Due to their history, many of our kiddos are developmentally delayed. Their early caregivers may not have met their needs at each developmental stage. For example, babies need to be rocked and held in order to be soothed, comforted, and regulated. Young children need attuned and present adults to respond to their cries and reassure them.
When a child’s needs aren’t met at a particular stage, they can remain “stuck.” This is because they never “graduated” from that stage, which is necessary to grow and develop. It’s almost as if the body or biology informs the child that something is unresolved.
Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development (below) inform us what each child is to master as he ages. For example, babies need to learn that the world is a safe place and adults can be trusted. If not, they remain in a fearful and mistrusting state.
It is common for our kiddos to be emotionally at a different age than their actual age. A child who is 11 may only be developmentally two or three years old. This is why we see children at 11 “tantrum” and fall to pieces if something doesn’t go the way they expected. This is why some older children want (or need) to be rocked or may suck their thumb. They never had the opportunity to go through these stages, so they come up now.
The challenge is to realize that your child is not REALLY 11. He is two or three and needs your help to emotionally grow and move forward. It’s important that the expectations for your child are reasonable and match the expectations of a two or three year old. It is even more important that your responses are sensitive to the fact that your child is truly two or three.
If your 11 year old wants to climb into your lap, be held and rocked then that’s what he needs. It’s not silly. It’s not wrong. Forget the comments from people who don’t get it. It’s right for your child due to his unique needs.
Meet your child where he is truly at and go from there. It’ll help.