Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why do small children cry?

Q. Why do small children cry?

A. Because they haven't yet learned how to swear.

I know, I know. This sounds like the ramblings of a cynic or a liberal wacko, but I truly believe that children cry over simple things like a stubbed toe or bumping their tush on the ground when they fall, because they haven't learned how to express themselves any other way.

For most adults, stubbing a toe or a simple fall is an inconvenience but not a grounds for shedding a tear. As adults, we might say "sh**" or the more politically correct "poop" or "crap". That simple syllable is enough of a release to get over any minor pain that was caused by the stubbing or fall.

Children on the other hand have a limited vocabulary and useful expletives are not yet part of that vocabulary.

So what happens when a child cries. We typically assume that somethings wrong and understandably head to their rescue. We say things like "it's okay" or "its just a little bump". Does this really help? I don't know that it does. We wouldn't think of saying that to a 42-year old construction worker who had just dropped a wrench on his big toe. Like the adult, the child usually gets over it pretty quickly without our even noticing it. So why do we feel the need to make a big deal of it with the child and not with the construction worker? In other words, let them have a quick cry and move on. Obviously we need to make sure that the reason they're crying is not life threatening, but give them enough room to experience the little things without having to make them big things.

Understand that I'm not advocating that we teach babies how to swear like a sailor. But let's put "expletives" into context. I hope I never hear a three-year old drop an "F" bomb. It's not appropriate and, to be honest, perverse. They can not even begin to fully understand it in any context. Is there a reason to teach them to swear? No. Will they one day do it. Yeah, probably.

Maybe if they realize that it's not that big a deal when little things do happen that perhaps they'll be less likely to have to use expletives as adults. And if they do use the occasional 4-letter word, understand that they've only expanded their vocabulary and that the world hasn't ended.

Photo credit - Flicker

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