Littles and Bigs / Part 2
It’s time for another awards show from The Baroness! Hands down, every Little that is born deserves a unanimous vote for the Tony Award. At the very beginning of their existence, children are the natural center of the universe. The world is their stage. Their needs are totally dependent on the action of all adults around them to meet those needs. Unable to walk or talk, we respond to their cries and gurgles with unconditional purpose and speed. We interpret their actions and try to make the best guess as to what they want and then get it for them, whether it’s food, warmth, sleep, comfort. It is the natural, protective instinct of the Bigs to help them by responding to the natural helplessness of the Littles. Truly, when all is in place, it is the perfect, organic relationship between human beings. Then, children gain language and mobility during the first two years and the dynamic changes. It is time for the Littles to learn RULES. The first rules are about ensuring their well-being. We limit mobility to an area of safety, such as a playpen or car seat. We “babyproof” their areas to shield them from danger as they begin their independent exploration of the world and its elements. We get them down from heights (air), keep them away from a fall into the pool (water), swat their hands away from the hot stove (fire), and pick them up from a fall on the prickly, spongy grass and take the tasty blades out of their mouth at the same time (earth).
In other words, Bigs monitor and control the unfiltered exploration of Littles. The stage gets a lot smaller. And are the adults appreciated and revered during toddler time? No! To kids, delighted and eager to use their new talents on Baby Broadway, the adults are a fussy director ruining all the fun. The soon-to-be Oscar nominated stars take over and it becomes all about the drama, comedies, and tragedies of Toddler World. Now, they must work at getting what they want. After a 12 to 24-month stage of serving every need of Littles, the Bigs start to reverse the flow and start to regain their spot at the center of the household. This is the next 12 to 24-month stage, which is a training demanding consistency, attention, resolve and quick wits from Bigs because the Littles are still operating with the “me now” compass. If, as an adult, you are ever able to witness a full-fledged tantrum from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, kudos can be given for the acting skills involved. It is the pinnacle of drama. Crying, lying, stomping, red-faced, snotty-nosed, flailing-armed tactical maneuvers all to simulate an SOS distress call when, really, it is an Oscar award performance to get what they want. It is their first flip of the bird. In your face.
So Bigs, know that the Oscar is well deserved, but make sure to give the right prize. If adults want to step back into the Alpha center, then Littles must accept conformity to rules and community set by the adults in all venues, inside and outside the home. Enabling their demands and overprotecting them from failure and consequence can lead to serious behavior dysfunction that begins to show up during the next stage of social and school settings and can continue into adulthood if not checked and remediated. Such behaviors can manifest as:
• Compulsive lying
• Bullying, sexist, and racist behaviors
• Attention deficit
• Eating disorders
• Learning disabilities
• Social awkwardness and isolation
• Communication disorders
Sounds melodramatic and serious? It is. It cannot be stressed enough that the very key to a healthy and loving education of children begins way before the first days of Preschool and Kindergarten. It is not the sole responsibility of teachers in the village to impart the first rules and lessons of life. It is the job of teachers to reinforce the rules already taught by Bigs at home. As we all raise our children to the age of 12 years, Bigs must move Littles outward from the center of total dependence through the stages of interdependence and toward the reward of independence. It is a natural cycle.
Wondering about the Emmy Award? Saved for last because it is the newcomer for the Littles. It is being garnered by the children of the Gen X-ers and Millenials. These Littles have, literally, hijacked The Screens of the Bigs. With the advent of multiple TV’s in homes which allowed media programming to move into Littles’ areas, a certain influence was enabled. And the hijacking continues with the use of Bigs’ smartphones, tablets, computers, and game devices. Look around you. Examples flourish everywhere in public. Tablets and phones in Littles’ hands are as common at restaurant tables as silverware. Beyond technology and media as a teaching tool, The Screen has become a diversion, a reward, a perceived necessity, a substitute for talking and writing, and a babysitter. Screens give Bigs a break from supervision but give control to Littles to choose whomever they want as a supervisor. And thus, common access to devices has influenced necessary conformity to rules, created huge resentment when access and entitlement is denied, and impedes independent problem solving through actual play. Consequently, dependence is extended and the building of skills for independence is suppressed. The Screen has become a “Big” in the lives of Littles. And do we truly accept all the lessons being taught?
Many Bigs are conflicted on this one. For isn’t technology innovative and designed to increase productivity? The Screen can talk, think, listen, tell. But does it love? No. But Bigs have abdicated authority in many ways to its consuming popularity. Be careful about this award. It has changed the landscape of raising Littles.
Let’s face it…Raising children is a love letter to them. Don’t drop it. The Littles might not pick it up and put it in their pockets.