Monday, October 3, 2011

Are Toddlers Psychopaths?

What's the difference between a toddler and a psychopath?  Apparently, not too much.

In 1980 Robert Hare, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia,  developed a 16 point checklist for determining a psychopath.  While you are reading these, I challenge you to reflect on your own toddler's behavior.
  1. Superficial charm & average intelligence.   Toddlers do display some charm, but let's be honest, it is superficial at best.  Maisy's insistence on repeatedly playing "Boo, I scare you!" is her attempt to charm her parents out of bed.  We pretend to be amused, but it as insincere as her fake "boo".  As for her intelligence, let's just say that she can't count to ten without repeating the number "eight" three or four times.
  2. Lack of psychosis.  I've checked, and no psychologist will diagnose my children with a severe mental disorder, no matter how hard I insist.
  3. Lack of anxiety.  OK, maybe some toddlers actually have anxiety.  However,  I am not willing to concede that many cases are not just manipulation.  When the bribe of a Sleeping Beauty gown  convinced my then three-year-old daughter to sleep through the night, my sympathy for her "sleep anxiety" greatly fell her the eager smile she returned after my offer. 
  4. Unreliability.  Will Maisy get dressed without a colossal freak-show today?  Will Elana head to preschool without a tantrum?  We never know... it seems to be up to the fate of the northern winds.
  5. Dishonesty & insincerity.  Both of my children lie completely void of any regret or responsibility.  I might ask, "Did you finish your veggies?" and they will nod their heads while hiding the carrot sticks under the table.  "Elana did you hit your sister?" and she will answer "No, Maisy ran into the wall."
  6. Lack of remorse and guilt.  A few weeks ago the girls are playing quietly with their Barbies.  Suddenly I heard Elana scream and Maisy ran out of the room and joyfully exclaimed, "I hit Elana with Rapunzel!" 
  7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior (meaning they commit crimes for no apparent reason).  During the throws of toddlerhood, both of my children have run to me with brilliant smiles on their faces, arm stretched to embrace my legs for a tight hug, and as soon as they melt my heart, they bit into the flesh of my thighs leaving dental imprints and bruises for no apparent reason.  This is the definition of antisocial.
  8. Poor judgment and inability to learn from experience.  No matter how many times I have told Maisy that she cannot fit into the newborn size t-shirt I have demoted to the babydoll dress-up box, Maisy still insists forcing it over her large head then throwing a total demonic fit when it gets stuck over her nose.
  9. Narcissism and an inability to love.  Although I do believe that toddlers do love, I have failed to meet a two-year-old that isn't selfish and self-centered.  Maisy firmly believes that my life stops while she is at preschool. 
  10. Poverty of affect.  Does your toddler have a job? 
  11. Gross lack of insight.  A toddler is incapable of having insight.  No two-year-old can gain a deep understanding of a person or situation.  They see exactly what lies on the surface, and no further.
  12. Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.  This is a typical scene when Elana is the first to greet Maisy when she wakes: "Good morning, Maisy!" and Maisy responds: "WAHHHHH!!!! I don't like you! Go away!"
  13. Fantastic & uninviting behavior with drink & sometimes without.  Even without a few glasses of wine, toddlers exhibit uninviting behavior- throwing food, hitting, screaming, tantrums, need I go on?
  14. Empty suicidal threats.  Well, that would be quite alarming for a toddler to voice these bluffs.  That said, Elana has insinuated that she is going to  run away and live with Grandma Sharon if she has to wash her hair.
  15. Immature sex life.  Thank god for this one!
  16. Failure to plan ahead.  With my older daughter I have begun trying to instill a bit of forethought into her actions.  I might offer her an Oreo cookie now, or we can go to the ice cream shop after dinner.  Even though ice cream is her favorite treat, rarely does she think beyond her immediate wants and opt for to wait.
In conclusion, it seems that a psychopath is really a person who has never grown out of his toddler stage.  I am crossing my fingers that by age five, my girls only display two or three of these characteristics (including the immature sex life).

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