Ask yourself this…

Holly is extremely busy at the moment with choir homework, school homework and various other commitments, so I have offered to step in to keep the blog going. We realise they have been rather sparse recently, so apologies for that, but we are in the midst of kitchen chaos (half the floor drilled up to fix a leak and therefore no sink to wash up in or dishwasher – so bathtub here we come!), various family illnesses, and cat dental work. It’s certainly been… interesting!

I am preparing a post on an author who I admire greatly, but it’s taking a little time. So I thought I would fill this space with something that you can ask yourself, if you’re a child reading this, or you can ask your children, if you’re a parent. It comes from a text I have been reading as part of my Masters in Children’s Literature and it’s fun and interesting.

In Nicholas Tucker’s The Child and the Book, there is a fascinating chapter on ‘Fairy Stories, Myths and Legends’. This explores what fairy stories are for (educating children in morals and good behaviour, some might say), and how this functions in relation to a child’s psychology as they grow older.

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Let’s put theory to the test!

Have a look at this story:

Once there were two children who were stealing apples in an orchard. Suddenly, a policeman comes along and the two children run away. One of them is caught. The other one, going home by a roundabout way, crosses a river on a rotten bridge and falls in the water. Now, what do you think? If he had not stolen the apples and crossed the river on that rotten bridge all the same, would he also have fallen into the water? (page 75)

What do you think?

I posed the question to Holly and, for her, it was a no-brainer. ‘The bridge collapsed because it was rotten, not because he did something bad,’ she said. ‘That had nothing to do with what happened.’

Her response is typical of those expressed by other children but what is interesting is the way age plays a role in what you are likely to say. Nicholas Tucker summarises that most six-to-eight year olds seemed to believe that the bridge broke because it knew that the boy was a thief and deserved punishment. However, older children were divided on the subject. Some agreed with their younger counterparts, while others, like Holly, saw this purely as a coincidence.

So what’s the difference?  Child psychologist Jean Piaget called the younger children’s view ‘immanent justice’ – which means that they believe in ‘a universe that is ordered and intentional’ (p.76). He goes on to say that when children ask you all those ‘why’ questions, they are, in fact, ‘looking for moral explanations rather than for anything involving impersonal causal factors. The idea of chance… will be very hard for a small child to accept…’

Basically, children struggle with the concept of coincidence – everything must happen for a reason. Even though Holly does understand coincidence now, she gets furious when unjust happenings go unpunished. As we all do.

Sometimes a belief in divine or other intervention can help us feel safe – that for every crime there will be a punishment. Otherwise the world can be a scary place.

Do you believe in divine intervention? That if you do something wrong or bad it will come back to bite you? Please share your thoughts!





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