Equilibrium/Disequilibrium in child development - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 04:02 AM - Thread Starter
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I could not figure out what to call this thread.

Ds's former Montessori teacher used to say that children go from equilibrium to disequilibrium and back again.

She would say the child is in equilibrium (easy to deal with, is happy, in balance, etc) for a while, and then moves into disequilibrium (child becomes more challenging, things seem off) when they grow and mature (cognitively, socially, etc).

If you were to draw a picture of what I'm talking about, you'd put a vertical line down the middle, with disequlibrium being on the left side, and equilibrium on the right. The vertical line represents age, and the higher up on the line, the older the child, so you start at the bottom on the equilibrium side. As the child moves into disequilbrium, they are growing, so you would draw a line from the eq. side going up to the diseq. side, and over time, it would curve back and forth between the two. Am I making sense?

So...what I'm wanting to ask is if people see this occuring in their children? I know I definitely do with my 5 year old. With my 1.5 yo too, but you expect that in the toddler period so it's not as noticable.

I'm wondering how often your children go in and out of the two? Do you see growth after a difficult period (disequilibrium)?

Am I making any sense at all? Anyone want to talk about this and how it applies to our own kids?
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#2 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 04:51 AM
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This thread is great. This exact thing is what I need to be reminded of when ds and I are pushing each other's buttons and I am going crazy thinking, "What is wrong with this kid?"
Well, nothing is wrong, he is right on track when put in the context of the model you so clearly described.

I would say that ds enters this about every other month right now. He is 2 1/2. It usually shows up first with his sleep habits, then he tends to get this really mean streak for a while and by the time I realize that this is some sort of development phase, it is over and he is content and at ease again.

I think that children get overwhelmed by newness, by discovery of themselves and their environment. Plus, strange happenings in life and changes that push them into disequalibrium. I kind of think that the out of control tantrum (we all know what that is) is a way for them to get out all that strangeness that they must be experiencing and once it is over, they are back in the equilibrium phase. It is like an adult realizing they need to stop and take a deep breat to gain composure.

Mother to one wild and crazy boy 12/29/2002.
Midwife, Homeschool Educator and Crafter.
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#3 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 11:26 AM
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I notice this pattern with all people, grown ups included. It's part of being human.
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#4 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 11:29 AM
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Yes, I do notice this. The older they get the harder to remember it!! My almost 11 year old just got out of a phase and is much more likable now. I can see how mentally he has developed alot.
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#5 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 11:48 AM
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I think so.

The Ames books "Your One Year Old" , "Your Two Year Old " etc etc all explore this. It always made a ton of sense to me.

This sort of description normalizes natural growth. Sometimes people worry there is something wrong with their child when certain growth is taking place, whereas there is *nothing* at all wrong. Growth is all curvy, and spiral-ly, and up and down, with starts and bumps-- it's not something uneventful and linear.

I also love Magical Child's take on growth -- a healthy child is perfect wherever they are at. 2 years olds are not immature 3 year olds, and a 4th grader, for instance, is not a 5th grader -in-training.
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#6 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 12:42 PM
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I've definitely noticed this phenomenon with dd and with her friends. It seems to me that the "half years"--1.25 to 1.75, 2.25 to 2.75, etc., give or take a few months--have been the periods of disequilibrium for dd. It's as if she aquires new skills, has a good period at first because of the novelty, then a harder period as she explores the new skills, and then a good period again. I don't know if that makes sense but it's how I've come to understand it.
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#7 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by cmb123
I notice this pattern with all people, grown ups included. It's part of being human.
Yeah, I said that to myself after I wrote the OP. I still think it's interesting to see what this has to do with our children. for me it helps to have a better understanding of them, which helps me to be a more patient, less crazy parent.

What made me want to post about this is that there are periods of time when I think "ds is really doing well. He is so easy to be around, he's cooperative...what a wonderful kid!" (of course, I always think he's wonderful, but ykwim). And then other times, when I ask dh on a daily basis "what is with ds? is something wrong? he's stuttering more again, he's wetting his bed, he's more disagreeable than usual. what is going on?" And, after doing a bit of detective work and seeing if anything is upsetting him and not finding anything (not that I'll get that every time, especially since he's getting older), it helps for me to remember disequilibrium.

This exact thing is what I need to be reminded of when ds and I are pushing each other's buttons and I am going crazy thinking, "What is wrong with this kid?"
:LOL Exactly.

Katiesbug, I was thinking every half year or so too. I've heard other parents say that too. Right as you're getting comfortable in that "easy period", everything changes!
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#8 of 8 Old 08-28-2005, 03:58 PM
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Yes, I see it in my kids too. My 7 year old is in a state of disequalibrium right now! When my kids were younger it seemed to follow more of a pattern, but now that they are bigger it comes as more of a surprise. The periods of equalibrium seem longer, but end abruptly. I do think these phases are realted to growth and development -- sometimes I can even see the development happening under the surface.

One minute my 7 year old is telling me about a boy she has a crush on, the next she is curled up on my lap saying that she wishes she could just ride around in a sling again, then she goes and tries to make something in the kitchen (making a big mess in the process) then she asks if she can spend the night with a friend, and at night she comes in my room in the middle of the night and sleeps next to me. She is so torn right now about whether she wants to be a big kid or a baby -- everything she does seems either a little too old for her or a little too young. She is really trying to figure out her place in the world and it makes it hard to deal with her.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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