I think I would like her, for the time being, to believe that animals do "pursue their needs and just coincidentally hurt others" when their nature or DNA require its. We have been dealing with a toddler, who like the majority of toddlers, wants to see things as black and white, and for the last year or so, anytime any carnivorous animal comes up, she gets stuck on them being mean. I do agree that animals can be mean, (DH whispered your exact example of lion cruelty to me at the zoo last week,) but a lion is not mean because it preys on the gazelle. A crocodile is not mean because it shows its teeth. It took months, but DD is now getting that. Her favorite animals to harp on were the great white shark, the centipede, and the alligator/crocodile. She now will say, "they are just very aggressive predators."
Other than that, I do agree that I could be more straightforward with her. But, I am still having reservations about this.
I had mentioned in a previous post that she seems advanced in time and sequencing. She is also really good at language. That is probably her strength. And, like I previously said, she consumes information. But, she is in no way socially or emotionally advanced. She is precocious, but we do not know that she is gifted. We do not know that she won't end up high-functioning AS.
After reading through this thread, my biggest concern is that she might be exposed to something that will cause her strife in the future. So, I have decided to keep offering her my "gentle" answers. As far as the stuff she saw at the museums, I can't go back in time. I cannot take back that she found out what a bayonet is or the effects of an atom bomb. I will still look into age-appropriate books. And, I will still offer her historical facts about war as she requests. This, for her right now, condenses into who was president during which war, who were the other world leaders, what the causes of each war were, enemies and allies, and locations of battles. This really does seem harmless to me, and I can't really go back and erase what she has already learned. But, I am going to try to keep the emotional stuff out of it. I will redirect. I guess I really do want her to be shielded from evil in the world at the moment. I am not ready to explain cruelty to her.
Her interest in war really does sound pretty typical for children her age. Wanting to know the major points, the details, the whos and the wheres - it's not dissimilar to an interest in dinosaurs.
The tendency to see things in black and white is also typical of three-year-olds. The ability to see moral and ethical shades of grey comes well after the toddler years, developmentally speaking. In Piaget's theory of cognitive development, that falls into the formal operational stage which usually begins around age 11. From ages 2-7, most children are in the pre-operational stage, which is typified by, among other features, difficulty taking the viewpoint of others.
I guess we can agree that it was no more apt than the exactly parallel example that I drew, hmm? A poor example is a poor example.
Darn, I thought the mountain climber analogy was a pretty good one for asynchrony. I thought people could make the leap to getting the idea that I was using an example of physical asynchrony to illustrate emotional asynchrony. But maybe that was too much of a leap if you had so much trouble understanding it.
HeatherB ~ mama to 3 wonderful boys: 03/02; 09/04; 09/07 - and Eliana, 11/13/10!
Founder of Houston Birth Alternatives: Be Informed, Encouraged, Supported birth support group and aspiring midwife.
But see, it's all in perspective. If you were the gazelle, you'd probably think lions were mean. I sort of tink cougars are when we are at the cabin and I don't want them to eat my children. It's a 3yo way of saying dangerous and aggressive predator. It's fine that your DD learned a more clear way of saying it, but really I would say that "mean" is also a good way of saying it.
It sounds to me like you are explaining things to her deeply. I do that with my kids some, but I do also try to not do it most of the time and be brief. It's more at their emotional level then. A bayonet - well, it pokes people. Oh, yes, that would hurt. Ooh, what's that over there?... If I were in a funny mood, I might tell my 3yo that a bayonet disembowels people. Oh, that means takes out their bowels/intestines/insides. Ohh, that would hurt, wouldn't it?... Then he'd go around saying he was disemboweling his sister and I'd have some more parenting to do...
But as far as the reasons for stuff - why animals hunt and eat other animals and why people fight - I guess I'd save those types of discussions for a different time in life. Where there can be more give and take to the conversation and less of me forcing my opinions and insights on my kid (not that we don't all do that in one way or another all the time, just by how we are examples in our lives). When my kids start talking about stuff like that, I often just ask "what do you think?" and listen.
My mom, who has some expertise on teaching history, keeps bombarding me with information about current ideas about when children develop historical thinking. Maybe the place to start here is with timelines, family trees and family histories. You could get her a family tree book and work on it with her, and she can place all those wars and other exciting information into a family story as her context. I know that sounds like something one would do with an older child, but from what you say about her fascination with historical information on the trip, she might be up for it. I checked and there are a lot of family tree workbooks in print.
Of course, this reflects my parenting situation as the mom of a kid whose interest in history and families is very math-oriented, and who likes to figure out timelines and generations and how old people from history would have been, and so on. He was not nearly as verbally gifted as your daughter, but at three was delighted with maps and trying to understand where things were in the world. (Again, that's him, not her, but it's a fruitful possible direction to go from "I want to learn more about war.")
I would also try her out on the books about the distant past and archeology, and try taking her to museum exhibits about those things. You can tell her that you noticed she's interested in history and you think she might like it. I'm definitely with the people who think you should redirect, because this is an age when a lot of kids get very monomaniacal about a subject. It would be much more pleasant for your family if that subject was ancient Greek excavations than understanding WWII.
Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.