This may be a shocker, but our three-year-old doesn’t like to do what we say. It’s not just that he doesn’t like what we have to say, or that he doesn’t want to do what we ask of him, the simple fact that it came out of our mouths makes it utterly unappealing. We’ve been observing this behavior pattern for a while. When it first started and was still “cute” we would mess with him and tell him not to do things that we really wanted to do. After a couple rounds of “don’t you play Joe Diffy!” to get him to sing and play his guitar in front of a crowd, my husband and I thought that this was not an act we wanted to encourage. So we backed away from the blatant oppositional requests. But then slowly, and unintentionally, we started agreeing with him on things that he suggested, and guess what… he no longer liked his own ideas! It was like our blessing on an idea was the kiss of death for him, like if mom and dad think this is a good idea, it must be no fun!
As most parents know, getting kids up and out the door in the morning can be a challenge. Some mornings, they just flat refuse to go. So my husband and I began agreeing when he starts up. The exchange goes something like this: Brogan says, “I don’t want to go!” we say, “Ok, then we’ll leave and you can stay here” [slowly walking toward the door] Brogan, “Nooooo!!!” Even something as minor as his snack selection: Brogan, “I want a cookie!” Me, “Great, a cookie sounds good!” Brogan, “No, maybe a banana.” Oh, the mind of a three-year-old.
So we’re trying to manipulate the manipulator without him thinking it’s a game. In some ways I’m trying to give him the independence to make his own decisions, all the while guiding him to make the decisions I think are best. Is this wrong?? Is this what all parents have been doing since the beginning of time, and I’m only now catching on?? As this technique has gained success, I’ve been testing it in scenarios that used to be very trying and it has worked like a charm. At bath time, Brogan tells me he doesn’t want to get out. So what do I do, I take Beckett out, dry him, dress him and tell Brogan he can stay. And what does Brogan do? Change his mind, pretty much instantly. It’s like when he realizes I’m not going to fight him on it, it has lost all of its fun and he might as well comply, because, let’s be real, the bath water is getting cold and he no longer has anyone to play with. “Mommy, I want out too!!”
I can’t decide if our plan is pure genius, or if we’re only days away from it blowing up in our face. One thing I’ve learned from having kids is that just as soon as you’ve settled into a routine, or think you’ve got them mastered, boom! They turn it upside down just to see if you can walk on the ceiling. So I guess we should get ready for the day when he outsmarts us, turns the table and calls our bluff. And then it will be back to the drawing board with the rest of the parent population.