Why Toddlers Deserve More Respect
Young kids might be smarter and more empathetic than adults think.
I was in court several times to uphold the fact that gay parents that wanted to adopt a child had all the strength that heterosexual parents had. They were giving them the love, the understanding, the socialization. That giving a child for adoption to a gay couple did not endanger the child in terms of their mental health.
People would say, “Other children are going to tease them and bully them,” “Other parents are not going to want their children to play with them,” “They won’t have a community that they can belong to,” and the point that me and others were making is that that is not inherent to the condition of being gay. It is inherent to the prejudices of society in how they relate to gay people.
.. There is a new understanding that tantrums, oppositionalism, [and] negativism are not a sign that the child is terrible or that the child’s age is terrible. It’s a sign that the ability of the child to think through a situation has collapsed because of overwhelming feelings of fear and frustration that dysregulates their emotional composure.
.. You mentioned that in recent years, child psychology has moved away from a view of the toddler as simply egocentric. Are these children more empathetic than we give them credit for?
.. I’m the starry-eyed grandmother of a 2-year-old [named Sam]. He’s been learning to use the harmonica. There was this 18-month-old who was mesmerized by Sam making music with the harmonica, and he kept wanting the harmonica. And Sam gave it to him. And Sam is just a regular toddler … I’m not saying [this because he is] my grandson. The 18-month-old is huffing and puffing and nothing happens. And Sam takes the harmonica back and goes very close to him and blows on the harmonica, and then gives the child the harmonica. And the child tries and tries and makes it happen, and Sam starts clapping with great joy and turns to the parents. [Here we have] two toddlers identifying a goal, and the older toddler turning over a cherished object to a little boy that he loves, and the little boy allowing himself to be taught by the toddler in a way that his own daddy could not quite do, and then the older toddler celebrating him and turning to the adults, as if he were saying, “Look at what he did!”