Sunday, August 30, 2009

The "No Photos of Me" Stage of Childhood and Adolescence

I have few photos of my younger son lately.

This is why.

He's going through one of those phases of not allowing me to take photos of him.

If you are a parent, you know this phase.

Besides the classic hand over face technique the other trick of "make an ugly contorted face at the moment the camera takes the photo" or "make a face that looks really angry that you are trying to take my photo" or "make a really silly face" is being done around here. The other is "stare in the direction away from the camera and pretend I can't hear my mother asking me to look this way" technique.

This phase also occurred around age three. It is odd that this phase of childhood development seems to never be mentioned as part of the 'ages and stages' in parenting books. What an odd omission! Perhaps it is because psychologists and pediatricians don't witness this in their interactions with children or during scientific studies or in parental interviews? Yet another item of real world parenting that connected parents know about that the parenting books are devoid of mentioning.

So here is my stab at it.

"At around age three and possibly continuing to about 4.5 children often refuse to comply with a parent's wishes to take their photograph. This is a rebellious stage in which the child is pushing back in a power struggle with their parent. The child resents being always told what to do and feels in general, powerless in their world, even when the parent is not being overly-controlling. One thing a child can control in their life is their cooperation with having their photo taken. The worst and possibly most stressful of this stage is when the parent is paying a professional photographer to take a special photograph to commemorate a birthday or for a Christmas card. The child will do anything in their power to disrupt the photography session, from blocking their face, to making funny faces, to refusing to look at the camera. The worst offense is when the child reaches out to grab the camera and smears the lens or strikes the camera, thereby damaging the camera. Parents would be wise to back off from taking frequent photographs and be careful about engaging in the power struggle."

or this:

"In the tween or teen years the child may rebel against photographs as they feel overly monitored or overly documented. The child may say, "We already have too many photos!" or "I don't know why you want a photo of me doing THIS! You already have hundreds of photos of me!". In some cases the adolescent may feel uncomfortable about their self-image, worried they may appear too fat, or not wanting their braces to be seen on their teeth, or some other concern and may rebel against having a photo taken. Some will not admit these things to their parents but do feel them, or tell their siblings or friends these true reasons, while others are open with their parents about their negative self-image. What the adolescent does not realize is they look fine and well just the way they are, but contorting their faces or sneering actually does make them appear ugly or mean, very much unlike their true nature."

All photos taken by ChristineMM of her younger son in July and August 2009.


Wendy Hawksley said...

I've seen many children do the same thing. Camera? Oooh, goofy face time! I've never understood it. Mostly I just looked at my nephews (the only offenders I really know) and said, "WHY???"

Fortunately, my son is beyond overjoyed to model. I'm sure that it will be a different story in a few more years.

Aimee said...

My son is a tween and he is in this stage! Very frustrating for a camera-toting mom!

christinethecurious said...

Cathy Zielske, the scrapbooking/graphic design writer, pays her kids a dollar a shot for serious portraits!

-Christine in Massachusetts