The Weird and the Strange I: The World of the Four-Year-Old

Complicated and advanced adults might believe that they are destined for high marks when gauged on the compassion and empathy barometers, but we should deduct points for those times when we force compassion and empathy. It’s not a bad thing to be compassionate and empathetic, of course, but is it who we really are? For answers to those questions, some psychologists say, we can look to the person we were between the ages of four and six for answers.

When we’re reintroduced to the four-year-old world, after a long absence, we learn some unkind truths that were probably true when we were four-years-old, no matter how often we try to deny it. We learn that no matter how much we force it, a four-year-old has little-to-no compassion or empathy for those around them.

A four-year-old does not take the time to understand the weird, strange, and different. They have no patience for the slower, or the disadvantaged, and no matter how much the adults attempt to force it, they will never recognize how privileged they are to be happy, healthy humans. They make no effort to be cordial, and they don’t care if anyone around them is happy either. When left to their own devices, they will not share or be nice to those who haven’t earned it. They don’t even care if they’re around other four-year-olds, unless they happen to be fun.

Being a four-year-old is a cut throat business. If a four-year-old brings something to the table, say in the way of being fun, funny, or in other ways entertaining, they’re in. All four-year-olds have had four years to model themselves in the ways others have trained them in being a human, and it’s an equal playing ground in that regard. Some, mostly brothers and sisters, have taught them how to interact with their peers better than others, and this provides them an unfair advantage to the upper echelon of those four-year-olds that will judge other four-year-olds, but the reader should note that level playing fields, and unfair advantages, do not play a role in the four-year-old world. Fail in any way, and you’re out. No questions asked. No helpful advice from other four-year-olds. You’re out.

Teachers and parents can force equal participation, and most four-year-olds will obey in a begrudging manner, but often times this only makes matters worse for those who are a step behind when the upper echelon feels compelled to involve them.

Psychologists state that our personalities are fully formed by age six. Many find such a notion difficult to believe but compelling at the same time. Psychologists say that if we were to meet someone we knew at six-years-old, and we remembered their personality, we would not see a remarkable difference in them at age forty-six.

Others argue that we have too many experiences in between those ages for our personalities to remain stagnant over that period of time. The other psychologists remain firm. They state that our manner in dealing with crises, stresses, and everything that can happen to a four-to-six-year-old shapes us to such a degree that we won’t change much in the intervening years. 

Those psychologists who find this notion unacceptable state that we change so dramatically every ten years that we basically become new people every ten years of our life. It is a series of decent debates that each of us needs to grapple with, but let’s stick with the former for the purpose of this discussion. Let’s say that our personality is formed at six. That leaves precious, little time for the four year old to hurry up and get formed.

What happens to the four-year-old who isn’t in the “in-crowd” of other four-year-olds? Are they, as we’re led to believe, so young that they don’t understand what is going on, and they won’t be affected by it, or will they forever believe that they are outsiders in life based upon that which happens to them in the world of four-year-olds? Who cares if they’re not in the “in-crowd”, most of us aren’t, and we’ve led perfectly happy lives. What happens when they are completely unable to make friends, and they are so poor at developing relationships that we should consider it noteworthy? Some outsiders, learn to rely on their teachers and parents to compel others to allow them entrance. ‘If you don’t let me play,’ they might say, ‘then I’m telling.’ This strategy, of course, will not work forever. The question, at this point, becomes are parents and teachers helping both parties become more compassionate and inclusive, or are they incidentally fostering a greater divide between the have nots and the haves by forcing the issue? Will this mark the child for the rest of their lives? 

We learn a lot in our maturation about what makes another slower, but do we ever progress to state of being compassionate, sympathetic people, or were these reactions forced on us by teachers and parents? Being compassionate and sympathetic is a good thing, regardless how one achieves that state, and such complexities need to be taught, but does it ever reach a point where it’s an organic and fundamental part of our being? Does it matter? As long as we become more compassionate and sympathetic, does it matter how we got there?   

As a nephew of a person in a sympathetic situation, I saw firsthand the difference between organic sympathy and all of the other versions. I saw the sympathy some display that they hope impresses the judges, and I saw people display more organic versions of it. All I can tell you is the differences are noteworthy. I saw people who were more accustomed to dealing with people in sympathetic situations, and I saw people who were taught to display sympathy. 

When we’re at a function, or some large gathering of people, do we reach out to those less capable of casual conversation? How natural is our reach? We may reach out, symbolically, because we are advanced creatures with complicated minds, and we are generous people, but when we seek the entertainment involved in casual conversation, and we’re not trying to be inclusive, do we reach back to the primal state of the four-year-old and accidentally ostracize those who don’t stimulate our minds in some manner?

Who are these ostracized four-year-olds turned adults that don’t make us laugh, think, or engage us in any manner? What happens to them after the four-year-old world has taught them that they’re ostracized? Are they regarded as weird, strange and different, or are they regarded as so silent that they could be regarded as a little creepy, and what do they do when even their most immediate loved ones begin to accidentally forget to include them in life?


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