Children are not mini-adults

une enfant adulte
January 10, 2021

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une enfant adulte
– © Illustration (s) by Virginie Maillard –

Using her pencil, illustrator Virginie Maillard tenderly explains that it can be unfortunate to interpret all the facts and gestures of your child through adult eyes. The author of the llog Bougribouillons invites us to change of vision and tries to represent what is called adultomorphism. What phenomenon is it and how can it be remedied?


On a daily basis, we often tend to interpret the behavior of other people wrongly and through without knowing their motivations. This type of reaction is also very common in adults with children around them. Often, we assume that they react like us. Such a reflex is in some cases akin to adultomorphism. This term refers to educational theories and may lead to errors of analysis or judgment.

Some examples speak for themselves. The smile of a child in the face of an adult’s anger is often seen as a provocation that would amount to insolence. A change of perspective opens our adult blinders and allows us to reconsider the situation. It may indeed be that this smile reflects a completely different feeling on the part of the child. Bougribouillons in short, proposes to lose certain habits that can be counterproductive. The illustrator refers on her blog to two resources on this subject. This is first of all the book Practical guide for early childhood professionals from the psychologist Heloise Junier. Here is an excerpt:

“Adultomorphism refers to the tendency of us adults to interpret children’s behaviors as if they were miniature adults. They are qualified as provocateurs, perverts, manipulators, capricious, vicious, jealous, actors, sadists, calculators… And the list goes on! “Clément looks me in the eyes while climbing on the chair when he knows that it is forbidden: he provokes me!” “,” If Latifa comes immediately to hit the child who has settled on my knees, it’s because she is jealous! »,« Marius starts to cry when he sees me while he was playing quietly… What an actor! “. We forget that the intellectual and emotional development of a child is quite distinct from that of an adult. And for good reason, while the brain of a toddler is at the beginning of its maturity (and the road is long, very long), that of an adult has reached full maturity. With these adjectives that have no place in early childhood, we overinterpret the signals that these little enigmatic beings send us. Rest assured, anyone can fall into adultomorphism if they are not careful: professionals who work directly with children, parents, doctors, psychologists, researchers… Hence the importance of have a keen knowledge of their intellectual functioning and to remember each other from time to time. ” Heloise Junier

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changer vision
– © Illustration (s) by Virginie Maillard –

Children’s and adult brains are not comparable

The author also delves into the subject in an article published on her site. Héloïse Junier specifies among other things that the brains of children and that of adults are not comparable. If childish behavior reminds of adult reactions, the intention is, in the first years of life, rarely the same. It is above all essential to question the origin of reactions that can sometimes be disconcerting. The second resource shared by Virginie Maillard can be found on the site Dad Positive, where it is reminded that children under five are not able to handle adults. It is really only a projection on a child’s behavior or reaction.

If this advice and this change of perspective are particularly enriching, it is nevertheless necessary to remember that children, like all people, are complex beings. For a long time after birth, direct communication, through speech, is not possible. Many parents are just doing their best. It is therefore in no way to add a mental load or to make young parents feel guilty but rather to offer alternatives or tools that may never have been considered before. There is no magic recipe for expert parenting!

To follow Virginie’s work, you can also go to her page Facebook or Instagram.

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