Kids don’t think like adults. As adults, we revel in analogies, metaphors and the abstract. But kids’ brains are not fully developed enough to understand them well.

Popcorn and Apricot Trees: A Case in Point

When I was a kid, I attended Sunday School and we often sang this song:

I looked out my window and what did I see?

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,

Popcorn popping right before my eyes!

 I can take a handful and make a treat!

A popcorn ball that will smell so sweet!

It wasn’t really so, but it seemed to me…

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

OK, so I’m not the brightest candle on the cake (see, I’ve learned to use metaphors!), but I honestly didn’t get that the popcorn ball was made out of blossoms until I was about 10 or 11. No one explained it to me and I just didn’t get it. To me it was about a fantasy tree that had popcorn on it.

Wisdom from an expert

So I contacted Dr. Bradley P. Cohn, Resident, Child and Family Therapist at a community mental health agency in Eugene OR, and asked him about a child’s ability to understand metaphors. He explained that it depends on the child and on the metaphors you use. “In general, people don’t start to think in the abstract with symbolic meaning until adolescence, twelve and older.”

Is that surprising?

Dr. Cohn goes on to suggest that if you do use a metaphor, keep it simple and ask lots of questions.

If you use the analogy of viewing pornography ‘like lighting a fire you can’t put out,’ you could follow up with questions like these: What happens when you light a fire, does the flame get bigger or smaller? What would happen if you didn’t have water and couldn’t blow it out?

Keeping the analogies very simple and taking time to explain them is the key.

As you teach younger children about pornography, favor the simple and direct approach. If you feel that an analogy will help, make sure it’s something the child can relate to and follow up with questions and explanations so you know they understand your meaning correctly.

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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