Little Bear was happily riding his bike in the garden at nursery the other day when another kid, let’s call him Steve, started following him. Steve got closer and closer until he started playfully bumping into Little Bear’s bike and giggling. Should I intervene?
Maybe not, Little Bear is getting cross with Steve but no one’s getting hurt. In fact, Little Bear might even be learning some life skills about dealing with annoying people without parents swooping in. Maybe it’s an opportunity for him to learn how to talk to Steve and persuade him to- Wait! Little Bear’s buddy, Suzie, has just stepped in and pushed over Steve’s bike. Intervene? But how?
Suzie then takes Steve’s bike and rides off in victory shouting ‘My turn! My turn!’ Intervene? Hell no.
Two and a half thousand years ago, Socrates asked what Justice was. Ever since, adults have struggled with this question. What is fair, how should we live our lives, how should we treat other people? Not so for a toddler. Toddlers have an innate knowledge of justice. They’ve understood it with absolute certainty months before they can even say it. For them, the obvious nature of justice requires swift and outraged retribution for anyone who challenges its unbreakable rules.
When a toddler is well rested, then Justice is kinder, calmer and has more giggles. Justice can be reasoned with. On the other hand, the tired toddler has no charity. When their dispensing their Justice, no quarter should be given, and inconsistency is expected and utterly fair. Whether they want the Weetabix dry and wet at the same time, or want their trousers off whilst staying warm, no clemency should be given to the parent who can’t square these circles.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots