is very boring/uninteresting: even if they have the necessary maturity, they do not have enough internal strength to pay attention.
Furthermore, between the ages of eight or nine they begin to pay attention to the justice of these guidelines. that adults impose: if we do what we ask of them, if we ask the same of their siblings, if it is reasonable, etc. and that is going to be the source of many anger and complaints.
It is the stage of rebellion, unavoidable to become people separate from us, there can also be a lot of opposition and questioning of our guidelines and it is important that adults, while still being firm and caring for them, do not get offended or disillusioned by their attitudes and responses. , and at the same time let us allow them greater freedoms as we see them prepared.
Internal or external moral conscience is combined with the personal variables of internal strength and the intensity of stimuli, often very attractive and addictive. An example of this are the battles to get them to turn off the television, the games or the PlayStation, or to leave the cell phone aside. If it happens to us adults, how can it not happen to our children!
Within the protective shield that we offer there will be many “yes” but also a few “no” because our task is to take care of them until they can take care of themselves, and learn at our side that in this world everyone has rights, not just the kids. , and that responsibilities, even obligations, grow along with those rights as children mature enough to take care of them.