I want itOne of my favorite websites is one called Zero to Three. It’s a website dedicated purely to the research and development of children from conception through the age of three years.

My first inclination that I wanted to be in the helping profession was in Middle School. I grew up in a small town in West Texas that had basically only two groups of people: popular and not popular. I suppose a third group would be those teetering between those two – some days your “in” and some days you’re very “out”. I was that person. I teetered.

The problem with teetering though, is that all people want to belong somewhere. It’s human nature to want to be part of a group. To have comradere. To have people looking out for you and being your support system. Growing up, I’m not sure I felt like I had that. I lived in an “unsure” world.

My middle school experience I had was inherited from my early childhood development. How I learned to trust, be independent, and take up for myself against bullies was part of my foundational learned style. Couple that learned development with my personality trait of being very emotional and it led to some ill-equipped coping skills at a young age.

Understanding what is developmentally appropriate at any age is essential to parenting.  In later years, it’s essential to change.

We all want to know why we do some of the crazy stuff we do. And, in order to know, we must look back in time at those early years. Robert Karen wrote a great book on the topic of relationships. He says, and others said before him, that early relationships shape our capacity to love.

Let’s think about this… ALL early relationships shape how we enter into any relationship – friendship, spousal, work – in the future. That’s huge!

We’re born with a temperament style (cranky, happy-go-lucky, easy). Environment acts on that temperament, adding to what we’re born with and creating layers upon layers of learned behavior.

It’s important that early caregivers understand their baby and child’s temperament because this dramatically affects parenting style. We’ve all heard parents who say, “I parenting my children exactly the same, so I don’t know why Jason ended up so different and in trouble all the time!” Well, that’s why.  Jason isn’t like Jill. They must be parented differently.

As we move through life and have difficulties in certain areas, we have to take a look back in time and ask ourselves where we got stuck. What did we learn about ourselves and the world around us, even if by accident?

A good friend tells the story set on a hot summer day in South Texas, a small house with had no air conditioning (think 110 degrees!). She recalls lying her her head in her mother’s lap, resting there a minute and feeling so warm, snug, and secure. But within a few seconds her mother said, “You’re making me hot!” and made her move.

As an adult, we can understand this scenario, right? Extremely hot, child in lap, mom MERELY saying she’s hot. But as a child, what she took away from this transaction was, “I don’t want to be close to you!” One small translation, with no follow-up from Mom (this is key), and a message looms 20 years later: “You’re a burden.”

This may all sound simplistic on the surface, sure. But digging deeper helps us realize WHY we inherit our learned messages. And when we understand those, we can begin to unravel and relearn.

What is your first childhood memory? What experiences do you feel shaped you most? Do those core messages haunt you? Let’s talk about it in the “comment” section below…