The child I observed was a three year old boy who shall be referred to synonymously as “Kaiden”, of Vietnamese heritage living in a Vietnamese-speaking household. All of my observations took place in the family’s small rented home that Kaiden, his mom, and his teenage sister live all in. As this was my first-ever naturalistic observation, I was a bit anxious about how Kaiden might act when I appeared before him for three days just watching him, not being able to interact or play with him. I’m sure that others who are starting a new child observation would also be quite unsure about where to start and how to conduct themselves.
I felt a bit awkward watching Kaiden in such an intimate way, and thought this could be intrusive or burdensome to his personal space. For example, early in the observation, Kaiden was not talking and was mostly sitting quietly and I initially thought that he was acting this way because I was there. Most importantly however, was the fact that Kaiden and I belonged to the same ethnic background, making my observation a a less diverse one because I was not sure whether I would get adequate learning about children in general. I did not step outside of my ethnic group when I selected a child to observe. This was not done intentionally, but rather because this is where I have formed more connections in the community. However, because this kind of feeling and experience is common among other student child observers, I felt some reassurance.
(McMahon, 1994)Kaiden was barely talking the first 30 minutes of observation. Just from my prior knowledge, I know three year olds are supposed to start talking by their age. About an hour later, Kaiden finally responded when his mom said “here is your ipad”. In excitement, Kaiden reached for it and said “ipad.” After receiving the ipad, he stayed mute for the remaining time.
When I asked Kaiden’s mom regarding his ability to talk, she revealed that he has a delay in speech.After that, I felt like understanding developmental expectations of children of a similar age would have helped me better understand Kaiden’s situations. I did not fully understand why Kaiden was not able to talk, as I was comparing him with my cousin who was able to talk by the age of two.
However, knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not is critical in understanding child development when there are wide variations among the “normal children in the rate of language acquisition” (Sheridan, 1997). Up to this point, I realized I was not fully aware of what “child development” was. I remembered a child development lecture we have had before, and I recalled one of the principles of child development from a powerpoint: “Children are active participants in their own development, reflecting the intrinsic human drive to explore and master one’s environment,” (Author, Year). In my other child development and learning class, EDPSY 302, I learned more about the theories of child development, such as how behaviourism targets the process of language development and it implies that children learn through observation and reinforcement. For instance, when a caregiver encourages a child to say ‘Mama’ and the child responds, the parent becomes excited and tells the child to say it again. Based on the satisfactory reaction that the caregiver gave the child, it is likely that the child will try to say it again.
Behaviorist B. F. Skinner suggested that child development is a dynamic process that can be changed or altered by any means such as by the environment that they are growing up in. Although reinforcement and imitation can help early language development, this theory is primarily involved with visible behavior, and does not really address and ignores significant child behaviour such as thoughts, feelings and emotions.