Let’s talk about the effects of social structure as an important part of human life when it comes to developing identity and acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes with respect to the growing child.
Social structure is what a group of individuals do. It is the pattern of interaction that exists around the growing child’s personal world. Family and friends begin to interact with the fetus right from conception, and as the child is born the scope of interaction increases.
As said by Jean Jacques Rousseau, “Man is born free but everywhere is in chains.” Every individual has freedom, or independence, which is one’s birthright but this freedom is either being repressed or modified in one way or the other by the society in which one finds himself/herself.
Language and communication seem to be the most pertinent tool that lays the foundation for society to build upon in order to reassert its social structure.
Language and communication as a social structure tool (Wilder, 2021; Mazari & Derraz, 2016) has a significant influence on developing identity and acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes (Noels, Yashima & Zhang, 2020), and are a great determinant of child’s future success in all areas of life (Castles, Rastle & Nation, 2018).
Have you thought of why most of us always mention language as the first thing when we talk about culture? Yes, because language is the tool people used to develop the group of ideas and rules which helped them work together when society grew larger and became more difficult to manage.
This shows how powerful and controlling language and communication can govern the individual from birth on how to live, think, behave, and desire things based on a set of standards. As an adult have you considered how you use language to achieve desired outcomes? How have you been affected by people’s choice of words and how people interact or get a message across?
My social experience with developing identity, and acquiring knowledge and skills
As a growing child from a typical African home, all that concerned me was determined by adults. I never had a choice in what to eat, wear, discuss or know. How I felt about issues was less attended to. I lacked the opportunity to contribute to my daily life.
Even in school, teachers determined what I should know about concepts and I had no right to disagree or challenge even if it were opinions being expressed. At the higher institution where students are supposed to develop and apply critical thinking in academic writing, lecturers limited me on the knowledge and skills to acquire and reproduce during the assessment.
I was faced with similar situations during my teaching career when I wanted to change the trend to give children a voice. I couldn’t change my situation much due to “culture”.
The fear of losing work, funding, grades, or something important to our development entangle us in the web of “social structure/environment”!!!
The proactive growing child feels the same in similar social environments some adults create for them. Most children are acculturated based on the social structure adults are used to without considering the interests and values of the active child who wants to find meaning in real life.
Ignoring children’s voices, and making them develop the idea that they have nothing important to share, affects their confidence in contributing to the social world they find themselves in.
As adults, we need to assist children to develop social and emotional skills in order to meet the changing world. We should guide children to understand how different people interact and react to issues in different social contexts.
Giving a listening ear and the opportunity for the child to express his/her views and feelings on issues is the gateway. This will help adults know children’s thoughts and feelings to provide the appropriate and relevant help. It might be challenging to break social barriers to give the child a voice but the change we all desire starts with YOU.
Changing the trend through language and communication
Language and communication are the foundation for acculturation, social engagement, and development of individual personality (Castles, Rastle & Nation, 2018), and literacy development (Nag, Chiat, Torgerson & Snowling, 2014). It is also the basis for developing other concepts or subject areas in schools. Research has established how language influences people’s thoughts and reasoning ability.
Most individuals are confident to share their thoughts, ideas, and feelings in an environment where they feel accepted listened to, and have a sense of belonging. Encouraging children to develop language and communication skills in the early years helps society navigate towards a heterogenous modern society. For example, making children understand simple conversational rules like waiting for their turn to share their thoughts is better as compared to asking the child to shut up when adults are sharing ideas or talking.
As in my case, I dared not contribute to the adult conversation or ask questions for clarification when asked to do something; it was a “Do before complaint” or do as you are told without further question affair for me.
The few interactions that sometimes transpired between adults and children were about giving instructions or asking children to perform a duty. Most children are full of doubts about their ability since their immediate environment did not instill the confidence that will be needed to fit into the changing world.
Freedom starts here
Giving children the opportunity in sharing ideas/thoughts, make choices/decisions, and the freedom to express their emotions and feelings is a key to increasing their voice and promoting self-worth and self-esteem.
Columnist: Mavis Brew