What happens to young children who do not experience secure attachments?
Young children who do not experience secure attachments:
- Learn not to trust adults will be there for them
- Stay close to an adult to get their needs met
- Learn to not seek out an adult when distressed to help them with their emotions
- Hide their strong feelings and/or withdraw
- Seem disorganized and confused about how to behave in relationships with peers and adults
Young children who don't experience secure attachments learn not to trust adults or they find an adult and stick to that adult-like glue. Have you ever had a child who follows you around the classroom as if the child were a shadow? I would wonder about the child's level of emotional attachment. Then some children also learn not to seek out an adult when they're distressed because when they needed help in the past the adult didn't provide it. They might learn to hide strong feelings because they’ve been told that only babies cry or big boys don't do this. The child might have fallen down, gotten hurt, and cried and was told, “Shake it off.” To say that to a three-year-old seems a little bit cruel. They seem disorganized and may seem confused about how to behave in relationships.
There's a poem that I would like to share with you from 1976 by Dorothy Law Nolte titled “Children Learn What They Live.” You can find it on the internet. I think every classroom should have it framed and displayed in a way that all adults can see it. It starts, “If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive. If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself.” Then it goes on a little bit more about the negatives, but here are the positives. “If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident. If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative. If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.” It goes on to state more about those positive relationships and how important the environment is for a child, and at the very end, it says, “If you live with serenity, your child will live with peace of mind. With what is your child living?” is how the poem ends. I think you'd find it really helpful to read the entire poem. It really is exceptional.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Supporting Young Children's Social-Emotional Literacy - Part 1, by Pamelazita Buschbacher, EdD, CCC-SLP.