Why Can’t Little Kids Make Sense?

Jacob Hansmann cries as his father interrogates him about forging his mother’s signature on a school document.

James Hansmann

Jacob Hansmann cries as his father interrogates him about forging his mother’s signature on a school document.

Alina Guerin, Staff Writer

When VHS junior Long Ngyuen was three years old, he wandered away from his older sister, Lang Ngyuen, who was babysitting him. Free from her supervision, he found two loose light bulbs,  which he tried to eat. His sister soon found him with the broken bulbs in his mouth, and drove him to the hospital–where, to his family’s surprise, he was uninjured.   

More recently, another small local child had a misadventure. Jacob Hansmann, member of the Hansmann family,  attempted to forge his mother’s signature on a red behavior notification card given to him by his kindergarten teacher after Hansmann “sassed” her. Hansmann wrote “Mommy,” in crayon upon the card. He broke down in tears when confronted about the counterfeit by his parents. 

 A number of people have their own odd and slightly unnerving stories of things they did as a child they now recognize as poorly planned or morally wrong. Such behavior may leave a person wondering, “Why are children like this?” Do children just naturally become more empathetic over time, or is it something else?  

In The Psychological Development of the Child written by Henry Wallon in 1962, Wallon wrote,  “Emotion and intellectual activity follow the same evolution and present the same antagonism. Even before a situation is analyzed the activities that a situation provokes and the dispositions and attitudes it arouses give it meaning.”

“In mental development,” Wallon continues. “This practical insight appears long before the ability to discriminate and compare.”  If a child does something seen as morally wrong it’s not necessarily because they are trying to be sadistic, but because of the lack of brain development they are unable to comprehend right from wrong and make decisions based off of impulse.

VHS Psychologist Claudia Weiss said “according to developmental psychology, children develop the ability to see themselves as different from others and understand that others have different feelings, thoughts, and beliefs around age three. This is called Theory of Mind.”    An example that Weiss used to explain this was: if you have a box of crayons, and you show a five year old and a three year old that there is actually something else in the box, and then ask the child what their parent would think is in the crayon box; the five year old would say something like ‘it’ll totally fool my Mom–she’ll have no idea!’, while the three year old would assume that their parent has the same information as them.    

Yet not all children develop exactly the same way. Kinsey Boozer a senior attending Verrado High school said that as a child around the age of four and six she would feel high levels of anxiety, and play with her hair to cope with the situation, but the habit of playing with her hair later became a habit of pulling out chunks of her hair, before hiding it under her bed.   Boozer said that she thinks she still has that anxiety, but has since grown out of the hair pulling habit.

Mental illnesses may be another factor in how children process right from wrong,  According to: Janice Cooper, Rachel Masi and Jessica Vick, The co-authors of Social-emotional Development in Early Childhood,  an estimate of 9.5 and 14.2 percent of children under the age of five suffer from emotional issues associated with socialization, causing Toxic Stress.   Weiss said “in my experience, young children often regress developmentally when faced with high amounts of stress. Another outcome may be that they have difficulty developing positive, trusting relationships with subsequent caregivers.”  Weiss also said “According to the National Association of School Psychologists, childhood trauma can increase the risk for psychological, behavioral or emotional problems (depression or PTSD), substance abuse, low occupational attainment or academic failure, social maladjustment and poor medical health.”

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eighty percent of adults who suffered from abuse have at least one psychiatric disorder including: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.  The CDC said “the stress of chronic abuse may result in anxiety and may make victims more vulnerable to problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, conduct disorder, and learning, attention, and memory difficulties.” VHS students concerned about these ailments can access help through Claudia Wiess in  Room C20 on Campus.