Language of love

By Jasmine Pourpak

To have a successful and healthy mental life, children need caregivers who are totally committed to them, said a child-development specialist.

Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, and those early relationships are crucial in laying the foundation for a child’s self confidence, achievements in school later in life and ability to know the difference between right and wrong, said Ross Thompson, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Thomson spoke in the Union Theatre on April 6 about family relationships and early psychological understanding.

“Childhood development expands more than to just the mind, but also the heart,” Thomson said. “Young children are capable of deep and lasting sadness and grief.”

For example, disorganization is a response to trauma, loss and early personal rejection, he explained.

New knowledge on child maturity, in areas such as language development, has experts looking at children differently, Thompson said.

“Language is the avenue for a young child’s appropriation of values, beliefs and a sense of self,” he said.

Talking to children about their feelings has been proven more effective than simply using rewards and punishments.

Caregivers play an important role in a child’s development because of their emotional tone and pragmatics.

Thomson, a founding member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, has authored several books on child development and psychology.

His developmental psychology studies focus on early parent-child relationships, the conscience development and growth of self-understanding. His public health policies stress the effects of divorce and custody arrangements on children, child maltreatment prevention and early brain development.

Dan Laxman, senior in psychology, said he was looking forward to taking what he learned at the lecture to graduate school with him.

“I’m interested in further exploring some of the topics discussed here, like emotional intelligence and parent-child relationships,” he said.

Thomson concluded by quoting one of his mentors, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner: “Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last and always.”