Christina M. Currie: Consequences: Everyone has ’em
September 14, 2007
Craig — I’m a fairly logical person, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage with children. Like most adults, I like to progress from point A to point D via B and C.
Children race to point D with no thought of the steps needed to get there and absolutely no idea that those steps exist. I’m hoping there’s an age – a developmental milestone, if you will – where children start to understand that to see the picture, you have to connect the dots.
Because if this isn’t age-appropriate behavior I’m seeing from my 6- and 7-year-old, I think we’re in trouble.
Six-year-old Nikki is fairly easy to follow.
“What did you do in school today?” I ask every single day.
Her answers vary, but rarely do they tell me a single thing about what actually happened to her between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.
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My favorite, though is, “I knew, but then it popped out of my head.”
Seven-year-old Katie had the exact same kindergarten out-of-sight, out-of-mind experience.
That was better than her current, “I don’t really feel like answering that question,” response.
Forgetting is frustrating; disdain in the face of a direct question is infuriating.
I’ve tried various methods of extracting information, with the sole result being an attitude that’s not so great for the ol’ blood pressure.
So, I resorted to reverse psychology. That’s a nice way of saying I sunk to a 12-year-old level.
I told Katie that if she didn’t want to talk to me, that was OK, because I didn’t want to talk to her. If it was OK for her to not answer my questions, then it was OK for me to not answer hers.
“Moooom!” she wailed. “Why don’t you want to talk to me?”
I told her, “Because I don’t really feel like it.”
You probably guessed the result. She cried, and I didn’t learn one darn thing about what happened at school that day.
Despite its juvenile nature, my method was logical. First, the technique should have inspired empathy. Basically, “this is how your response makes people feel.” Second was the “do unto others” concept.
Basically, the only lesson learned was my own. Children understand feelings from their perspective. They’re not quite ready to make that jump into considering how their actions affect other people.
After a battle about how much dinner she had to eat to qualify for a treat, Nikki said, “You’re mean. I want a new mom.”
I’m progressing as a parent, so I knew that replying “You’re mean, I want a new daughter,” would not get the point across and because she didn’t understand the method, would only hurt her feelings. So I adjusted my tactics.
“Better get your shoes.”
That just confused her.
“Cause if you’re gonna go find a new mom, you’d better get an early start. That’s a lot of walking. Good moms are hard to find.”
What do you think happened, dear readers?
Yep. Her eyes opened wide, she ran up and threw her arms around me and said, “I don’t want a new mom! You’re the best mom ever!”
I’m at a loss. I suppose that’s why there’s room in our society for child psychologists and child-rearing experts.
I’m neither. So I’m just feeling my way through.
Anybody else as worried as I am that I’m going to totally screw this up?