Oh, toddlers. The age between slug-like helplessness and semi-rationality that every child and parent goes through. Most new parents look forward to a time when their baby stops being an immobile carpet speed bump that requires constant attention and evolves into an active person who moves about, plays with toys, and has the ability control his or her own bowels. You're idiots; every last one of you.
You will look back with nostalgia to a simpler time when the all you had to worry about were night feedings, getting a little spit up on your shirt and vomit inducing, toxic waste filled diapers. Babies can get away with all that shit because they are apparently adorable.
This past week, my daughter came down with the perfect storm of symptoms known as a runny nose, upper respiratory infection, and pink eye. Yes, pink eye. This reduced her to a cranky, destructive, moody, 27-pound tornado from hell who moved room to room trashing the house, leaving behind a path of destruction not seen since Hurricane Katrina.
Of course my sanity and patience were tested when I was left alone to watch her while my wife was at work. Now, I love my daughter — I really, really do — and she doesn't normally behave like that, but sometimes she can act like a bitch. Let me clarify: I'm not saying she is a bitch, just the fact that sometimes she can act like a bitch. There's a big difference.
This day, which I've nicknamed Armageddon, prompted me to get a certification in Responding to Challenging Infant Toddler Behavior (FREE, of course) and do some more research into behavioral patterns of infants and children. Here's what I found...
Sleeping and Hyperactivity
Between sleeping at night and a few naps throughout the day, infants and toddlers can sleep up to 16 hours total. That means two-thirds of your day can be reserved for glorious utter silence and the potential for drinking large bottles of wine alone. But what's that you hear bellowing from the baby monitor?
Aw! Your little bundle of joy is snoring! How fucking adorable! Keep that cuteness in mind when their insatiable thirst for chaos rises later in their life.
Researchers conducted study on the sleeping habits of eleven thousand kids from birth until the child was seven years old. According to their study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby who snores is 20 to 100 percent more likely to become a hyperactive maniac.
The parents of the children participating in the study filled out questionnaires at six different points during the seven-year span about their child's breathing difficulties during sleep. The second part of study involved observing the children at ages 4 and 7 for signs of any emotional and behavioral problems.
The data showed that babies who snored displayed more behavior problems at ages 4 and 7, such as aggressiveness and depression. By age 7, a snoring baby was 1.5x more likely to be a hyperactive and extremely defiant.
Without getting too sciencey, the hypothesis is that snoring causes more carbon dioxide than oxygen being delivered to the baby's brain. Since at this young age the baby is still forming neural connections, this could do some serious shit to the emotional regulation and social conduct areas of the brain. Or what you could be hearing as "snoring" is the growling sound of the demon who has possessed your child. It could go either way.
Tantrums and Gambling
When kids aren't snoring in their sleep they can often be seen acting adorably cute and funny, or making your life and those around you an absolute intolerable hell. All children can be classified as well-adjusted, smart, confident, inhibited, or "undercontrolled" (because you can't really call toddlers "assholes").
Kids are known, without reason, to suddenly burst into tears and begin shrieking in higher decibels than a rape whistle. Entire blogs are dedicated to this phenomenon. There are usually only a few solutions: feed them, change them, burp them, or leave them in a field because you potentially have a compulsive gambler on your hands.
In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers found that roughly 10% of the children participating in their study fell into the "undercontrolled" category, which involved "lack of self-control, rapidly shifting emotions, impulsive and willful behavior and relatively high levels of negative feelings."
When researches followed up with those kids at ages 21 and 32, they discovered an unexpected side effect of their subjects' infant dickishness. Surprisingly they didn't all end up in jail like you might have believed, but they did find the "undercontrolled" kids were twice as likely to have gambling problems as the other temperament classification listed above.
According to the lead researcher, Wendy Slutske, this finding doesn't necessarily mean your precious snowflake is destined to become a compulsive gambler, but it's speculated that these kids are more vulnerable to addiction. This could explain why some people can hit up a penny slot, lose $20 and never gamble again, while others piss money away until their thumbs and knee caps are shattered by a guy with no neck.
Eating and Intelligence
During early childhood development, the mind is literally a sponge and the easiest time to develop your progeny into the perfectly loyal Jason Bourne-esque assassin! I mean... the perfect angel.
While conventional wisdom says that giving infants what they want, whenever they want, is the best way to create horrible, horrible spoiled human beings, research from the Oxford Journal indicates otherwise. Babies who are fed on their own schedule — as in whenever they start crying — end up having IQs up to five points higher at age 8 than babies who are fed according a schedule set by their parents. They also do better on the SATs in their teenage years.
This wasn't exactly a small study — 10,419 children participated. The conclusion found that "schedule-fed babies performed around 17% of a standard deviation below demand-fed babies in standardized tests at all ages, and four points lower in IQ tests at age 8 years."
So what does this have to do with the development of the baby brain? In this early stage of learning how to communicate with other humans, the "Crying for food means I get food and some time to bond with mom or dad" is more important than the "Life is a cruel bitch that laughs coldly in my face" lesson that they will be kicked in the balls with later in life.