How to handle this rite of passage.
As you read this, do you have one child trying to pull you out of your chair to play, while another remains immersed in an imaginary tea party with her stuffed animals? Do you remain mystified by the completely different sleep habits, fashion statements, or favorite foods your children choose?
According to child development and parenting expert Priscilla Dunstan, these preferences have very little to do with parental, or even peer influence. They are tied into your child's senses and are determined at birth.
In her new book, Child Sense: From Birth Through Age 5, How to Use the 5 Senses to Make Sleeping, Eating, Dressing, and Other Everyday Activities Easier While Strengthening Your Bond With Your Child, Dunstan contends that just as we have a dominant hand and eye, we also have a dominant sense, be it touch, sight, hearing or taste/ smell. She believes the dominant sense lasts a lifetime.
According to Dunstan, "This dominant sense mode affects everything in our lives: how we take in information and process it, learn, interact with others, experience and respond to our needs, and communicate those needs to those around us."
Dunstan details cues parents can look for to determine their child's dominant sense as well as their own. She promises that once parents have a better understanding of how a child's behavior is tied into his or her dominant sense, and how the parents' reaction to that behavior is tied into their own dominant senses, communication will drastically improve.
Dunstan explains why a visual mother who likes to see everything in order may cringe when her tactile toddler, who experiences the world through physical contact, throws toys all over the room. It may give a parent a better understanding why their young auditory daughter hates to go to parties. It's not because she's shy; she just detests all the noise. A taste/smell toddler's fit over visiting Grandma may be tied into how Grandma's house or perfume smells.
Dunstan takes readers through each of the four sense groups and identifies typical behavior at newborn, baby, toddler, and pre-school ages. She helps explain food, clothing, play, and even potty preferences. She also shows how a child's dominant sense will determine how he or she reacts to periods of stress like moving, divorce, or the death of a loved one.
Readers will likely find the theories thought-provoking and at the very least be left trying to figure out what dominant sense everyone in their family has.
Theory aside, spring is a wonderful time to get outside with young children and stimulate all of the senses! Here are some suggestions from Columbus Parks and Recreation, COSI, and Nationwide Children's Hospital for play that makes sense!
Kristen Maetzold is a freelance writer and producer for Living & Learning TV with 18 years' experience as a television news producer. She lives in Worthington with her husband David and three step children, Will (22), Anna (18), and Andrew (16), and is a new-ish mom to Ellie, (2).