It is a pretty fair assessment to say that most adults have a better understanding of society, and the world in general, than children or adolescents. That understanding is typically what makes adults smirk, laugh, roll their eyes, or respond amusingly to the actions and beliefs of those same children and adolescents. It is also what frustrates adults when they are trying to share some of their hard-won wisdom, and it is met with disbelief or derision. Because adults know better, right?
From the adult perspective, the caregiver perspective, it is often difficult to understand why a child is behaving a particular way. They want to know why that child would choose to do something that seems to defy common sense. The problem there is that is no such thing as common sense.
What people like to describe as common sense typically includes thought processes and behaviors that have to be taught. Much of that learning is done through children observing and modeling what they see from their parents. But in the case of displaced children, that teaching might need to be more explicit than implicit.
Children who are not given concrete expectations can often like they are reaching for an ever-shifting goal. They do not know what is expected of them and so they are rightfully confused when they are reprimanded for not meeting those expectations. That confusion can then lead to frustration, anger, and resentment toward caregivers and the objectives set before them. They may begin to believe that they will never reach the goals set before them and, as a result, may stop even trying.
It can also be hard for children and adolescents to understand why their caregiver appears dismissive or condescending about their thoughts and feelings. Some adults may outright tell a child that they are upset over nothing or that they need to “get over” something, thinking that it will convey to that child that there are more important things in life. The message that is actually being given to that child is not that they will have more important issues to address, either now or in the future. What those children are hearing is that their feelings do not matter—that they do not matter.
Will that teenager get over their high school breakup? Yes, if they are allowed to grieve appropriately.
Will that child ever learn to replace the toilet paper roll? Yes, if they are taught and reminded to do so.
Will they continue to make mistakes and require instruction? Yes, because that is a lifelong process.
Will they become healthy, functioning adults? Probably. But only by being afforded the grace and empathy as a child that we want them to have as adults.