Church Babies – CTRs (Choose the Right-ers)

IMG_3099 One Sunday, I was driving home from church with a precocious five-year-old as my back-seat passenger.  She had just attended her church class where she learned that we should always choose the right – meaning choose what is correct. We even sang the song “Choose the Right.” To further reinforce her new status, she had received a little ring with the green shield of CTR stamped on it – Choose the Right was on her finger.  She had seriously internalized the concept and was very impressed with the entire “CTR” business.  I was impressed with her quick mind and how she had absorbed the concept.  Proud.

My understanding was about to be corrected.

We came to a stop light and she observed that my turn signal indicated I was going to turn left – toward home.

“Grandma!  Turn right – don’t turn left!”

She then strongly and carefully instructed me how important it was to choose the right and therefore I needed to turn right, not left.  “We need to turn right.  We should NEVER turn left because we always should Choose The Right! ”

That is when I discovered to check for understanding when five-year-olds are introduced to “Choose the Right.”

A five-year-old is smack dab in the middle of the developmental period coined by Piaget as “pre operational.”  Piaget noted that children in this stage are not yet able to consistently reason with logic and generally have difficulty transferring information from one situation to another – that comes next after age seven.  The interesting thing is that while these are hallmarks, any individual child may be leaping ahead toward the school-age concrete stage, or lingering in the prior stage of sensorimotor where they touch and manipulate everything.  My CTR Baby had learned her right from her left and was firm in that concept.  So when someone says “Choose the Right” – it was truly a directional edict.

My mind raced – I wondered how I could every get home with only right turns.

As I tried to explain that the word “right” had more than one meaning, I got the impression that she was tolerating my attempts, but she was standing firm in her definition.  I finally assuaged her concerns about left turns with the reason that sometimes left turns are OK if we are trying to get home.  Whew – disaster averted with lightening-fast pre-operational thinking.

At age five, the concept of making correct choices in light of personal responsibility is threaded through the church curriculum – increasing in sophistication through classes for six and seven-year-olds.  Sunday Primary classes provide children wonderful, developmentally appropriate instruction in the gospel of Christ. They receive that good news line upon line and precept upon precept at the level of their understanding.

All is in preparation for acceptance and choice of baptism at the age of eight.  And yes, they do get a choice.   The eighth year is when “the age of accountability” is reached – and also the age of reason and logic according to developmental scientists.  It is a part of our church doctrine that children before the age of eight are innocent, and cannot sin. Baptism at eight includes the gift of the Holy Ghost, the comforter who is available to guide them in their choices as they develop and grow to adulthood and full accountability.  After eight, teaching of correct actions (choosing the right) continues through liberal illustrations from real lives and scripture stories

The great Developmental Biologist in Heaven know how children think and it is comforting that the developmental principles discovered by man are a not in conflict.


I love my church.

Jean Piaget “Like”

Jean_Piaget Bust 

I like Piaget – so much that I spent nearly 10 years studying his works as the theoretical basis of my dissertation. He makes sense in the world of babies. He broke the mold of thinking that children were simply small adults only less intelligent. He spent his life observing them and pronounced them as “different” thinkers and not “same, but less than adult” thinkers. Many of his observations have been confirmed by sophisticated neuro-imaging that shows the stage-like brain growth he described.   One of the main problems with Piaget is that he wrote so much that most people don’t bother slogging through his works.  And, the “Dummies Guide to Piaget” just doesn’t exist (that I know of).  He was Swiss and wrote in French and his works were translated to English.  His descriptions of the processes used by the thinking child are exquisite.  Here is a quick summary:

The first stage of cognitive development is known as Sensorimotor and includes those from birth to two years of age.  Infants are at first limited to the reflexive movements present at birth but they soon repeat actions and get results from those actions much to their delight.  They build on these reflexes and develop systems so they can apply those activities to an ever wider range of situations.

In the next stage, Preoperational, which spans ages two to seven years approximately,  children acquire the skill to create both mental and verbal symbols (think and talk).  They are able to use simple classifications, but lack generally lack the ability to relate cause to effect.  They are self-oriented and egocentric and can only view the world from their own perspective.

          Following Preoperational, the stage of Concrete Operations arises (approximately ages seven to twelve years) and the child’s reasoning becomes more logical, but concrete in nature.  Children in this stage are able to take another person’s point of view.  They are building the ability to classify objects which is why they are often avid collectors of all kinds of objects.  At this concrete stage, they do not have the mental agility to manipulate abstract problems which requires consideration of all logical possible outcomes.

          In Piaget’s final stage, signs of Formal Operational thinking emerge (beginning usually around 12 years).  Here in Formal Operations, adolescents begin to think logically and abstractly.  They are able to reason theoretically and are able to engage in hypothetico-deductive thinking which makes them a candidate for Sherlock Holmes’ partner.  Piaget proposed that while people would further revise their knowledge base, the developments attained in the Formal Operations stage provides all the reasoning capabilities that would be used through adulthood.

          Multiple studies show that only 30% of all college freshmen are in the Formal Operations stage.  Sounds like a challenge to me.

Hello world!

290Welcome to The Fine Art of Babies.  As a mother,  nurse practitioner and developmental psychology-type, I am constantly amazed at the developing human.  Babyhood is where the action is.  At this point in life, I subscribe to the theory that they come to us 50% hard-wired with their “personality” but the other 50% is up for grabs through the influence of the people who care for them and the environment they live in.  Through this blog, I will be sharing observations, opinions and questions that arise from my near constant exposure to Babies of all ages.  They are what makes the world spin.