By Madeleine Kando
We like to think that children are miniature adults, unfinished copies that will turn out to become like us. Children know better: they know that grown-ups are a breed apart and other than that they are a lot bigger, they could be from Mars for all they care.
The biggest challenge for them is trying to figure out the rules of society. The problem starts out right away, as soon as they are able to see a face. Their parents expect them to smile and show how cute they are and they soon learn that it’s their ticket to get what they want. Children are so into themselves, they really don’t have a lot of time to follow the rules. They possess a blissful unselfconsciousness that allows them to sing at the top of their lungs in the supermarket, makes them run into people left and right and makes them show up undressed in front of mom’s dinner guests.. all that is perfectly acceptable from the perspective of a child.
They don’t understand things verbally. It mistyfies me to hear moms discuss their shopping strategy with their 2 year old in the supermarket: ‘What kind of cheese do you think we should get, David? Do you think a pound is too much for tomorrow’s guests? Oh dear, look at the price on this!’… and on and on. I am tempted to go over and say: ‘Lady, you are talking to a wall here, not to mention the fact that you are preventing me from following my own train of thought. If you really want David’s advice let him taste the damned cheese. If he spits it out, don’t buy it.’
Yes, children learn by doing. You could try to offer a series of lectures on learning how to walk or climb a tree, but I don’t think that will work. The same goes for rules of conduct. Children have to learn the hard way that it is not acceptable to stare at strangers, to eat from someone else’s plate, to bite their friend if they don’t share their toys.
Another definite proof that children are not miniature adults is their openness and frankness. They don’t know the meaning of the words ‘being tactful’. One of the more embarassing moments in my long teaching career was being asked by a 3 year old in front of a group of parents why my teeth are yellow.
The ultimate proof that children are not miniature adults is that they do not find us very important. To them we are just there, like a tree or a rock. Yes, they love us and listen to us. They are attached to us because we take care of them. But I have a suspicion that for a child other children are much more important. Other children are their model. And learning the rules of society is a necessary evil that they can not escape. If it were up to them they would all remain little shrieking monkeys without a care in the world. Wouldn’t you?
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Friday, August 14, 2009
By Madeleine Kando