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wundayatta's avatar

How do you know what "age appropriate" is?

Asked by wundayatta (58525points) May 13th, 2011

How do you know when you should tell a child something and when it’s too soon? How do you decide? Is it based on any research or is it just by intuition and what you feel like (or don’t feel like) talking about?

It is my sense that “age appropriate” is a cultural thing, not any kind of scientific thing. In different cultures, I’ll bet there are different notions of what is age appropriate. It just depends on the pathology of the culture.

If it is cultural, and isn’t related to repeatable studies, then how do you feel about it? Is making choices based on cultural norms appropriate? Or do we need to study things and make our choices based on what actually works?

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9 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

For me, while discussing things with KatawaGrey, it was about my own knowledge of her maturity and my intuition.

Seelix's avatar

It all depends on the child in question. Kids mature at different rates and parents should decide what’s appropriate for their children.

Of course, sometimes there have to be blanketed “ratings”, like for TV shows and video games, things like that. In those situations, I think they err on the side of caution.

Sunny2's avatar

If a child is old enough to ask the question he/she is old enough to hear an honest answer. Ask the child questions about the question asked to help you frame an answer the child will understand. You know the old joke: “Mommy , where did I come from?” Mommy proceeds to talk about the birds and bees. Child says, ” Oh. Janey said she came from Cleveland and I wondered where I came from.” Ask first.
On the other hand, my daughter asked about whether Santa Claus was real. I said Santa was the spirit of Christmas, but not a real person. As an adult she told me she hadn’t believed me. She knew Santa Claus was real. An early and true skeptic.

flutherother's avatar

It is done through intuition and knowing the child. How you answer their questions depends on the child.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

In my own experience, I have followed the general rule of letting the child ask the questions while I supply the answers. When my children were very small and asked about where babies came from, I limited the information I gave them to what they could understand at the time. As they grew and their experience increased, so did the information I shared.

As others have said above, it was an intuitive thing. But I can also say that it was cultural. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share intimate details of some subjects with my children at young ages. I believe a lot of this comes from my culture, which is very Puritanical in origins in America.

Plucky's avatar

I truly believe it depends on the child. Of course culture makes a huge impact on that view as well.

Jeruba's avatar

I believe in answering the question truthfully, but I do think I have to judge how to answer it and and how much to say on the basis of my knowledge of the child (and my relationship to the child: I wouldn’t take any chances with a child who wasn’t my own). “The baby comes from a special place inside the mother’s body” is enough for a three-year-old. (The word “special” covers a wide range of tricky ones for quite a while.) I wouldn’t say the same thing when he’s ten.

One rule of thumb that I read in a parenting book and found to be pretty accurate when my kids were young was that they were always ahead of where I thought they were. I would usually try to find out how much they already understood before I tried to pitch my explanations to the right level for them.

augustlan's avatar

Like others have said, I asked questions about their questions, trying to figure out exactly what kind of information they were looking for. From there, I answered truthfully, in terms they could understand. It definitely depends on the child, and we should probably call it “maturity-level appropriate” rather then “age appropriate”, but that’s a mouthful.

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