Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Well, you see, Doc...

I'd say, a full 85% of the time, parenting is pretty fun. The Monkey is a cool kid and we have a blast. The other 15% is the flip side...the discipline side...the part where you're required to explain that some thing that they've done isn't acceptable...their tears...your heart breaking to see them hurt, though you're duty-bound to cause these tears so they'll learn.

And you never know, in these moments, if you're doing the right thing or how it's going to impact them later. You just kind of do the correction thing and hope that maybe you're teaching them more than you're warping them.

...or that they'll find a good therapist later to sort it all out.

(...or that you will.)

Case in point...

Friday night's bonding time for the Monkey and me came in the form of a post-dinner gigglefest in the kitchen. I was sitting on his reaching stool with him in my lap and he was regaling me with his version of Trout Fishing in America's "Alien In My Nose." The game is that he sings the chorus (it's a funny song...lyrics here) and my job is to make horrified faces when he says "gross, gross, gross, gross" and/or when he says that he's "gonna have to eeeeeat it!"

So I did. It's a great game...and there's nothing more satisfying in the parenthood gig than seeing your kid doubled over and snorting in laughter. Ahh...all that time spent on stage in my youth was NOT wasted! I can still play an audience... Yesss!

...but after a good 15 minutes of the same game (with the same chorus and the same insinuations about eating boogers and my same faces of horror/disgust), I was kinda done. And he was kinda not (because 4-year-olds have, almost literally, a limitless toleration for repetition). So I did the MomThing(tm) by the numbers...

Step 1: State requirement.
I told him that we needed to do something else.
He kept singing.

Step 2: Restate requirement; State consequences
I told him that if he sang it again, I was going to get up and not play with him anymore.
He kept singing.

Step 3: Follow through.
I put him down and got up off the stool to go clean up the kitchen.
He protested...loudly. And wrapped himself around my leg.

Step 4: Explain follow through
I explained that I'd told him the consequences and that he kept singing anyway and I was doing what I said I was going to do.
He said he was sorry (sorry, sorry) and asked me to sit back down so we could cuddle.

Oooh! Monkeycuddles rock! Good idea. So I sat back down on the stool and put him in my lap... He plunged his hands in my hair and we cuddled. And it was nice. Then, very softly, he starts singing the damn song again! Gah!

So I put him down and said something to let him know that I was not happy...and the quickness of my action and the tone of my reprimand sent him into full fledged sobs on the kitchen floor...which I ignored (that's Chapter 4 of the MomThing(tm) under "How To Deal With Tantrums"). He continued to wail.

Once I'd settled down a little (he was still wailing), I sat in a chair and put him in my lap to explain what he'd done. I told him that it was wrong to trick someone into doing what you want by making them think you're going to do what they want. I told him there was a great big fancy word for it...and it was called manipulation. And I made him say it a couple of times so he'd understand...and explained again how telling me he wanted to cuddle just so he could get back in my lap and sing the song he knew I didn't want him to sing was manipulation. And it wasn't ok to do that to people.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Later in the weekend, I caught him singing a little song that he made up: "maaaanipulaaaaation...manipuuuulaaaation..."

Then this morning we were commuting to preschool and discussing some random thing and he says "yeah...and that's perdipalation!"



Somewhere...out there...a therapist just realized he'll be able to afford that new jag after all...


towwas said...

Wow! That's a complicated concept for a four-year-old! I mean, it's a complicated concept for your average adult, so I'm just assuming here. Rock on, dude. Therapists have to eat, too.

I Blog, You Blog said...

I think I assume there's very little he can't understand. And even if he doesn't understand it all the way just now, he'll get it eventually...

But...yeah. It's just a matter of time before I have to go lay on a couch and explain myself to a paid professional...