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Yes, I have a youngest child

Submitted by on Tuesday, 23 March 2010 No Comment

It was one of Boots’ best performances ever.

Miffed that Big Guy didn’t want to play with him, Boots stomped over to a lonely corner of the playground, plopped down and hung his head. Seconds later, he checked to see if I was watching. I was, but out of the corner of an eye and he couldn’t see me. So he repeated his dejected huff.

This time, he was able to confirm that he had an audience so he sank lower into his misery. When forlorn whimpers didn’t convince me to rush to his side, he let his body slowly sink while his voice steadily climbed toward  distraught.

It didn’t work.

Eventually, Boots figured that out and scampered up to play with his friends.

I can’t blame him for trying, because similar tricks worked for his first two years. He’d grab a toy Big Guy was playing with and a friend of relative would rush to admonish Big Guy. “He’s a baby! Just let him have it.” As a result, Boots learned that all he needed to do to get his way was to cry and point at his brother.

As an oldest sibling, I’m acutely aware of how that game works and was determined not to fall for it. Manipulation is hard for a parent to resist, though, without feeling like a child abuser.

Aw, the poor baby has a tummy ache. How can you make him go to that awful school? Never mind that he’ll be playing happily 10 seconds after you’re out the door, stomach pain forgotten.

Then there’s manipulation by delay, which happens once they’ve figured out that if they stall long enough you’ll do their bidding because there’s no time to resist any longer.

“Mommy, I can’t find my shoes.”

“There’s in the living room, where you left them. Where are we supposed to leave our shoes?”

“I want you to get them.”

“Look around. You’ll see them.”

“No, you!”

“Aw, for Pete’s sake,” I’ll growl, frustrated because at this point we should already be out the door.

He gets his way, in a way, because I do wind up finding his shoes. That’s why, I suppose, he thinks crude dramas like the one at the park will work. If he can play helpless once and get what he wants, then it should work the next time, shouldn’t it?

No it shouldn’t, any more than “I love you, Mommy. Can I have some candy?” works.

I just have to figure out a way resign as shoe fetcher while also making sure he doesn’t leave the house barefoot. Maybe once the red ants start reappearing this summer, he’ll figure it out all on his own.

Copyright Debra Legg 2010. All right reserved.

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