Literal Thinking the Literal Child Dealing with a Literal Child Challenges of a Literal Child

Children are very literal in their thinking. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 and my dad was peeling some skin off of his foot. I asked him what caused it and he told me, “foot rot”. He then proceeded to tell me how his foot was rotting off. Its funny now, but that night, I dreamt that my dad’s foot did indeed rot off and that he was in a wheel chair with only bones where that foot once was. No skin, just bone showing under his pant leg. As many children do, I had taken it literal.

My own older daughter (now age 25) still is very literal. When asked as a young teen to close the blinds in the living room she stopped and looked around at all 6 windows and asked me for more specifics, did I mean ALL of the blinds? Or only the blinds she is closest to? Again, a literal translation is needed. Exasperating indeed.

How can we prevent such misunderstandings with children? Is there a way to properly communicate with these creatures we have given birth to and are attempting to raise properly?

The human language is confusing enough for an adult, we drive on a park way and park in a drive way. That alone can be complicated enough for a young child.

Learning to say what we mean and mean what we say is often easier said than done. You can’t just tell a child, “If you don’t do your homework you’re in deep trouble” otherwise they envision themselves in a hole or worse. Its important to think about how we word things to the literal child. I had to learn to tell my older daughter, “Please close all of the blinds in the living room”. A very simple change of how I said it before but it made all of the difference in the world.

My daughter is very very good with numbers and math. Why? Because she is so literal. It all has to fit perfectly to her and make sense. She really wasn’t trying to be difficult about the blinds, that is simply how her mind works.

Perfectionists often are very literal people. That doesn’t make them stupid or dumb or anything of the sort. Its all in how our personalities are different. Some of us are simply more literal than others.

My dad had to explain to me that the skin would continue to regenerate on his foot and he would not be a pile of bones. Though I am not such a literal person now, at the time I was very young and inexperienced and still learning a lot about the English language. Once it was explained to me, it all made sense.

Some children are just more literal than others. If you have one of these literal children know that they are not doing this purposefully. Be patient and try to learn to think how they think. Some of the best minds in the world are very very literal. Looking at life through a child’s eyes can give you a whole new outlook on life.