PARENTS! Please help…

From the producers that brought you the incredibly popular series, “AMERICANS! Please help…” comes an exciting new spin off focused on things that parents, teachers, child psychologists, and anyone who has met a child may be able to help me answer far easier and quicker than I could research myself! Answers get bonus points for being funny!

So, question 1…
At what age do children become interesting to talk to? Eg, at what point might an adult be able to have a conversation with a niece or nephew about, say, Charlton Athletic FC or the latest album by Inhaler?
(I want to know how old to make the child of one my main characters)

It really depends on how natively intelligent they are.

I knew a professor of philosophy who used to like visiting a family relative who was a child <8 because he found him interesting to talk to. That boy turned out to be the most interesting member of the family – highly intelligent, a well educated scholar and author, a world traveler and so forth.

A friend of mine had a son who at age 5 I found to be remarkably articulate and precocious. It was a pleasure to hear him speak. His older siblings not even close.

Other kids may be duds and most likely when they are older they will still be duds.

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if do this with a kid have a normal dull kid as a contrast always butting in or asking a dumb question, to bring out story point.

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I agree with others that this will largely depend on the child, and also how much shared knowledge you have with the child (many generations find speaking to one another difficult for reasons other than language skills)—how much exposure the child has had to culture, for example. A 15 year old who sits at home playing a video game you’ve never heard of, while perfectly capable of conversational language, will struggle to carry a conversation with you that you find interesting.

You might find this resource helpful. According to it, fourth grade is when most children can be expected to form opinions based on what they hear.

I have a 2.5 year old and I find talking to him interesting in a cute way—how he says words, repeats things, and formulates requests. I certainly can’t hold a conversation with him about anything, really, though. I’d say 4 or 5 would probably be the floor of what you’re looking for, but a more likely age might be 8-10.


One of my favorite memes on the Internet goes something like this, if we ever took the time to actually listen to a 4-year-old or 80+ person, you’d be surprised at what you’d learn Young kids are bluntly honest. Older people have a wisdom they’ve learned because of their years and the interesting lives they’ve lived, you want to write a book about them.

With my daughters, they were asking questions with puzzlement and blunt honesty starting around 4, while my youngest, like me had a social development disorder where our maturity age is more comparable to someone 5-10 years younger than us. (My two best friends are 10 and 15yrs younger than me). So school was a nightmare for both of us until we graduated.

With my oldest I’ll never forget my oldest at the age of 4 asking who Timothy McVeigh was when I was watching his arrest. She asked why he was in an orange suit. I told he’d done a very bad, terrible thing that had hurt a lot of people. She asked what, and I didn’t really know how to answer her, in fact I don’t remember exactly what I said, something to the effect that it was just really bad and he was going to be punished. Her reaction was to look at the TV and say, well he must be some kind of stupid (Something I say quite a bit, Southern sarcasm at it’s best), everyone knows you need to be kind to others. The blunt, honest reaction to something very horrific indicated that in her mind, everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, whether from a religious, moral or universal standard and that to ignore that standard was something everyone should know. And that hurting others was just plain wrong.

With my youngest she was still asking blunt honest, “what’s wrong with people” questions until about the age of 8. She was bullied terribly in middle school, and it made her life a living hell until she went to college. But she didn’t understand why her classmates were mean, when she wasn’t. She always sort of answered her own questions with similar statements as my oldest.

This video between a drag queen and kids in school is one I love because of the honesty and overall “I want to hug this kid” feeling I get. year-old Drag Queen talks to kids about being different

You might find some insight in the book The Righteous Mind. While it is dealing with adult behavior, the first part of the book is really dry, almost academic writing, but the second part is very interesting. It does deal with social development if I remember correctly. Either way it’s an interesting read.

So, maybe this helps, but my verbose response is actually my brain working through a wall in my current WIP. However, I’ve been in enough personal (bipolar/OCD/ADHD) and family therapy to know more than most people about mental health, and a lot of what makes people tick. HOWEVER, I’m not an expert or professional, but even at my SS retirement age, I still don’t understand why people are driven by hate and fear. And I was asking the same questions by the time I was around 6 when I started asking questions about the bible my dad didn’t have answers for. It drove him nuts.


My mother insisted that she did not like infants or kids in elementary school. Infants were too needy and kids in elementary are convinced the only person they know who knows anything is their teacher.

She did, however, love being around toddlers and teenagers. She loved the questions toddlers asked and how everything in the world was new, interesting, and exciting to share.

Teenagers, she often said, are much like toddlers in that they’re testing out new boundaries, learning about new parts of the world, and figuring out where they fit into it.

Personally, I’ve long found my nieces and nephews (and now grandnieces and grandnephews) fascinating from the toddler stage through to their early adulthood.

Even when the little ones swing wildly from “I love dolphins” this week to “Dolphins are lame. Now I love robots” next week, they always see the world from their own viewpoint and offer insights I wouldn’t encounter otherwise.


That’s all super helpful, thank you!
And welcome to the forum, @Monica!

So, based on all your advice and the very helpful link @JenT provided, I think I’m going to go with AGE 9.


So, next question…
Is it weird to have a 9 year old answer the front door? (This would be in contemporary UK suburbia)
(That’s not a dealbreaker, I’m just trying to gauge what’s normal).

I’m not sure what the social norms are in the UK (I am in the US), but I think most people would let their 9-year-old answer the front door here, especially if they were expecting someone they know like a family member or friend. People may behave differently if they live in a particularly dangerous area or have frequent solicitors coming around. A child that age should also be taught not to answer the door if they were home alone or the parent were indisposed (shower, sleeping).


Thanks, that works for me (although others please do chip in if you have anything to add)!

If I might trouble for one more question (for now)…
Where on the scale of Normal → Noteworthy → Neglect would it be for a 9 year old to drink coffee?

I’m pretty sure I was a multiple cups of tea a day kid at the age of 9 but that was a long time ago and I’ve no doubt the view on what’s acceptable or healthy for all sorts of things will have changed since I was a child!

I would put it somewhere between noteworthy and neglect. Like a sip wouldn’t be a big deal, but a kid that age drinking a whole cup would be unusual—high caffeine content, and it’s also just an acquired taste that would be unusual for a child to pick up that early. Many parents are still regulating caffeine intake at that age. In the US, 15 is the earliest I would say any regular type of coffee drinking would be “normal,” and that would typically be like a Frappuccino at Starbucks.

Of course, there are plenty of parents who let their kids drink caffeinated soda all day every day, so it depends on the environment, but I would personally rate that as neglect. My parents did let us start drinking iced tea around that age, though, but that’s lower in caffeine than coffee.

There isn’t a box on the pediatrician’s form for caffeine intake and there is on my physical exam form, so I think that says something about medical expectations at least.

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I agree that adults’ attitude towards coffee for kids lands between “noteworthy” and “neglect.” This depends heavily on the cultural background of the parents.

For a “noteworthy” example, my sister-in-law was raised from an early age having a (small) cup of coffee with her breakfast. She has no memory of breakfast without coffee. Her parents lived in a small community of Scandinavian immigrants.

On the “neglect” side, my own parents offered me tea from an early age; I have no distinct memory of when tea-drinking started. Now I’m sure, @pigfender, that you know well that tea can (and often does) have just as much caffeine as coffee. Nonetheless I was forbidden coffee as it might “stunt my growth.” At the same time, any amount of sugary caffeinated beverages were considered perfectly fine.

So yes, the cultural attitudes of adults vary from “You want some cream?” to “My God, NOOOO!” with the latter being much more common. When I raised my boys, I never made an issue of it, and by the time they reached high school (college in British terms? Secondary school, not university) they were imbibing regularly. It seems they wanted their caffeine dose undisguised by sugar unless they did the adding… :wink:

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I stopped having milk whan I was four, living in Amman at the time. I have a distinct memory of the exact moment when at tea time I said, “Mummy, I don’t want any milk in my tea today.” So I was drinking tea at age 4.

Ever since that day, I have always drunk my tea, and later my coffee—I don’t know exactly when I first drank coffee, but I suspect it was at about 11 when we went to live in Paris—black; I gave up sugar in both when I was about 13!

Funnily enough, about a month ago, my daughter said, “Dad, as you don’t like milk in your coffee, why don’t you try oat milk?” Answer: “Why on earth would I do that, I like black coffee!!” :laughing:

I’ve never liked “sugary caffeinated beverages”. And then, good tea has more caffeine than coffee. Soon after I arrived in Xiamen where the local tea is Tieguanyin (Iron Buddha), the VP of the TV station gave a banquet to welcome me. After the meal the head of the News section took us all to a tea shop. I had two tiny cups of absolutely delicious Tieguanyin, about the same in quantity as an expresso coffee… and I didn’t sleep a wink all night because of the caffeine!


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My mother started allowing me to drink sips of her coffee, which was the old, American drip style with milk, when I was in elementary. She’d brew multiple pots a day.

We also lived in a southwestern state where carbonated sodas were ubiquitous. And, I’m talking about a single individual drinking multiple 64-ounce Super Big Gulps filled with Pepsi or Coke each day. Even little kids did this in the 1970s and 1980s.

Added to the readily available soda in absurd quantities, my step-dad’s family were Southerners who consumed “sweet tea”–sun-brewed, heavily sugared iced tea-- every day at dinner and supper.

I switched to hot tea in middle school–around 11 or 12–because I became a huge Agatha Christie fan. I had a large (12 to 14 ounce mug) of tea that contained milk and sugar every morning before school.

In hindsight, I shudder to think about the amount of caffeine and sugar kids my age consumed each day.

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And yet, you will find the “My God NOOOO!” reaction when kids and coffee are discussed. My own attitude was that they’re going to get caffeine anyway, why not let them have it in any form that lets them skip the sugar?

Anyway, in answer to @pigfender’s query, giving kids coffee is considered by many American adults as either weird or outright neglectful, despite the fact that these same kids often get massive amounts of caffeine from other sources. Something for Mr. Spock to shake his pointy-eared head over.

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I can’t remember when I started drinking tea but it was quite early. I would would dip my toast into it for breakfast. Coffee came a little later. But I didn’t drink a lot of coffee (or caffeinated drinks) until university.

Then there was wine (Italians) I started out as a small child <5 drinking wine with meals in the following way. They would give me a glass of 7-Up and put a little wine in it so that it would be pink. Then gradually pour more wine in it so that each time it would be darker. Then after a while they would give me wine and put a little 7-Up in it. Then after a while just pure wine. It was all home made wine made by my grand parents, much higher alcohol level than anything commercial. This was the norm in the Italian immigrant community. All my cousins did the same. But no one ever got drunk, you had one glass of wine with your meals, not two or three. If I had more than one glass it would be hard to do my homework. The same with beer or brandy. By the time I was 10 I was drinking more than my father. He didn’t drink that much so it didn’t take much to drink more than him. We would share a beer and cigar while watching hockey on TV. I never took up smoking, but a puff with my dad was ok.

I was way too young to go to a liquor store so I would ask my parents what I would like to try and they would buy all kinds of exotic wines and liquors for me to taste.

I never saw anyone in my family get drunk. It was not considered acceptable behavior. So much so that I dumped a girl friend (Irish-Scottish) after she got fall-down drunk after walking through a bar and having a drink at each table. I was disgusted.

In 1976 I stopped drinking tea, coffee, and alcohol after I joined a monastery.


Excellent - sounds like this will have just the right impact!
Thanks all for your help! You have made Chapter 25 much better!!! :slight_smile:


Based on the title, I thought this thread was going to be about Scrivener users trying to hide their manuscripts from their parents…


btw, really good to hear you’re writing again, Rog.

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I don’t get here often and email went to updates, which I rarely check. I hate email. Anyway.

I was SUPER-Protective of my girls. We lived in Richmond when they were that age, and in a neighborhood that was starting to decline. Not terribly, but enough that I’d use the peep-hole and I kept the glass screen door locked. A family was brutally tortured and murdered in a good neighborhood a few years prior, and I was always terrified my girls would innocently open the door. I also didn’t let my oldest babysit her sister until she was 12 or 13, don’t remember, and even then it was for short periods of time and NEVER at night. I paid a 17+ sitter for peace of mind. I’ve never been a trusting person due sexual assault at 19, so I might have gone overboard, but if something had ever happened to them, the guilt would kill me.

So long answer short. NOT a f**king chance in hell. I wasn’t quite as rigid when we briefly lived in Roanoke, VA where crime rate was like 1-3% a year for primarily break-in, but I also had family my girls could stay with if needed. Family is invaluable at all times, but in a crunch, even more so. Hope this helps. Sounds like your project is quite interesting.


Thanks! Very helpful!

Thanks. This section isn’t a major thread in the overall plot so I suspect it might be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it point for some readers (I somewhat optimistically hope to have readers at some point!), but it’s a major milestone on the emotional arc of one of my characters so I was keen to sense check with my Council Of Wise Humans! Basically, a couple in the story are separated, and I’m looking for a few quick occurrences that it’s believable that one parent might have absolutely no problem with and the other might have a strong reaction to… both to create tension but also to allow one of the couple to realise that they’ve drifted out of the loop on parenting decisions.

Based on the very helpful range of reactions above, it sounds like these hit the tone I’m looking for!