Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Toddler behavior explained, and an Oregon croc

Gee, do you think that toddlers haven't developed grown-up thinking skills yet? That they have to be taught to behave? That you can't reason with a toddler as if he's an adult?

To some people this is news. From Tara Parker-Pope's article, "Coping With the Caveman in the Crib" (New York Times, February 5, 2008):

Now Dr. [Harvey] Karp, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, has turned his attention to the toddler years, that explosive period of development when children learn language, motor skills and problem solving, among other things. The rapid pace at which all these changes occur is nothing short of astonishing, but it can also be overwhelming to little brains. A wailing baby is nothing compared with the defiant behavior and tantrums common among toddlers.

In his latest book, “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” Dr. Karp tries to teach parents the skills to communicate with and soothe tantrum-prone children. In doing so, however, he redefines what being a toddler means. In his view, toddlers are not just small people. In fact, for all practical purposes, they’re not even small Homo sapiens.

Dr. Karp notes that in terms of brain development, a toddler is primitive, an emotion-driven, instinctive creature that has yet to develop the thinking skills that define modern humans. Logic and persuasion, common tools of modern parenting, “are meaningless to a Neanderthal,” Dr. Karp says.

The challenge for parents is learning how to communicate with the caveman in the crib. “All of us get more primitive when we get upset, that’s why they call it ‘going ape,’ ” Dr. Karp says. “But toddlers start out primitive, so when they get upset, they go Jurassic on you.”

Full article here.

So, those of you who have actually raised toddlers to the next stage of human development -- have brought them forward into the Cenozoic, so to speak -- feel free to weigh in.

As for the 'Neanderthals in the Jurassic' business, let's try to remember these people are speaking figuratively here. OK? (And I hope they're joking where they say, "In fact, for all practical purposes, they’re not even small Homo sapiens." Of course they're small Homo sapiens. Exhaustingly immature Homo sapiens, perhaps, but definitely full-fledged members of the species. And sometimes they're even cute. Such a deal.)

Side note: Isn't there some debate on whether Neanderthals were as primitive as depicted in popular culture and some science texts? Isn't it rather more common these days to put them forward as rather more sophisticated than your average toddler? I know, I know, we're speaking figuratively here, and you and I are perfectly capable of enjoying caveman jokes without worrying if they're justified. But still, I would like to note that I don't know if they are justified.

Found while searching for something else about the Jurassic: Photo in the News: Jurassic "Crocodile" Found in Oregon (National Geographic News: March 22, 2007.) That's interesting. I live in eastern Oregon. We have lots of fossils around here, many of them looking rather tropical. (Talk about climate change!) But in this case, the scientists were speculating that this 'croc' started out in Asia and its fossilized remains were propelled by plate tectonics across to our decidedly inland mountains? Hmmm. I guess anything's possible, but... isn't it a bit more likely that it was just a local croc? I guess I'd like to know what sort of rock the fossil was in, and whether it matches Asian rocks with similar fossils.

P.S. I was telling a friend about the supposedly Asian fossil being shoved into our mountains theory, and he said he'd heard that a pterodactyl (aka pterosaur) had carried the croc over and dropped it here. I'm pretty sure he was joking. But, hey, it's a theory... :)

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