Friday, September 17, 2010

I need to go to school

Last night we passed River’s future “school,” and I told him the little I know about it – his teacher’s names, and where the playground is.

“Mama, ‘SITO (necessito) ir a la escuela!” (Mama, I need to go to school!), he said.

“I know.”

“’SITO ir a la escuela!”

“Yes, I understand.” I do. One of my most vivid early memories is standing at the window as a toddler. I went to preschool two or three mornings a week and this was one of the no-preschool days. I stared dejectedly out the window and asked my mom why I couldn’t go to school that day, and when I would be able to go again.

River hasn’t even been, and he’s already counting down the days. It’s a little boy in my image.

Now that I’ve mentioned a bit of repeated language (he probably said “’Sito ir a la escuela: more like eight or more times), I’m reminded that I wanted to ask about this. It’s a trend that has occurred recently, where he seems to think that if he repeats something often enough, he’ll get it. Sometimes it’s like he goes on auto-pilot and there is no off switch. On our way back from vacation, he was repeating that he wanted to go on a boat. He fell asleep. And as soon as he woke up from the nap, the first words out of his mouth were, “Quiero ir en un barco (I want to go on a boat). Please, mama.”

Sometimes the pleading is pitiful. But the tactic is annoying and is something I’d like to nip in the bud. So I generally try to ignore it, hoping that he’ll learn soon enough that it doesn’t bring results and will abandon that strategy.

So last night, while running errands, he got upset when I took off his shoes in the car, after he’d put them on the seat and gotten it dirty.

“I need my shoes!” he cried. I told him I’d put his shoes back on when we got home. Then the repeating started, “I need my shoes! Please, mama.” Ad nauseum. The GPS showed 15 minutes until arrival at home, so I tried to prepare myself to handle it for that long. I started to wonder whether the ignoring strategy would work. Perhaps I needed to be firmer, to tell him that isn’t acceptable behavior and give him a warning?

It was dark by then, raining, the window was fogging up and for the first time ever, River wasn’t in a carseat (it’s in the process of being cleaned as part of our lice eradication efforts). His crying and repeated begging was really making it hard for me to concentrate.

My voice got firm. “River, do you see how dark it is? It’s also raining and I can’t see the road very well. If you keep crying, you make it hard for mom to drive and we might crash with another car. If you don't want us to crash, please stop."

And he did. The rest of the ride was quiet and calm.

I didn’t mean to scare him, but told him the truth. He understands the concept of cars crashing and he knows it’s something we don’t want to happen. Many books refer to two-year-olds as prehistoric cave dwellers, incapable of reason. But we’ve had several instances, even when he’s emotional like this case, where I explained the rationale for what I wanted him to do and he did it.

But since I can’t always count on reason working, or on him buying my rationale all the time, I’m wondering if anyone else has encountered this auto-pilot repeated request situation and how you handle it. I’m thinking it could be the pre-cursor to whining, so it’s definitely a behavior Mark and I don’t want to encourage. Will ignoring it eventually do the job? If so, how long does it take? If not, what does work?

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