The will to power at 3

A three-year-old girl takes out the pieces of a board game and wants to play with me: “What colour is this?” “Put the pieces together.” “Make a pile over there.” “In this game you have to…” “No, not like that…” “I’ll start, OK, your turn.” “No, not like that…” I could indeed name the colours and I could order them as commanded. Then it got tricky. Sometimes I managed to infer or help her formulate her commands, and subsequently obeyed; sometimes I couldn’t work them out, and so failed to obey. Then she got frustrated, unable to articulate clear commands, and became louder – but I still couldn’t follow. It came to accusations. Of course I got sick of it and stopped “playing”: she found something else to do: I tidied the pieces away.

For her, adults’ commands are spontaneous and ex nihilo. Playing, she sits at a board game, and wants to command. But the commands don’t come out clearly, and so aren’t obeyed, even by willing subjects like me. She will learn to articulate commands clearly. But later, others will object that her commands are not the rules. They will say, you have to learn the rules first, before you can start commanding. Or she will learn how to “persuade” her subjects that her commands are the rules. Accordingly, she will learn the rules – or the art of persuading others that her commands are the rules – and then she can enjoy commanding others to obey them. Bonne chance!

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