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I don’t want to trivialize the roles of adults in children’s lives, but, truth be told, we adults greatly exaggerate our roles in our theories and beliefs about how children develop. Have you ever noticed how your child’s tastes in clothes, music, manner of speech, hobbies, and almost everything else have much more to do with what other children she or he knows are doing or like than what you are doing or like? Children are biologically designed to pay attention to the other children in their lives, to try to fit in with them, to be able to do what they do, to know what they know. Children are biologically designed to grow up in a culture of childhood.As children get older, and especially once they are in their teen years, their communications with one another have ever more to do with the emotions and struggles they experience.
Even young children begin to use scatological, “naughty” words, deliberately flouting adults’ dictates.
Consider for example, the adult who asks a four-year old, “What color is that? Or consider the adult who says, “Oh, that’s beautiful, what a wonderful artist you are,” while looking at the child’s latest scribbling.
Children never give such false praise to one another.
There are many valuable lessons that children can learn in interactions with other children, away from adults, that they cannot learn, or are much less likely to learn, in interactions with adults. I don’t know if this is or isn’t true in traditional cultures, but in modern Western cultures adults are terribly condescending toward children.
Their communications with children, especially the well-intended ones, are frequently dishonest. Unless the adult is blind, or color blind, the adult knows perfectly well what color it is. Almost all the questions that teachers ask, through all the grades of school, are dishonest; the teacher knows the answer (or thinks she does because she read it in the teacher’s edition of the textbook), so her question is not really a question; it’s a test.