From the age of four, if not earlier, girls and boys surprise because they “seem to know” what the adult feels, what he wants, and sometimes what he thinks. They also establish differences between the wishes and beliefs of the other and the repercussion of these on their actions. In subsequent years, children can differentiate between what the other “wants,” “knows,” “believes,” and “feels.” This ability to make this distinction helps them understand the difference between beliefs and effects.
The wishes and beliefs of others
It is a process that children build slowly and that does not appear suddenly. They begin to build it throughout the first year, but by the age of three or four, that competence to realize the beliefs and desires of others and to differentiate them from their own extends in many fields.
For children, the process of learning to negotiate between their wishes, most of the time, immediate and absolute, contrary to the desire of the adult, to accept the norms and restrictions imposed by the culture, is a task of their full daily life of challenges and difficulties. Finding the middle ground, the moment and the conditions to make a transaction or negotiation with the wishes and the rules are at the base of the socialization process.
Understanding the differences between your own and others’ desires and beliefs is synthesized in the ability to ‘understand the other’s point of view’ and / or ‘put yourself in the other’s shoes’ and thereby, interpret their behaviors and intentions. To understand that the same reality can be understood in two or more ways is to start accepting the ‘relativity’ of the points of view, it is to access the range of many shades of gray and get out of the absolutes that represent black and white. This relativity is the support of the socialization process, of the principles of tolerance, of civility, and of the process of construction of knowledge. When the children manage to establish that bridge and ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of the other, they accept their proposals: be they orders, reactions, or opinions and understand how they affect them.