Child development, which is associated with biological and emotional changes in children’s lives, has been studied over the years as part of psychological research. According to a model we developed, a child’s mind is made of several concentric and inter-balanced layers. Each layer has a unique role and when one of the layers fails, the entire system becomes imbalanced and the child experiences a crisis.
The outer cognitive layer
This layer refers to the child’s cognitive function, made up of the feedback he receives from his teacher and parents, his school grades and his self-image. For example, children with learning disabilities may experience a disruption in this layer, because although they think of themselves as clever, they are unable to apply their skills in practice and get high grades in school or express their knowledge in the customary manner.
Over the years, I have noticed that some children succeed in maintaining this layer intact and finding areas in life they are good at, where their talents stand out. Their success can be attributed not only to their personality and inborn cognitive ability, but also to appropriate feedback they receive from significant others. Conversely, other children have difficulty finding the right cognitive path because they lack guidance from their elders or are unconfident or confused, so they try to succeed in too many fields.
The middle social layer
The next layer refers to the child’s social functioning. The need for social acceptance and belonging is inherent to us all. When this layer is intact and the child feels that his social needs are met, his drawings will be rich and full in accordance with his age. At school age, when social interactions are at the center of learning, children’s drawings usually include a variety of trends and stories – every drawing is a story in parts, full of intricate little details..
The inner emotional layer
The innermost layer refers to the child’s emotional condition and is influenced by the two outer layers. This layer includes, for example, self-confidence, body image and anxieties.
Interaction between layers
A crisis in one of these layers occurs when one of them is lacking in terms of satisfying the child’s needs. This situation may be likened a financial overdraft, which causes the child to withdraw energy from another layer to compensate for the lack in this specific layer.
Children have many creative ways to carry out this withdrawal – some know, for example, to come up with a witty answer (high cognitive level) to compensate for a social difficulty they may be experiencing. The more “savings” a child has in his layers, the less he will feel the overdraft in times of difficulty, whether it’s cognitive, social or emotional. When these savings run out, however, we will be able to identify in his drawings the cause for the imbalance which led to his concern.
The mother of the 5 year-old who made this drawing contacted us asking about her son’s feelings about himself and the quality of his social relationships, noting that he had just started out in a new kindergarten.
Analysis of his drawings led to the conclusion that he was an intelligent and sensitive child. His drawings indicated that his cognitive level was high compare to his age group, with high concentration and persistence. His spatial perception ability was highly developed; he had a large vocabulary, impressive expressive ability and musical talent.
It was also concluded that he had a rich and intricate inner world, so that he knew how to occupy himself through games or other interests. Beyond the fact that at his age he already showed real interest and ability in writing in two languages, it was possible to see from his line quality and drawing style that he had high self-image. In other words, he was aware of his above-average cognitive skills and this contributed to his self-image.
Socially, we did not identify any issues worthy of concern. His drawings show that he is a quiet child, who tries to be nice to everybody and who is popular among his peers. Moreover, he also knows how to create intimacy and play with one friend only, without being disrupted by stimulations from outside.
In the emotional layer, maybe as a result of his quietness, we did identify some difficulties. His coloring and drawing style, which doesn’t match his age and cognitive level, represent his sensitivity. Recently, probably due to his move to the new kindergarten, he has been experiencing stress, which is reflected in the line quality. His drawings also show that he had issues in the past with diaper weaning. It is possible to see a regression in this issue, as a result of the current anxiety and tension he is experiencing.
In his case, when he experiences social difficultly, like entering a new kindergarten and re-establishing his social status, he withdraws energy from the emotional layer to compensate for his reduced social credit rating.
The drawings’ indicators
When children experience an overdraft in one of the layers, their drawing level become regressive and we may see that especially in the way they draw figures. For example, 5 year-olds usually draw figures with clothes and accessories. In this drawing we see poorly executed figures, which represent his difficulties.
The cognitive aspect is affected by the inner layers, so it is important to follow up on this child’s achievements, as they can be easily affected by his social and emotional condition, as for example when a child does better than him in class or following a dispute with some popular kids.
It is important to guide him to be tolerant with regard to his mistakes and understand that as a “big boy” he will continue to make mistakes, just like everyone else. This issue is especially important, because this child is very sensitive to every nuance and tone of speech and becomes very serious when asked to behave like a grown up.
In order to strengthen his inner emotional layer, we recommended taking him to classes which focus on the physical aspect, such as baseball basketball, soccer and so on. We also offered combining age-inappropriate games in his daily routine, games that are more suitable for younger children, like hide and seek and catch, which involve body contact, but are not highly competitive, because he needs more of the wild childish part in his life, which will allow him to develop more slowly and make him feel more like a child rather than a grown up, relieving his social and cognitive overload.
Once he will become emotionally strong enough to present himself also in childish ways, every overdraft in the outer layer will not necessarily require withdrawal of energy from one of the other layers and keep him more balanced and happy.
If you have any comments or questions about this article, contact us or leave a reply below.