Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Age of Reason

There is no age quite so fun as 2.  By fun I certainly mean interesting, adventurous, and sometimes trying.  Two year olds'can talk, walk, and start to seem like little kids.  Yet a 2 year old is more like a baby than a child.  They haven't quite mastered the English (or any other real) language.  They get frustrated when they have something to say and they can't quite get it out.  They get frustrated when they do manage to say it but you don't seem to understand or agree. 

Speech isn't the only issue with a 2 yr old.  Society in general is an issue for 2 yr olds.  They don't know the rules of society, manners, respect, etc.  Even when they are told the rules they can't quite grasp why they disagree with their natural desires.  Since they don't grasp that, it makes it all the harder for them to learn and remember them.  I am having a grand time at a restaurant, why can't I be so loud?  I am hungry, why can't I eat a snack in this waiting room when I can everywhere else?  Why do I have to walk indoors when I can run outdoors, besides if I can run outdoors how come I can't run in the parking lot?

2 year olds have so much to learn and here we are to teach it to them.  We can inform them that we should use walking feet indoors so we don't run into anyone.  Or we can just demand they walk.  One of those choices will help them to be able to eventually translate that to other situations.  Repetition will help them to learn the consistency in certain societal rules.

At what age are children able to translate that?  In other words, what is the "age of reason"?  Around age 7, give or take based on intelligence and maturity, children can finally "reason".  That means that children 6 and under tend to be impulsive.  Asking a child under that age to be able to consistently make those decisions is asking them to do something that is not age appropriate, not possible.  Would you ask a 2 year old to read a book when for most it is not age appropriate?  Would you punish a 6 month old for being unable to walk?  Would you allow a 3 year old to cross the street by themselves when they don't have the depth perception to judge car's distance safely until around the age of 8?

I am not saying you shouldn't teach a toddler the "rules".  I am just questioning the expectation that they will remember every time.  I am wondering why so many people think they can reason with a 2 year old.  When a 2 year old has trouble sitting still for longer than the age appropriate 6 minute attention span, despite frequent reminders, things like "please sit down and be quiet, you are embarrassing mommy", "if you don't sit down you won't get ice cream later", "i know you know how to behave" are all just you trying to reason with a 2 yr old.  2 yr olds can't reason.  They may look and start to act like little 10 year olds but they are really just babies still.  If we weren't here to help them they wouldn't eat (at least not well), potty, or sleep (well not before they just collapsed from exhaustion).   That certainly sounds a lot like a baby.  You wouldn't set a sharp knife in front of them, tell them not to touch it and then just hope they listened.

When it is beyond their ability would it not be better to help them?  Some people view that as bribery.  When you give a child a new toy or snack to get a few more minutes out of them.  Some people view it as babying.  When you carry the child because they run when you let them walk.  Some people view it as giving in.  When you let the child explore your purse because you're asking them to sit for a lot longer than 6 minutes.  I view helping them as a good model of caring and respectful behavior.

Some studies have shown that grown dogs have the mental capacity of a 2 or 3 year old.  In other words, dogs don't have the ability to reason.  Then again I don't see people trying to reason with their dogs.  Or maybe there are people that do, I'll have to look out for the person lecturing their dog with "please don't bark so loudly, I have a headache and besides you are going to disturb the neighbors"

1 comment:

  1. Actually, I would do that. Reason with the dog that is. *chuckles* I would not expect him to understand, just as I don't expect my crying colicky baby when I tell him, while walking him for the third hour, that we have reached the fussing quota for today and that no more fussing or crying will be allowed until tomorrow. I just need to verbalize those thoughts. I don't expect the baby to magically stop and say "oh, I am sorry. I hadn't realized I reached my quota, do you mind if we pick this up tomorrow?" But it sooths me.. or relieves some of the tension for me.
    Now he is fourteen months and I still reason with him. I don't expect the reasoning to sink in or make sense for him, though when he is at the right age.. six, seven.. no idea, I am not that far yet on the mommy journey, it probably will. For now though, the words help me. When I ask my three year old: "Did mommy tell you earlier that you could not do this?" I don't expect him to reason out that since I told him this two hours ago he is hence forward always expected to remember and therefor resolve to never do it (whatever it may be) again. I say it to remind myself that we have gone through this before, that it is not a big deal, and so on.