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The Intelligent Child

Consider this situation. A young child falls but is not hurt. There is a momentary pause as the child evaluates the passing event and decides whether or not to cry. The infant is likely to base his decision on the reaction of surrounding adults. If the adults act as if the situation calls for attention, the child will cry--loud and relentless. If the adults find the event inconsequential, the child is likely to follow suit and does not cry.

It is important to note that the child's behavior (in this case) is not determined by the real phenomenon of being hurt, but rather by his or her evaluation of the event. Even at such a tender age, the child is able to analyze the gravity of the situation, determine the costs (crying) and benefits (attention), and produce a rational decision.

A young child, by any definition, is a helpless being. Yet, even helpless little children possess special power they can use to protect themselves. This special power is what we call crying. When an infant meets someone she does not recognize, she cries. When the child is not feeling well, she cries. And the list goes on and on.

Young children also use this power as a bargaining chip to get what they want. This point should be clear to any parent with a young child. The child won't stop crying or turning down the volume until he gets what he wants, whether it is a toy or some shiny object. Although it is never good to spoil a child, even the most disciplined parents are likely to ultimately succumb to the child's demands. In economics, we call this a game of chicken and we all know who's the chicken. Once again, this shows that young children possess fascinating political instincts and seldom play a bad hand.

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