A Toddler's Life: Becoming a Person

A Toddler's Life: Becoming a Person

A Toddler's Life: Becoming a Person

A Toddler's Life: Becoming a Person

Synopsis

What sets humans apart from other social animals? In an intimate account of child's development from age one to three, distinguished psychologist Marilyn Shatz answers this question by arguing that humans are unique in their ability to reflect on themselves, to compare themselves to others, and to self-correct. Language plays a central role in such processes because it offers the developing child a powerful tool for going beyond immediate experience to an understanding of unobservable states and motivations. In addition to her two decades of research in developmental psychology, Shatz draws on observations of her grandson Ricky to show how toddlers use their cognitive, social, and linguistic skills to understand and eventually to employ language as a means for successfully engaging others. Shatz expertly brings the dialogue of the toddler to life, plotting the turning points in Ricky's progress from fifteen-month-old one-word speaker to three-year-old articulate preschooler. The story of a child's increasingly sophisticated involvement with an expanding world is here generalized to other young children and skillfully interwoven with both empirical research and insightful commentary about the nature of human learning in a social setting. Parents, teachers, researchers, and students of developmental psychology and psycholinguistics will find this book to be an interesting and engaging study of early developmental processes.

Excerpt

This book is about early human development as revealed in the story of one little boy's passage through the toddler years from ages 1 to 3. the child, Ricky, is very special to me, in part because he is my grandson-my first. Determined to relive the wonderfully satisfying relations I had shared with my own grandmother, I quickly warmed to my new role when Ricky was born, and I happily gave much time and energy to developing an affectionate relationship with him. I like to think our closeness encouraged him to share with me many of the thoughts and feelings that make this book possible.

When I was midway through the writing of this book, I interrupted my work for a rare visit to Florida to visit my sister. As we sat in the family room catching up on news of our lives, the mother of four grown children extolled the skills of her pet cockatiel, "I swear, Wafoo is just like a 2 year old." So emphatic a claim from an experienced child-raiser -- not unlike the claims of many animal researchers -- caused me to consider again what I was trying to capture that was unique about the early development of human children.

There are indeed many similarities between Wafoo and a human toddler. They are both curious, sociable, and imitative creatures. They are sensitive to the emotional states of those around them, and their behavior can be controlled by auditory stimuli, including words. Toddlers, like birds, are emotional animals capable of associational learning. However, even at an early age, the human capacities for organized, self-reflective behavior begin to manifest themselves. By age 3, Ricky was a creative language user, and he had a concept of himself and an awareness of others as beings with intentions, desires, knowledge, and beliefs. My chronology of Ricky's . . .

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