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Young sorcerers' talent starts to emerge when they are two or three years old.

The level of their power varies greatly and isn't correlated with their intelligence or sense of responsibility.

They copy their parents' abilities but also experiment endlessly in the same way that children play with toys.

Knocking things over at a distance is usually one of the first things they discover but it's not unknown for them to invent more destructive abilities. Also of course they use the power to get things that they want.

Question

Let's just consider the knocking-things-over-at-a-distance ability for the purposes of this question.

A powerful 2-year-old sorcerer could easily knock over an unprepared adult or an equivalently weighted stack of loaded boxes at a distance of 20 paces.

How can these young sorcerers be taken out in public so that a tantrum doesn't become a disaster? We can't lock them up at home in a padded room with no loose objects. In any case they might discover fireballs and burn the house down with them in it.

Note

In this medieval society, Sorcerers and 'muggles' mix freely. They go to the same markets and other public places. Sorcerers mostly trade in magic items and perform spells for money. The legitimate ones are members of the Guild and are forbidden from using magic for evil purposes.

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    $\begingroup$ Have you ever read Firestarter by Stephen King? $\endgroup$ – forest Nov 24 '18 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ The Warlock series by Christopher Stasheff has some good examples. The warlock eventually marries a witch and they get 4 children. All of them are very powerful from a young age and get into all sorts of trouble. Warning: If you can't stand religious references you better stay clear of Stasheff. Heavily dosed with Catholicism. $\endgroup$ – Tonny Nov 24 '18 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ According to Terry Pratchett, a wizard is a seventh son of a seventh son. A sourcerer is a seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son: They are sources of magic that is so dangerous that wizards are discouraged from ever having children. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sourcery [Okay the link says "8th son of 8th son" so perhaps my memory fails me. But I like the alliteration of "7th son" better.] $\endgroup$ – Michael Nov 24 '18 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ The Sorcerer's Apprentice is one of the most famous poems in german language (because generations of childrens, me included, had to memorize it for school.) You may know its cinematic version from Walt Disney's Fantasia. $\endgroup$ – ccprog Nov 24 '18 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ You make them wear gloves and tell them to "conceal, don't feel, don't let them know" $\endgroup$ – Darren H Nov 25 '18 at 10:10
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The answer is simple: you hold their hand.

(Source: The experience of raising a toddler who is currently wielding a highlighter under my desk while I write this. I'm keeping her fed with sufficient paper; so far the walls and carpet are unadulterated)

One of the more terrifying things for a parent in today's society is cars. Cars move fast. You don't realize how fast they move until you are responsible for the life of a little booger monster of vile... angel. Your angel has no idea what 15mph will do to a body, much less 45mph. Your angel gets what is coming to them is completely innocent and needs to be protected in a remarkably deadly world.

Excuse me one moment. The sharpie has disappeared from my desk. I really need to move those to a higher shelf. I do this to myself, honestly.

The solution every parent learns is to hold the child's hand. Not only does this provide a critical physical safety preventing them from tearing out like a helion in front of a car, but it also provides a remarkable amount of feedback. The human body is geared for touch. You learn a remarkable amount about what the child is about to do just by feeling the way they respond to your hand. You can sense what they are feeling and they can sense what you are feeling. It gives you a way to guide them along in the right direction without yanking their arm from its socket constantly. (At least on good days)

So I would expect a child sorcerer would be subjected to the same technique. You'd hold their hand so that you can sense what they are doing. And, if they're about to cast a really big spell, it provides a lever to manhandle gently ensure the child's larger spells don't complete.

As for the tantrums, a child can already do a remarkable amount of damage. We keep a lot of our strength in reserve. It's how a mother can lift a car off of their child. Well, during a tantrum, the child has access to their full strength reserve and can do some rather remarkable things. As such, I would expect a similar approach as we have to tantrums today. You remove the child from the scene, and make them sit outside until they calm down. I'm assuming that, in these situations, the parents know enough to not be caught off guard. Any parent that lets their guard down during a child's tantrum is only human going to learn a lesson very quickly.

I would expect parents to learn how to damp the effects of their children's magic. This would get into the particulars of your spellcrafting system, but if the parents can exert a continuous effort to keep dangerous spells from materializing, that would be a major start, and fit in well with the dead tired fatigue joys of parenting.

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    $\begingroup$ Frankly, there is no reason for anyone else to even contemplate writing an answer. Cort has said truly all that needs to be said on the matter! Basic parenting is the same for muggles and witchfolk: teach the little blighters to love; telling them "NO" is the same thing as telling them "I love you"; do both over and over; discipline them consistently from an early age; respect them and their abilities; restrain them when they pose a danger to self or others; let go when they can do things on their own; prepare them (as well as yourself) for that letting go! You'll raise up a good sorcerer! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Nov 23 '18 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @elemtilas that this is the only practical answer, though it assumes the parents in the OPs world are consistently more powerful than the children. That being said, I consider the plotline unbelievable. There's a reason societies ban children from certain activities or access to certain tools/toys/weapons of mass destruction before a certain age. The OP seems to have ignored all those facts, all of which are based on thousands of years of dealing with children. Take those away, and you get The Lord of the Flies or Battle Royale with subservient adults dying first. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 24 '18 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I chose not to explore what would happen if some powerful children were born from powerless parents, but the result would be the same. Society would find a solution, or it would cease to be a society. My first guess is that daycare becomes more than just a place to put the kid when you're going to work. Professional care for the gifted would be an essential part of society, providing the necessary safety. As you say, society has been raising kids in the presence of dangerous things for thousands of years. We've solved a lot of problems since the first kid fell out of a tree. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 24 '18 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ This is a terrific answer but there's just one problem: dual income families. Both magician parents need to work. They may be fighting Sauron's minions or developing magic ED blue pills, but they will be busy since any magician whose toddler can wield such fearsome power will surely be in high demand. Thus can the nannies and babysitters wield sufficient magic to suppress those toddlers? I still believe some type of magic blocker or suppressor needs to be used when the parents are not available. $\endgroup$ – hyperion4 Nov 25 '18 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Echox You're right. If there are no constructive magics in this universe, only ways to use magic to destroy, my argument falls apart. We would need to know more about the magic system, but give that society apparently exists in the OP's world, I would expect there is constructive magic to help with the process. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 26 '18 at 15:50
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Tantrums do cause disasters, on a semi-regular basis. However, once the parents have thus demonstrated their inability to control sufficiently powerful toddlers, the children get taken from them and placed under the control of the magically-powerful sorcerors who run the government, who adopt them into their families.

This both preserves the power structure of the current government by ensuring that no magically powerful individuals arise outside of it and ensures that all such sorcerors have a family tie to the current government, it also minimizes the damage that such children would cause. It's likely that these societies would treat such an adoption as an honor, since it would elevate the children from the common masses to the wizard nobility.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a good idea. A less draconian idea could be that families are obliged to take parenting-leave on an island off the coast as soon as the child's abilities start to surface. The island is staffed by trained child-care sorcerers and is designed to be as safe as possible. Once the child and parents have demonstrated they can cope they are transferred back to the mainland. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 24 '18 at 11:36
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Children's "power" scales with age

Look how hard heavyweight boxers get punched. How could a child ever learn boxing if they would get punched that hard!

Well, 5 year olds learning the basics of boxing aren't in the ring with Wlad Klitschko, they are in the ring with other 5 year olds. Those five year olds can't hit hard enough to do any real lasting damage to another 5 year old.

Similarly, a 5 year old sorcerer-to-be simply doesn't have the mental or mystical development to cast a spell as powerful as a fireball. The child sorcerer is not threatened by the spellcasting ability of an adult sorcerer. A five year old sorcerer is actually not a danger to a five year old. Therefore, it is safe for the five year old to practice his or her spells. The most they can do is cause some mischief.

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    $\begingroup$ I think there's a slight tweak to be made here, since the OP stated "A powerful 2-year-old sorcerer could easily knock over an unprepared adult or an equivalently weighted stack of loaded boxes at a distance of 20 paces." That shows they have the power. What they don't have is the control. Your argument about W. Klitschko is spot on not because he has the power, but because he focuses that power flawlessly. Thus one could argue that the child may be able to knock someone down, but not much more than that because they just can't focus it tighter than that! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 24 '18 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ The remaining brute power that 2 year old may have could change the way grandparents interact though. Knocking over a grandparent with fragile bones might actually matter! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 24 '18 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon I don't see the issue, the OP gave an example of how strong a powerful 2 year old sorcerer was, and no indication of how strong a powerful 60 year old sorcerer would be. If they scale, grandma would have power to burn, and would be in equivalent danger to a muggle grandma and muggle toddler - there's a minor chance of injury if nobody is paying attention. Frankly, as any adult sorcerer in the room could catch a falling grandparent that's too distracted to catch themselves, sorcerers would probably be in less danger from their grandkids than us muggles. $\endgroup$ – Morgen Nov 24 '18 at 6:41
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    $\begingroup$ One problem with this answer is that children don't have the sense to hold back. Ask a heavyweight boxer to punch a wall, and they'll hit with enough held back that they don't break their fingers. Similarly, when hitting a mugger, as opposed to a trained opponent, they'll instinctively hold back enough to not kill. A child will lash out with everything, even if it ends up breaking their own hand or something else. They don't have the sense or fine muscular control to do otherwise. I'd expect this would be similar $\endgroup$ – nzaman Nov 24 '18 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Morgen, if Grandma had power to burn and advanced dementia then she could be far more dangerous than the toddler. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Nov 26 '18 at 8:15
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Has magical capability been a part of this race and society 'forever?'

If it is an evolved rather than recently god-granted(or such) capability of the species, it stands to reason that many previous systems have existed that, by the existence of your current one, have failed.

Your sorcerors and muggles live hand in hand today but did not and do not always, nonetheless your society has found an equilibrium.

Over thousands of years of selection, sorcerors who are prone to the most extreme of behavioral and emotional tendencies have purged themselves from the gene pool, being a clear and present danger to not only themselves but those around them.

The trials and tribulations societies would have undergone to reach an egalitarian point (a thoroughly unnatural state) would have necessitated not only the children to experiment with their magic, but society to experiment also on ways of controlling it.

Folklore and magical theory(heh) have many routes to impairing magical expression, Christopher Nuttall used 'Zeros' in general and particular spellforms woven into a person's magic, others use cold iron, null-magic zones, pacts, etc

But aside from those thematic forms, it is natural that a child of 2 or 3 years capable of the application of significant force is more likely to injure themselves than anyone else, lacking as they do the dexterity or experience to safely direct that force.

In the absence though of particular impairment methods or selection-by-death characteristics, the behavioral instruction of children likely to develop magical capability would begin at the very earliest opportunity 'Do not use magic to do evil' would not just be a catchphrase, but a necessary bedrock of instruction and indoctrination. Before guardians taught their charge not to touch hot things, they would inculcate restraint and self control, we allow children freedom because we can, a society with 2 yr old sorcerors does not have that luxury when any one of them can become a killer, or a dead child, at any time.

Cort Ammon's answer is nicer but the child is 'realistically' (imo)far more dangerous than the car, being as it is less predictable except insofar that a normal child will certainly try to deliberately cause harm to somebody at some point.

One way around this would be to massively restrict the impact of 'instinctual' magic, to require magical expression be orderly and precise in order to function effectively.

Good luck.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the delay in answering! - In my mind this has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 25 '18 at 23:51
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Aside from the already marvelous answer about just good parenting @Cort Ammon.

For an analogy take a look at learning to walk... in an Adult. This happens after serious life events such as car crashes, or strokes (by no means the only ways). Adults have well developed muscles (quite) capable of causing harm. It still takes at least a few months to learn the co-ordination required to cause harm. Severely affected adults take years more. The muscles themselves are strong, but in an uncoordinated state they are effectively useless.

So treat magic the same way. It is a thousand muscles. Some people have many more muscles, some have far bigger muscles. Even if the child has a great many muscles of a great size, for the most part any venting is just going to cancel itself out. This is because the Child lacks the co-ordination to actual make the magic effective.

In this sense a really powerful toddler might unleash the flood gates of hell, only for hell to basically fight itself, and the only real effect is a few puffs of air moving in random directions. Certainly enough to truly frighten most animals, but nothing truly dangerous. Unless of course the adults sorely need an education in a child proof house/workplace...

A prodigy would be like many prodigious children, they would start to become apparent around 4ish. At this point the control over their magic would be 2-3 years in advance of their peers. Yes they could actually hurt at this point. The parents (even magically weak/nil parents) would by now know how to handle their kid. They weren't spending those years idle, they are older, cannier, and have been intelligently finding help. If the parent hasn't, then its parent training time, and society would have kicked in some social mechanisms for controlling the child (as cruel as that might sound, otherwise society would have perished).

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Anti-magic stuff

You can put anti-magic bracelets on your kids so that their magic is suppressed. They take it off in magic lessons and at home sometimes but keep them the rest of the time and are only authorized to remove them when adult.

The magic bracelets also have a magic detector so that when child has a fit so strong the bracelet can't handle it, magic police can get to the place to handle it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great solution - It seems obvious now - why didn't I think of it?! Given that I stated "Sorcerers mostly trade in magic items and perform spells for money." it seems highly plausible that they could make an anti-magic bracelet or at least a magic-detecting one. In the latter case, the parents would wear a paired bracelet that alerts them when the child is preparing to cast a spell. Of course the bracelet itself would have to be impervious to the child finding the magic to remove it. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 25 '18 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ ... These bracelets could be made by specialist anti-magic mages. They would sell them to sorcerer parents Such objects could be made in precious metals and would become family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 25 '18 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK not even anti-magic mages. In a magical society, there will be a need for magic-free or at least heavily suppressed/controlled areas. Think about secure areas like a court room or jail ... security-related magic, including the study of suppressing/controlling/dampening it could be its own very specialized area of study $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Nov 25 '18 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ivanivan - I'm not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing. When you say" it could be its own very specialized area of study", that's what I'm referring to when I talk about anti-magic mages. These are the people who know much more about magic than the ordinary sorcerer. To know enough about how magic works to be able to prevent it (without merely overpowering the user) is surely a high-level skill indeed. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 25 '18 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK mostly agreeing wtih a slightly different implementation. Think of IT work. You have sys admins, networking people, developers... and security folk. Real world certs like the CISSP go into physical security, etc not just computer stuff. So for magic, not just preventing the use of magic, but things like wards, magic phrased locks, magic based biometric authentication, single-reader messages, obfuscation against scrying, etc. $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Nov 25 '18 at 16:50
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If magic-wielding toddlers were such a menace to the muggles population, I'm sure there would be entrepreneurial adult magicians who will sell magic amulets to the muggles to protect them from toddler magic. Due to the huge demand among muggles, and plethora of adult magicians, the amulets will be reasonably priced and even imported from third world countries. As toddlers grow into teens and adults they may learn more powerful magic to bypass those amulets, but that would be equivalent to teen thugs buying handguns to attack others, and it can be dealt with by a powerful guild of criminal justice sorcerers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks - That's an interesting twist on putting amulets on the toddlers to prevent their magic. Presumably stronger, more expensive ones would also provide some protection from evil sorcerers. The resulting story would be very different. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Nov 25 '18 at 23:52
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if this is a realm of magic and fantasy the existence of magic inhibiting seals isn't too much of a stretch. a simple armband with a seal on it and some sort of magic ant removal method would be more than enough to prevent a disaster

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An adult sorcered can always counter any spell that his kid would start.

If the kid starts moving things around, the adult can apply an opposite force. It s very easy since kid's magic is much weaker than adult magic.

If the kid wants to burn thing, it can easily be countered with ice spells.

Really it's the same as for muggles. The parents have to be around and control their kids.

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