Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.
Dr. Maria Montessori stated that human development-from birth to adulthood is not linear. The child simply does not grow from being small to big like a tree but rather goes through a series of significant metamorphoses like the butterfly.
Just as men have walked the earth for thousands of years and latter tilled its surface, without thought for its immense wealth hidden in its depths, so men of our day make progress after progress in civilised life without noticing the treasures that lie hidden in the psychic world of infancy. The child’s true constructive energy, a dynamic power, has remained unnoticed for thousands of years. It is of grave importance for parents, care givers and educators to be knowledgeable and well informed about the being they are going to raise or educate.
During each stage of development, appropriate human help is needed to develop the richness in every child.
The four stages of development are as follows:
Infancy – birth to six years
Childhood- six to twelve years
Adolescence- twelve to eighteen years
Transition to adulthood- eighteen to twenty-four years
The development seems to follow a set pattern. The first and third planes of development are similar-they show the most dramatic development. The second and fourth planes are also similar-they are healthy, stable, strong periods of development.
At each stage the needs felt by the growing child are different in nature and intensity. Just as we cater to the physical needs of our children by providing them good nutritious food in the right form and proportion, we must be aware of and cater to their psychical needs as well.
This is the most crucial phase in the child’s development. The most special characteristic of this plane is the absorbent mind, which helps the child to construct his personality. The child has a need to orient himself and make sense of the world he has come into. He is an extraordinary human being who is on the road to making important mental conquests. At this stage, the child explores through his hands and senses and has immense mental energies that need to be channelized appropriately. The child wants freedom, respect and order. His motto is “Help me do it myself”
At around 7 years of age when the child begins to feel a loose tooth, it is an indication that he has passed on to the next stage of development. He is now a completely different person. He is both stronger and slimmer. His hair is less soft. Psychologically he is less gentle, less accommodating with a strong sense of what is fair and what is unfair. He now needs to enlarge his field of action.
The absorbent mind of the previous stage is slowly replaced with the reasoning mind. Exploration using senses fades away and exploration using the imagination takes over. He wants to know the how, when, where and why of everything. Now, his motto is “Help me think for myself”.
This is the adolescent stage. It brings about the physical and social maturity in children. It is a critical age. They have a tendency towards creative work and a need for the strengthening of self- confidence. They are doubtful, hesitant and sensitive.
They want to become part of the adult humanity and contribute to it. The independence they seek at this level is economic independence. Their motto is “Help me to find myself”.
TRANSITION TO ADULTHOOD
This is the transition to adulthood. The individual at this stage makes his own choice of a vocation, enjoys doing the work and thereby achieves perfection in whatever field he chooses to engage himself. Cultural education, moral and spiritual needs know no bounds. He now becomes part of the evolving humanity and his development is continuous. His motto is “Help me to support myself”
A fully developed person develops on a spiritual plane consisting of love, humility and a sense of detachment with a total understanding of the truth of interdependence that exists in the cosmos.
Parents and educators must understand that we can only ‘aid’ in the child’s development. We need to become aware of when and how we can intervene and when we should step back to let the child and nature take their course of action.
When we provide the appropriate help with knowledge, understanding, as well as with love, children grow into adulthood as lifelong learners who are ready to assume responsibility, to serve others and eventually become responsible parents themselves.
The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.
In the future, as in the past and present, our endeavour is to guide children in the best possible manner, keeping in the mind the nature and needs of the different stages of human development.