Babies are Stupid

Babies are kind of dumb. I don’t mean that in the pejorative sense. They just don’t happen to know anything at all. It’s not really their fault. They have a brand new brain and need to take some time arranging and filling it up. Their brain doesn’t really work like your brain does, not yet. This is a critically important thing to understand. It will save you a lot of frustration over time.

There are a lot of things that babies do that can annoy people. Non-stop crying. Making messes. Dropping things over and over again. It’s very easy for a parent to begin to anthropomorphize their baby’s actions. The baby is not doing things to irritate you. It doesn’t know what it is to irritate someone. It’s not even cognizant of its own emotions in a rational way, let alone yours. They’re blank slates, and as such your reactions to their many foibles are very important.

Take crying. It’s their only option. If you can’t stop a baby from crying it’s because that baby is bothered by something. Don’t take it personally. It can’t indicate to you in any useful way for a couple months what it wants or needs. It doesn’t speak your language. It can’t really even see things properly. Most of its limbs don’t really work right, or are ruled by instinctual reflexive responses. All it can do is make noise and hope that the bad things will get better.

The “dropsies” game is another prime example. I’ve been around parents who get fed up with their kid playing the game where you hand it a toy, and it drops it on the floor. And then you get the toy again, and then it drops it on the floor again. When babies are older, repetition is what they like to do. They’re learning about cause and effect. The toy drops, it makes a noise, someone picks it back up and gives it to them. Repeat. Cause and effect is basically the foundation for ALL of your intelligence, so indulge the kid a bit.

This little tid-bit kind of blew my mind when I read it a week or so ago. Consider this same “dropsies” kind of game with a very young baby, a couple months. When that kid drops his toy, as far as he’s concerned that toy has ceased to exist. It has left his sphere of recognition and it may as well have been vaporized. Does the baby seem to get upset when you leave the room? Yeah, it may have just occurred to him that you have VANISHED COMPLETELY FOREVER. Of course, there’s no concept of forever yet, but you can see why it would be upsetting. So any of those little lessons you’ve been trying to impart, think about how well those are sticking around.

Around about 36 weeks old (so roughly nine months), it will be considered a pretty major accomplishment that you baby can now do things like:

– Sit up for 15 minutes.

– Pick things up with fingers.

– Lean without falling over.

Realize that everything your baby does is hard. Things that you now take for granted were the product of, essentially, months of intensive physical therapy for you as an infant. Everything is hard, and sometimes that will be upsetting for a baby and sometimes the fun stuff will be the stuff that might make you crazy. But take it in stride because as your baby gets older, it becomes more and more like a sponge and if it sees that your reactions to everything is to be annoyed and impatient, well, guess what?

This extends even to older kids. They don’t think like us big kids. Prime example: I went to see Avatar opening night in a big-ass IMAX 3D theater. Seated next to me were a husband and wife who had brought their infant (couldn’t have been more than 6 weeks old — she miraculously slept almost the entire 160 minutes of the film) and their two year old girl. The two year old was also pretty well behaved, but she started to want to get up and shake seats in front of her and talk and sing little songs to herself. Her father would lean forward and say things like “Be quiet, honey. Don’t you want to see the rest of the movie?” Well, no. No she does not want to see the rest of the movie. She’s 2. She cannot follow a lengthy dramatic narrative. She doesn’t know what 60% of the words people on the screen are using are.

What I’m saying is, newsflash, kids are not adults. Remember this and try to see the world from their perspective a bit and save yourself and everyone else a bit of stress.

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  1. #1 by kristin on January 10, 2010 - 8:19 PM

    haha! I taught my parents that lesson pretty quick. Tendency to stand up, walk around and start screaming when I want to leave the movie theater…yeah, I might still do that. But who ever wants to admit they’re an adult?

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