Didn’t I Tell You So?

From Jezebel.com:

Studies Reveal Toddlers Are Smarter, Bigger Assholes Than We Thought

Toddlers not only can comprehend not only what is “right” from what is “wrong,” but they’re also able to understand that a set of rules can apply to one group of people and not another, according to new research at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. In one study, 2 and 3-year-old children were able to identify rule violations amongst puppets in a puppet show, specifically regarding behavior.

Another study found that toddlers only enforce game rules within their own language group. The results of the research suggest that these children understand that the expectations of cultural norms are different amongst different groups. Additionally, the study found that toddlers don’t need explicit instructions in order to understand that a specific action is a social norm. Instead, they can intuitively pick up on behavioral cues and adults’ expectations of them.

So what does this all mean? Well, toddlers are apparently much more socially sophisticated than we’d previously believed. Not only do they know how to act, but they’re able to apply that behavior to appropriate contexts and social groups. So when your kid is doing something shitty, like throwing food on the floor or refusing to keep his shoes on in public, it’s not because he doesn’t know any better — it’s because he’s a jerk.

I’ve said it over and over: kids make our lives hell, if we’re unlucky enough to be around them, because they can, and because they have fun knowing they’re doing it. Vindication is sweet.


26 thoughts on “Didn’t I Tell You So?

    • I would further remark that while many people grow out of it, those who host loud parties or crank up their woofers in traffic, cut into your lane without signaling, troll Internet sites, etc., are just the very same toddlers in larger bodies, having never found anything in life more fulfilling than the screaming and food-smearing they did as three year olds.

  1. I like my screaming. And I eat with my hands if I can… It does fulfil me quite nicely 🙂 But I blast things like Hair or Phantom of the Opera or Tori Amos – something with more than just thump thump that sounds great LOUD. I don’t do it in traffic now that I’m a growed-up supposedly. I’d love some classic music that does the same, lots of bass and whatnot, if you have ideas for me? And I don’t live in a place that actually HAS traffic.
    I reposted this on FB as my niece is just barly past two and smaaaat, but still hits mommy a lot. I have hope for her because she takes a book to bed – insists on it – and loves funky hats.
    I’d invite my neighbors to my occasional loud parties but they are fundie activist Christians and wouldn’t care for the conversation. They have a teen with a garage band so it evens out. And we’ve united against the new neighbors who leave their dog outside all day and night to bark bark bark bark bark. Much worse than loud music: why have a dog if it isn’t part of your pack? Cruel.

    • Carl Orff.

      Mind you, no classical piece will offer the slam-slam-slam bass that rock music seems to think necessary to make its point. I know some people like that — I just don’t get it. To me, it’s like being hit in the face over and over and over with a gym horse.

      As for the dog… oh, god, don’t get me started on people who throw their dogs outside and let them bark their hearts out. Not only is it mean, *that* makes me feel like someone is stabbing me in the ears with a screwdriver.

      • Would this be considered opera? Forgive my ignorance – dad liked country and mom 50’s bubblegum and Abba. She did like a lot of bass too so I did try to share some Metallica instrumentals with her. She listened politely but didn’t want it on a mix tape 🙂 I like anything that makes me FEEL. Much current music just makes me feel nausea and that doesn’t count. I’m hearing Leonard Cohen for the first time and I haven’t decided if I like him or not – lyrics are poetical, voice is beautiful. Music itself is kind of shit. Changes, or ‘breaks’ as iDJ would call them, give you a way to experience a melody in varied ways within one song – that makes you feel. But still, deep sounds like in Fortuna are sooo good loud.

        Hubby hates the new neighbors – the dog is small and mixed breed and the moment they moved in they built it a huge run with NO stimulation or contact with the family. Yark Yark Yark.. Poor wee thing. And it is physically painful to hear when I want to be outside even in the pissing rain like now.

        • Oratorio. A closely related art form, but performed without staging and action sequences; you just see the chorus in its ranks, or in some cases with Orff, ballet may be staged. (I hate ballet so I am happy just to listen.) There’s no moment to moment plot in the Carmina Burana; it’s sort of a pagan musical altarpiece, with the divinities of earthly life on show — Fortune, Venus, booze. I think Orff scored the most authentic musical female orgasm short of Strauss’ Rosenkavalier (it comes right at the end of the chorus above, whose refrain means “I am flowering, I am on fire with a virginal love — a new, new love of which I perish.” If only everyone’s first time were that good…)

          • I’d say 6:52 to be exact. (Notice the similarity in all these of a suspended note descending a major second to partial resolution. Hm.) Wagner’s erotic music is just that little bit too clean for me though — even performed by two giants like this. (Jessye Norman’s performance of the Alto Rhapsody with the Philadelphia: a subject for another time.) Wagner had quite celestial ideas of what a woman was supposed to be, and you just never could imagine his femme eternelle digging her fingers into the sheets, biting the pillow, knocking over the water pitcher on the night stand… I hear all that or at least the potential for it in Orff and Strauss.

            Then there’s this (I like the snarkily detumescent trombone at 2:38), but Shostakovich consistently pushes the envelope into that realm where there is no coherent melody, and at that point you’ve lost me.

        • Compare 1:15 to 1:40 here (notice 0:50 to about 1:02, when he goes off a little sooner than he probably wanted to, but apparently hangs in there for her).

          Does this qualify as the most wildly off topic comment thread on WordPress?

      • Thanks for the Shostakovich–I’d never heard that and comparing Wagner/Strauss and Shostakovich’s treatment of the subject is interesting. I agree that atonality sort of makes me tune out. Plus opera singers usually can’t get away with showing a lot of skin as the video attests.

        As far as Wagner’s heroines–yeah, instead of clawing the sheets, they die!

        For non-orgasmic eroticism, there’s also the love scene in Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.

        • It’s been years since I listened to “Heldenleben.” OK, I have homework. (I always liked Till E. the best of the tone poems.)

          Opera singers are getting buffer. Anna Netrebko actually got a Playboy feature (I leave it to you to decide whether this is progress, but she was seriously hot in last season’s Met “Manon.”) And, well, Jay Hunter Morris.

  2. No argument here. I wonder about the cognitive dissonance of the kindergarten teacher brigade who are constantly going on about they joys and children but who see their Machiavellian behavior every day.

  3. Well I’ve wondered before why we see things so differently, Paul — it may well be that the entitled, self centered people who are attracted to the DC area raise entitled, bratty kids. Because if I walk into a public space where a kid is and do not take the cue and leave quickly, I know that before I finish my business there, said kid will have screamed, tipped something over, irritated the CRAP out of me by babbling loud nonsense,as if people wanted to hear their noise, or gotten under my feet or my shopping cart. Grocery shopping every week is a teeth-gritting ordeal.

    But I don’t remember kids ever being much different, though there was a time when Washington wasn’t this way. They always made me want to smash their little faces in with their deliberate, lovingly cultivated stupidity and their breathtaking meanness, even when I was one. I felt like I had been parachuted down in the middle of a prison yard as soon as I was obliged to spend time around them, and couldn’t get back to the society of adults soon enough. (And as I said, all you have to do is go on a major road or turn on the news to see how many grown people are still basically those kids in a bigger shoe size, just waiting for the time and place where they can get away with behaving the way they behaved 24/7 when they were younger.)

  4. I seem to recall, with the rosy haze of memory, kids being a bit different in the “olden days” when a mom wouldn’t hesitate to slap her kid in public for being too loud or annoying. But now that would result in her getting arrested. I didn’t slap my kids in public, but they were immediately taken home for being loud or otherwise annoying because I couldn’t stand it. I have a really low tolerance for any of that. They quickly learned to behave nicely because they’re girls and like to shop and eat out with me. Idk what you do with boys. Thank god I have none.

  5. Paula, you do with boys what you do with girls but more directly and forcefully since they are less sensitive.
    Sled, kids are a bit like dogs: when a dog feels you’r afraid, he will bark or attack. Kids have very sensitive antennaes, they sense what the adults expects of them and they give it to her or him. You get what you exspect, nothing more nor less.

    • Well most of the kids that I see behaving badly are not really in a position to get my “vibes.” They’re stampeding through the pool locker room slamming doors before I even get in there (I can no longer go to the pool to swim — it’s just too stressful), they’re in the next aisle at the grocery climbing on the shopping cart and tipping it over, they’re in the stroller some dumb Mum is pushing ten feet in front of me screaming their throats raw. I don’t interact with children at all if I can help it, though last week in front of the dairy case I turned to the loudly babbling little nuisance who had been left in the cart seat while her Mom made a few selections, and said quietly without changing my expression, “Shut up. No one wants to hear your noise.”

      I expect them to behave as if they did not want people to have fantasies of bloodily dismembering them, or at least that’s what I hope for, but no fear.

      I’ve stopped trying to be nice to them. It does no good. I’ve asked kids firmly to please get out of the way of my shopping cart (I’m talking about two kids who had thrown themselves to the store floor twice while I was trying to get out the door) and been followed to my car by their ranting mother. I’ve been threatened with violence by a mother for asking her toddler son to please stop splashing water on my clothes in the pool locker room. (Yes, I could have taken her out. No, I didn’t need that experience to add to my day.)

      Occasionally I have the horrors that my Cute Engineer’s family, who boast a sister in law that is on the verge of excreting her second infant, will at some point try to insist that I have something to do with one or both of them. I try to put it out of my mind, because there can be no good outcome there.

  6. A) You seem to be living in a hopeless Dr Spock dominated neighbourhood;
    B) You have a bad case of paedophobia;
    C) You do well to keep away from kids.
    D) I have had positive experiences with most kids I have been in contact with, including my three offshoots and my son’s children and even those who were on my caseload. Only one has been a hopeless case and he really had very misassorted parents. We were friends with them for several years and we saw the disaster evolving without being able to help.
    He ended up in street gang and eventually told his mother not to speak to him if they accidentally met because she would be in danger from the others in his gang.
    Last I heard of him, he had fled to the U.S.A.; for all i know he could now be either dead or in a U.S. jail for life.

    • (A) Very likely (When young, I used to read Dr. Spock to see what they were going to try to pull on me next.)
      (B) Wonderful coinage.
      (C) I try my best — I just dread those moments when people whom I would prefer to like me shove their kids at me and hold their approval for ransom while I figure out how to get away frmo the little monster.
      (D) I’m glad it works for some people, since I suppose things would be even more unwieldy otherwise.
      My Exhibit A against intelligent design is the way that the upright posture and the large human head, necessitating birth at an embryonic stage, forced parents to be subjected to children and children to be dependent on parents, which I think are the roots of most things that are wrong with the human race, such as authoritarian religion. To me, the whole business of people having to pretend interest and tolerance toward the larval behaviors of the young is degrading to the human race and accustoms people to being degraded — or to expect approval for being worthless. I have no proposal for getting around this.

        • I don’t know about blame, exactly, but the whole question of what humans would be like if no one had to endure either childhood or children has occupied me since I was in grade school. I teethed on science fiction, and it seemed like a burning question, but one I couldn’t quite parse.

          Aldous Huxley grappled in one of his novels with the theory that humans are neotenous apes — able to reproduce while still not matured to the extent programmed in the genome. His conclusion was pessimistic, following the convention that neoteny implies a continuation of the “program for learning” that exists in youth, and that juvenile playfulness is part of the inventiveness of the human species.

          But then he came up with the other wonderful idea, in Brave New World, of growing babies in bottles and relieving most of the human race of the obligation to deal with them, unless in was their paid job. This was supposed to be appalling, I think, but when I read it I simply fist-pumped and yelled YES! YES!

          What would we be like if no one ever had to be a parent, which can become easily analogous to “slave-master,” or a child, which is a slavish form of existence in which only underhanded ploys confer power in most social structures?

          I have a companion rant about the way that the more advanced society gets, the more children are essentially sidelined and told they are not expected to do productive work, until suddenly they are eighteen and expected to do so. Corresponding silliness about sexual agency and competence to use things like alcohol, which most people will agree are not things for a ten year old to tangle with, but at fifteen? sixteen?

          Mostly, though, I would love to know what human beings would be like if they were not subjected to humiliating dependence for years and years after birth, and if they weren’t socialized to look FORWARD to having similar dependents nearly as soon as they were old enough to have alife worth living. Food for thought.

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