I love this video of toddlers who are scared of (or combative with) their own shadows.
The parents try to explain rationally that “it’s just your shadow. It’s OK. There’s nothing to be scared of.” But the kids are still thinking “there’s this creepy black thing following me everywhere and I can’t get rid of it. It’s like it’s stuck to my feet! I’ve never had this experience before, so it’s freaking me out!”
But as funny as the video is, I think it also illustrates a point well.
Toddlers have limited experience of the world, and because of this, they simply see the world differently than we do. They have developed theories based on their life experience, and our “rational explanations” may not always jive with their theories.
I thought of this once when I was trying to get my 3 year old out the door for story time. I kept saying “We have to hurry. Story time is happening right now, and if we don’t go, we’ll miss it.” And he didn’t understand.
Then I thought about it from his perspective. As far as he can tell, it’s ALWAYS story time at the library!
EVERY TIME we’ve ever walked through those doors, we walk into the story time room, and then in the next minute or two, story time starts. It’s like they wait for him to get settled in, then they start. So, since he “knows” that story time will always be there for him, he doesn’t see a reason to give up the fun game he’s playing right now to go there.
My role as a parent is to explain things so that he develops his understanding of the world, and refines his theories of how things work. But, I also have to remember to be patient with him as he does so. When he’s not listening to my “rational explanations”, I try to stop and think about why they don’t make sense to him and then find a new way to explain.