Does your child know right from wrong?
Having a toddler publicly chastise you for being naughty or doing something they’ve been told is wrong can be an embarrassing experience for any parent. But at the same time, it’s also very reassuring.
Whenever your kid tells you off, it is confirmation that they are developing a sense of right and wrong.
For example, while Jack points accusingly at me for eating one of his chips off his plate because I “didn’t ask if I could first”, I obviously feel embarrassed at the public rebuttle, but also pleased that he speaks out when he feels someone is behaving unfairly
A new piece of research from the Association for Psychological Science explores the extent to which children understand social norms.
I don’t know about other parents, but there is an experiment using a puppet that I read through with a knowing smile.
Basically, researchers manufactured a scenario in which a puppet shows children an action called ‘daxing’ that they saw adults performing in an earlier situation. When the puppet didn’t ‘dax’ properly, lots of children objected, saying “It doesn’t work like that. You have to do it like this”.
I’m often told off by Jack for reading lines for a character in his books in the wrong voice, but it is his understanding of more rule-based social norms that are really satisfying.
Jack takes great pleasure in telling me when I’m halfway through my meal to eat my broccoli, or tugging on my hand when I opportunistically walk over a crossing before the green man is showing.
Recently, Jack has even taken to punishing himself for his misdemeanours – so his toddler strops result in him sitting himself on the naughty step in tears without even being told to go anywhere.
In these situations, Jack is often too harsh on himself, taking himself off to his room (not that we even ever send him to his room) because he feels like he’s been naughty. On the occasions this happens, I do feel bad that I have to convince him what he did wasn’t actually that bad, and there’s no need to feel so upset about it.
I have to say though, I feel better about him overestimating how naughty his behaviour is, rather than underestimating it.