The definition of normal childhood is contingent where you were born and where you live. There are various constructs of childhood, including the agentic child, the evil child, the child as a victim, the evil child, the miniature child, among others. The constructs of childhood are a good way of examining the ways children and adults interact and the sharing of power between them. This is very important in the interpretation the different approaches to the different behaviours of children. Understanding what normal childhood is, in consideration to the social and cultural setups is a crucial aspect when analyzing the different constructs of childhood and the relationships between adults and children.
The child as innocent is one of the constructs of childhood. In this case, the child is viewed as innocent, pure and separate from the adults. The child as an innocent construct has been applied since the Middle Ages in the history of humanity (Sorin et al., 2006).Another construct is the out-of-control child. In this construct, the child is associated with violent, self-destructive and aggressive behaviour. Sorin and Galloway describe children associated with this trait as being capable of manipulating power to negotiate their aggressiveness (2006).In the first construct, the child is considered as an individual with no worries in life. These two constructs pose different challenges to educators while handling them. Despite the children being considered innocent in the first approach, educators must provide them with an ample nurturing environment and show them the reality of life.
An out-of-control child poses a different challenge to parents and educators. Whereas children in the Child as an innocent construct are associated with a cool and decent behaviour, the out of control child construct shows a child who is violent and very aggressive. Handling this type of a child can be a challenge, and it requires a different approach. The relationship with adults for this child may be undesirable. Most parents and educators view this type of child as one who is troublesome and hence a difficult one to manage. Nonetheless, it is important first to recognize that a child has this problem and then identify the source of the behaviour. This may not be an easy task as some aspects of the traits of the child may be beyond your control. Educators need to recommend counselling of the child and avoid an approach where they overlook the reasons for the child behaving in a particular way (James et al., 2004).
Aside from these two constructs, there is the Noble child construct. This is a particularly peculiar construct in the way children are regarded. The noble child is seen as capable of taking on responsibilities deemed to be for the adults. Tutankhamen, an Egyptian Pharaoh took over the throne at a tender age (Assmann, 2003).This is one of the many justifications for this construct. In my opinion, this kind of a child is superior compared to the children of the two constructs discussed above. This is because the noble child can fend more for herself, compared to the children in the previous two constructs. The child can cook for himself/herself, cook for family members, clean the house and perform other housekeeping duties without being reprimanded. This is in direct contrast to the out of control child who is normally associated with carelessness, disturbance, and lack of responsibility. The most interesting trait of the noble child is that he/she is associated with willingness to sacrifice her time or resources for the sake of others (McGillivray, 2009).
The implications of the noble child construct on a child may not be desirable. Children exhibiting this trait are associated with making hard and most likely wrong decisions on their own as they lack the requisite maturity to do some of the adult tasks they may want to do. However, most adults will tend not to hold them responsible for the results of the wrong decisions they do. They instead correct them and show them the best way of doing certain tasks. A noble child is an innocent child, but one who is willing to learn and perform tasks beyond the expectations of a normal child. The innocent child construct and the Noble child construct have a lot of similarities and the differences between the two is minimal. Most adults are unable to choose which construct best suits their children between the two. In my opinion, a noble child can be modelled to a responsible adult with the right attitude and orientation.
The commodified child is another construct in the way we view children. This construct involves viewing the child as a commodity. Adults can use the child to meet their self-interests. A popular image of Shirley Temple shows a girl with interesting makeup and hair curls, purely for admiration by the adults (Freshwater et al., 2001).This evidently connects to the view of the child as a commodity.Liu and Graves note that, although most parents and adults praise and jokingly tell a child how he or she is cute, it is not a strength or virtue but a weakness on the part of the adult (2011).The commodified child construct differs greatly from the other three constructs mentioned earlier. In this construct, the adults tend to overlook the character of the child and instead focus on how their self-interest can be achieved.Sadly, in the current social setup, the construct is present in reality on television and in the social media. In my opinion, this construct should not exist in reality as it amounts to exploitation of children by adults. It is a concern that the construction of most stereotypes for use in advertising and marketing seems to encourage child exploitation (Jenks, 2005).However, teachers should see each child as an individual and focus on helping them acquire their abilities and personalities.
The other construct of childhood is the child as victim approach. This construct of childhood is most applicable where their parents cannot cater for their needs in entirety. Such as child is seen as a victim of circumstances as he/she cannot get away from the situation. Moreover, their parents also engulfed in the same challenges in life. In my opinion, this is not a good construct of childhood as it can inhibit the development of a child. Compared to the noble child construct and the innocent child construct, children in this construct have fewer opportunities to showcase their abilities and may end up never exploiting their full potential. Children in this construct are associated with maintaining a close relationship with adults, especially their parents, in their tender ages and even as they grow up (Kochanska et al., 2000).Educators must be careful when handling children of this construct. They need to solicit for financial support for the families of these children. The role of educators is also extended to teaching parents and guardians that they support the education of their children for a better life.
In conclusion, it is important to note that childhood is not a natural process. Instead, it purely depends on the society in which the child is brought up in. However, adults, especially the parents and educators of children should strive to ensure that the social setups do not hinder the development of the child. Some constructs of childhood are detrimental to the development of a child, and hence all stakeholders should endeavour to address all issues that may hinder children from realizing their full potential.
Assmann, J. (2003). The mind of Egypt: History and meaning in the time of the Pharaohs. Harvard University Press
Freshwater, K., Leach, C., & Aldridge, J. (2001). Personal constructs, childhood Sexual abuse and re-victimization. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 74(3), 379-397
James, A., & James, A. (2004). Constructing Childhood: Theory, policy and social Practice. Macmillan
Jenks, C. (Ed.). (2005). Childhood: Critical concepts in sociology (Vol. 1). Taylor & Francis.
Liu, J., & Graves, N. (2011). Childhood bullying: A review of constructs, concepts, And nursing implications. Public health nursing, 28(6), 556-568
Kochanska, G., Murray, K. T., & Harlan, E. T. (2000). Effortful control in early Childhood: continuity and change, antecedents, and implications for social development. Developmental psychology, 36(2), 220.
McGillivray, G. (2009). Constructs of childhood: enduring or open to change? Early years Students' reflections on first-hand experiences of childhood and early year's education in a different country and culture. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 17(3), 271-282.
Sorin, R., & Galloway, G. (2006). Constructs of childhood: Constructs of self. Children Australia, 31(2), 12-21
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