One of the reasons I love working as a psychotherapist with young children is their unique and fascinating relation with language. Their relation to language differs very much from the one that we have as adults. We are often caught up in the meaning of language, and don't have as much of an ear for the equivocation that is inherent to every use of language. As children are entering language with 'fresh ears' they experience language more at a concrete level and might hear messages that we as adults have become 'deaf' to.
I recently had another nice example of this in my practice. A little boy who had had some difficulty entering language, was proudly writing down the alphabet. He got stuck at the M. He sang the alphabet song, to help him remind what would come after the M, and although he was singing it correctly he could not figure out that next was N. Unsure, he wrote O, deleting the N - avoiding the word NO I thought. As he was singing it, and he seemed utterly puzzled, and I repeated what he said, I started to notice what he was hearing: Men No Pee. This boy, who had been very puzzled by his mother thinking he would be born as a girl, and who had also felt there was a certain prohibition of expressing aggressive, typical boy like behaviors seemed to hear in this alphabet song, the message that he could not be a boy, that men could not do what distinguishes them from girls (boys can pee standing up, girls sitting down).
As we caught this message that he was hearing, and which expressed something about how he felt about himself, we were able to talk and laugh about it. I, as a girl, was able to deflate this message from what he heard as a prohibition of his 'boyhood.'
Sometimes it is in being attentive to these very subtle things that we can get a peek into the mind of a child, and the ability to address it.
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