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Blog - What the secret lives of five year olds can teach every grown up about really living

Eavesdropping on very young children as they earnestly converse, or work things out together without the help of an adult, has surprisingly limitless entertainment value. But Channel 4’s Secret Life of… series is not designed solely to entertain. The addition of a pair of psychologists and some specially designed tasks elevates the programmes to something more informative. Besides fly-on-the-wall-based amusement, they offer a fascinating insight into child psychology and juvenile thought processes that occasionally leave us open-mouthed with wonder, or else suffused with a warm sense of humanity’s fundamental decency. Last night’s edition was no different, with The Secret Life of Five Year Olds offering up some valuable lessons to us adults. Namely:

1. Cheating is wrong, but if you do get caught, just brazen it out

“Jasmin, why did you cheat,” one little girl is asked after flagrantly rigging a game with two dice. “Because I like cheating,” she explains simply, a logic that is hard to argue with.  Xander has no truck with this though, declaring later, in a different context: “People who cheat are cheaters.” Which is equally hard to argue with.

2. Don’t confess to more than you have to

“We cheated just one time,” Jasmin admitted (incorrectly) when called out on the deception she’d practised. A smart exercise in damage limitation on her part, surely.

3. Leadership skills can increase your popularity

Iris should know. After she’s seen corralling a group of other children into dancing in a conga line behind her, she informs us she has many friends. Around 100 in fact, which is quite impressive for someone too young to be on Facebook.

4. Life isn’t fair…

“It wasn’t fair for the green team,” complains Elsa, whose group has been left with a scarcity of den-building equipment after the orange team snaffled most of it. The dejected facial expressions worn by her and her teammates speak a thousand words about what injustice feels like – expressions we spend our adulthood trying to hide as we go about our disappointment-strewn lives.

5. …But you can sometimes get what you want

If you kick up enough of a fuss, usually. The green team learn this when the orange team eventually offer to share their superior den. It’s the moment at which we breath a sigh of relief after things had been threatening to go a bit Lord of the Flies.

6. Having a common enemy is handy for bonding

No sooner have the two teams reached this ceasefire than a new enemy must be identified to help them all cohere. “No teachers allowed,” they cry with glee as they jealously guard their now shared den.

7. Selling out your friends is not a good look

The touching friendship between Jasmin and Iris temporarily hits the rocks when Iris turns informant. Confronted over the unsanctioned use of a slide, Iris points the finger straight at Jasmin, claiming her friend had told her to do it. A tempting get out of jail card, yes, but one that results in (briefly) tearing them apart. Fortunately, being five-year-old girls, the wounds are quick to heal and before we know it, Jasmin is magnanimously leading a blindfolded Iris around the garden. Phew. If only adult disputes could be resolved so rapidly.

8. Sharing is caring

The mantra beloved of early years teachers is trotted out here by little Luke, who has taken it to heart and swapped quiz teams to help his struggling rivals. Failing to share, moreover, can cause bad things can happen. “If you don’t share, God will get angry and Theresa May will get angry,” Nathaniel informs us solemnly in a separate scene. It’s something we all would do well to bear in mind.