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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why Toddlers Don't Do What They're Told

So you tell the little br--, um, little guy or little gal to do something, only to be ignored. Sound familiar? Experience and cognitive research tells you toddlers don't always obey adults as they should. However, new research shows that toddlers are not just short adults.

The pupil measurements showed that 3-year-olds neither plan for the future nor live completely in the present. Instead, they call up the past as they need it.

To use the example in the article: you may think that telling the toddler to go get a coat because it is cold outside. The toddler will both obey and learn from this, right? Not exactly. The toddler more likely will go outside into the cold and only then remember your advice, and then might go inside to get the recalled remedy to the cold.

What has this to do with writing fantasy or science fiction (or syfy)? Perhaps toddlers are different enough creatures that they may be considered other-folk or space aliens. They are an object lesson in avoiding the fallacies of writing about fantasy creatures or aliens as if they were human. (No offense. Writers are all from Lake Wobegon, where all children are above average.)

Back to Earth: the article author did give an example of what to say to the toddler rather than repeating the command to get to coat. However, the suggested text seems to exceed the attention span of most toddlers, IMHO:

I know you don't want to take your coat now, but when you're standing in the yard shivering later, remember that you can get your coat from your bedroom.

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