How To Understand How Children Think

Children are not little versions of their parents. They think differently from grown-ups. This is a common source of exasperation, as children cannot grasp the complex or abstract ideas adults have.  As children grow, they gradually grasp more than concrete ideas, and a wider array of concrete ideas are accumulated during their sensory encounters. Until that time, it can be difficult for adults to understand them.

Some exemplary children can relate philosophically to adult ideas, and this might be due to better communication with the adults surrounding them. However, some are not as wise beyond their years. To understand how children think, one must consider the following:

  • Accept the fact that children rely on sensory experience. Children rely heavily on their senses to learn about the world around them. They use this stage to store memories that they can examine in the future. They acquire abstract ideas later on and relate them to the visual and spatial recollections.
  • It will be helpful if adults help expose the child to different sensory experiences, so that accumulation of these experiences can help him or her eventually in relating to abstract concepts.
  • A child’s background affects his/her world view. The ability to grasp abstract concepts depends on his or her culture, community, economic position, health, education, exposure to stress, violence and abuse as well as his/her family life. Individual characteristics and experiences provide them necessary tools to grasp adult concepts in the future.
  • Educational institutions play a big role in providing concept avenues for the child to explore. It’s just a matter of tailoring learning activities according to the child’s learning style and individual experiences.
  • Allow the child to create and interpret his/her own symbols.  Children love drawing and painting activities. Symbolism is an alternative way in getting the child to understand abstract concepts that he or she might encounter early in life, like happiness or love.
  • The child must be asked deductive questions. His or her answers bring out the visual, auditory, gustatory and olfactory memories that he/she can relate to. Eventually, these can be used as illustrations that they can color and eventually describe, thereby producing a symbolism that he/she can totally relate to.
  • Being egocentric is self-affirming. A child cannot understand anyone’s perspective except his or her own. This is not because he or she thinks that the whole revolves around him or her. It’s just that he or she thinks that everybody must have similar emotions, thoughts, and experiences.

Setting an example gives the child an alternative from being egocentric. Adults who surround the child must give positive, selfless examples and explain their motives as plainly as possible. It will be difficult for the child at first, but once he or she gets the norm, it will be accepted into their value systems eventually.


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