Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #3 -- How to Civilize Your "Little Savage"

Your toddler isn't a "kid". Your toddler is a unique creature with his own way of thinking. We could all use some reminding about what it's like to be a toddler. Check this out, another gem from Fraiberg, about the experience of a young toddler:

The missionaries have arrived

The missionaries have arrived. They come bearing culture to the joyful savage. They smuggled themselves in as infatuated parents, of course. They nurtured him, made themselves indispensable to him, lured him into the discovery of their fascinating world, and after a decent interval they come forth with salesmen's smiles to promote higher civilization.

Somewhere between eight and fifteen months they sell him on the novelty and greater convenience of a cup over the breast or bottle. By the time he himself has come to regard the cup as a mark of good breeding and taste the missionaries have lost interest in the cup and are promoting the hygiene and etiquette of potty chairs and toilets which, he is assured, will elevate him into still higher strata of culture....They are forever on hand with a clean diaper, a pile of fresh clothes and hypocritical smiles to induce him to leave whatever it is he is doing for whatever it is they want him to be doing, and it's certain to be a bore. They are there to interfere with the joys of emptying garbage cans and wastebaskets. And of course, they bring in proposals of naps and bedtime at the most unfortunate moments and for reasons that are clear only to them.

Now, admittedly, such interference is necessary in order to bring culture to a fellow who obviously needs it. But from the baby's point of view most of this culture stuff makes no sense at all. He only knows that certain vital interests are being interfered with, and since his missionaries and he do not even speak the same language, the confusion will not be cleared up for some time.

The baby resists these interferences with his own investigations and creative interests. This earns him the reputation of being "negative" and permits us to speak of the second year as "a negativistic phase." This is not entirely fair to the toddler who lacks the means for stating his case. If he had a good lawyer he could easily demonstrate that most of the negating comes from the side of the culture bearers, and his "negativism" is essentially a negation of their negation.

From Selma Fraiberg's The Magic Years, pages 59-60.

That's why an easy-going toddler toddler with no complaints actually worries me. It's not developmentally appropriate. So the next time your toddler dumps out your garbage can, think of Fraiberg and try to smile. My 7-month-old and I be joining you there again in just a few months :)


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink