Responding to a widely read David Brooks column in the New York Times this week about President Donald Trump’s seemingly childlike behavior, two developmental psychologists wrote a letter to the editor in which they explained that calling Trump a child is a grave insult — to children.
In their letter, psychologists Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and Lene Arnett Jensen begin by addressing the three major characteristics Brooks uses to describe Trump as a child: His short attention span, his need for constant approval and validation, and his inability to “perceive how others are thinking.”
While the authors acknowledge Trump does share these characteristics, they say it’s unfair to pin them on children as a whole.
“Most children have no trouble sitting still by the time they reach first grade,” they explain. “Nor do children need ‘perpetual approval.’ If they did, they would find it wanting. Children are also quite adept at understanding the thoughts of others. Most feel sympathy for the suffering of others and are quick to help someone in need, even as toddlers.”
Instead of calling Trump a child, the authors recommend treating him as a “dangerous” adult who should be held responsible for his own actions.
“Stop insulting children and adolescents by comparing him to them, and hold him accountable for his own offenses,” they conclude.