Saturday, December 28, 2013

Parenting Month 38: Bargaining, charm (and guile)


This chick is coming to say hi!
Looking at baby chicks at the Museum of Science and Industry
A recent New York Times article looks at a study of violent adults that tracked people from when they were toddlers.  It finds that violence as adults is very similar to violence as toddlers, except that most toddlers determine over time that they can use bargaining and charm to get what they want and they do not need to resort to violence.  This is good as we get more capable in inflicting violence as we get older.  We took a family vacation this past month, so it provided a good look at how T handles himself socially.  At home does not provide nearly as good a look at this since of the four people he has to interact with (1) Lau-lau (grandma) and (2) mom impose their greater will on him and they are mostly resistant to charm, (3) lau-yeh (grandpa) has clearly lost the matchup between grandpa and grandson, and (4) dad (me) takes on the role of father as described by Amy Chua's husband, which is occasionally manifesting as a force of nature when needed so T has definite limits on his opportunities to express his will.  On our family road trip this month we had numerous opportunities of observations with random playground playmates, interactions with kids at nature centers and museums, an arranged playdate with friends, and meeting with cousins as he transitions from being a toddler to a preschooler.

Making a Merry-go-round with cousins
  1. Bargaining - we took an overnight stop at a town along the way and went to a local mall to give T someplace to run around in.  This mall had a playground centered on one slide (as opposed to our local mall that has 5 slides), which means the kids are forced to interact if they want to use the slide and its attached fort.  We saw him becoming into one of the kids who had to try to encourage the slow kids to move forward and out of the way so that everyone else could use the slide instead of being one of the slow kids.
  2. Charm - Taking pictures while a docent was showing us through a feeding of  turtles.  Taking turns with the other preschooler who was with us.
  3. Charm - We took a stop at the Peggy Norbaert Nature Museum.  At one point there was a 17 month old girl who was watching him work an exhibit. And he was trying to show her what to look for in the exhibit. Later, he was showing her the box turtles (that he had seen earlier in our visit.)
  4. Charm - Teaching another preschooler how to work a water exhibit at the Nature museum.
  5. Guile - At his cousin's house, he was drawing on a chalkboard.  But the only word he knows to write is his name, and his cousin objected to T writing his name on his cousin's chalkboard. So his cousin erased it.  With his hand.  At that point, T pointed out that his cousin's hand needed to be washed. And while his cousin washed his hand, T proceeded to write his name on the freshly erased chalkboard.
  6. Bargaining - He went on a playdate that included some 12-15 children (I lost count)  He was the third kid there (the host plus one other guest) He quickly proceeded to alternate play a toy that involved putting something like a coin into the slot (actually, I think that this one really counts as the girl taking charge and including him in her play)
  7. Cute (worth a mention even though it was not one of the categories) - At one point, someone saw a squirrel outside the back door and T along with two other kids crowded into the door to look at it outside the window (I hope someone got a picture of it, because it was too good)
  8. Bargaining - At a party with his cousins, he wanted to re-enact a cartoon episode where the main characters construct a merry-go-round.  But his cousins had no idea what cartoon he was talking about.  Eventually, they found something round, and animals to go around on it.
  9. Guile - At the museum, he took advantage of the fact that he has a long attention span to let someone else try something at an exhibit, and got the exhibit back to himself when that boy was done (and found he was not interested)
  10. Charm - Expressing excitement when other people are interacting with exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry.
  11. Charm - Being polite (saying, please, thank you, your welcome) while taking pictures at the museum.
  12. Bargaining - Trying to get other kids at a play area to play a different way in one of the activity areas (this did not work, but he tried)
  13. Charm - Showing a little girl how to play in one of the bouncing play areas.  He did this with a couple of kids in a few of the activity areas. 
  14. Bargaining - Telling a boy who went down the slide ahead of him "Watch out, I'm coming!" while standing at the top of the slide and waving his arms to encourage him to move out of the way.
  15. Charm - At a rest stop, pointing out the direction to the bathroom to all of the other toddlers and pre-schoolers. 
  16. Charm - On the way out from the museum, wanting to show a group of preschoolers on the way in around the dinosaur exhibit.
Of course, he is a preschooler, and playing with toddlers and preschoolers does lead to use of physical force.  He is big and strong enough that it is not easy for another preschooler to push him aside, and one instance of a bigger kid pulling off his hat led to him chasing the kid down and snatching the hat back.  But we have wondered if he would hold his own in the rough and tumble since the day care staff have observed that he does not get into fights. We are glad that it is not because he won't stand up for himself, it is probably because he does not have the attachment for things that would motivate him to fight.

This button is how to tell the robot what to do
Controlling a robot at the Museum of Science and Industry

He still generally takes a while to socialize. Although by observation, a large part of it is that he has a long attention span, and generally what happens is that he doing something while other kids come and go around him. During the play date we turned off one toy to get him to get out of a corner and interact with the other kids. Another parent at the playdate made the comment that instead of contributing to chaos he lets the chaos of toddler and pre-school play flow around him. While his daycare staff notes he generally does not play with the others around him, they also note that it is not because he is antagonistic (which is the usual problem) or disinterested, but because he is focused on what he is doing or playing at the moment rather than moving from thing to thing with everyone else.

What we really got out of this vacation was a lot of time to observe T interacting with his peers, both those familiar and also strangers. While we get the observations of day care staff, it helps to see it for ourselves.  While, unfortunately, the realities of the education system means he will have a problem with evaluations for a while, we like knowing that the reality is that he is navigating his path in dealing with his peers and developing skills to cope that will grow into the future.

Happy boy playing with a balloon
Playing with a balloon
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