It’s been said and understood that the socialization of a child starts as early as infancy. As the child grows up, they begin to act as their parents do when certain situations come up. Their parents and their society are their standard of normal. Within this society there are symbols. According to our textbook “SOC,” Symbols can be anything from a gesture, an object, or even a word that forms a basis of human communication (Witt). Children can pick up on these symbols at a very early age. Children pick up on social norms and symbols by observing how their parents act, and through these observations they link meanings to actions. For example, my parents would always fold their hands when they were praying. As I grew up in a Christian church, I would do the same.
The whole idea behind Children reacting to symbols is very similar to other sociological concepts. The first major concept that a child reacting to symbols is like is socialization. Socialization, according to SOC, is the lifelong process through which people learn the attitudes, values, and behaviors appropriate for members of a particular culture. Children learning about symbols are basically part of socialization because the child has to learn about the culture, the symbol, and how the two go together. It’s all about the child learning things and applying it to how they act. It’s common when a child is so used to the symbols for the child to have culture shock when they visit other cultures. For example, a book published by the West Side Toast Masters says that holding two fingers up in America can either mean “peace” or it can signal the letter two. If you were to make the same kind gesture to someone in Greece, that person would take offense because in Greece the gesture means “up yours.” Similarly, I once hurt my middle finger and my doctor suggested that I keep it elevated. It was quite humorous to see how many people were offended because of the doctor’s orders. All of these things happen because we are trained to react a certain way to gestures, it differs from culture to culture so mixing is problematic at times.
Another issue I’d like to touch on that comes with symbols is the interpretation of religious symbols. I grew up in a very religious home so I was taught to have reverence for the cross. The cross to my family and me was a symbol of redemption and purpose. To others, it could be a symbol of family unity. And who knows what else it could mean to others. My point is that the meaning of the cross is up to the interpretation of the culture or subculture and that is passed onto children.
In conclusion, we have our own interpretation to what symbols mean even though they may be different than other cultures. Children’s interaction skills start by interacting with basic symbols that are all around them and whether they realize it or not, their perception of these symbols will stick with them for a very long time. Our perception of simple hand gestures, religious and political symbols, and even simple shapes and colors all spawned from our socialization in our preparatory stage. Our understanding of symbols will be passed onto our children and our grandchildren; it’s just how our society works.
Witt, Jon. SOC 2011. 2ndnd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011. 326. Print.
“Cultural Differences.” West Side Toast Masters. N.p.. Web. 25 Feb 2013. <http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/book_of_body_language/chap5.html>.