On Negotiations and Stalling

Be honest: does this look like the face of a devious individual to you?

I haven’t posted about Meg in awhile, at least, not directly.  She’s not quite two-and-a-half yet, but we’re already dealing with the wheels inside her head turning.

You know, the wheels trying to streamroll you…

Maybe a month ago, give or take, we noticed Meg starting to stall quite a bit.  Stalling before bedtime, stalling to get her clothes on to go to school, stalling to come inside, and so on.  This isn’t just a “ooooo, something shiny!” kind of distraction: this is an intentional, and deliberate attempt to slow down the inevitable.  She knows what’s coming and uses her cuteness to delay just about anything we need to do.  She’s gotten quite good at this as well, working it in so you hardly notice you’re allowing her to stall you into another song, or another story, or another cracker, or another drink of milk.

Furthermore, and more recently, she’s begun “negotiating.”  This one is a bit more rudimentary, I think, where she doesn’t really get the finer points of haggling, but you can tell she’s thinking it through.  Especially before bed, when she asks for “3 books,” specifically, knowing that “3” is more than “2,” let alone “1,” so if she asks for more, she’s more likely to get what she asks, or at least an extra book beyond the one we usually read her.  The same thing goes for songs, as we sometimes sing to (or with) her before bed.  We’ll say “one more song,” we’ll sing it, and then she’ll ask for another, specific, song.

She’s also been known to ask for “moneys for ma ewefan-t” [elephant], a mechanical bank that makes an elephant noise when you add a coin to it.  “Three moneys!,” she’ll say.  So yes, I’m already having to bribe my child.  Thankfully, at this point, she doesn’t really know the difference between a penny and a quarter…

When any of these things don’t work, however, she’s begun throwing fits, though now, it’s a little easier to stop them (to a degree…it’s never “easy”…).  Meg doesn’t cry, per se, but she definitely yells.  Loudly.  Now, I end up having to count to five and threaten a time out…and right around “four,” she stops.

So yeah, my nearly 2.5-year-old is “gaming the system.”  I guess I wasn’t expecting such things until she was at least three, if not four.

In some ways, of course, it’s nice to see this in a kid her age.  She’s learning to challenge authority, to question things, to problem solve, to “get around The System.”  At its core, it’s simple adaptation: where you learn you don’t have to simply accept what’s happening in front of you and you can attempt to change it, or at least influence it.

I guess I just didn’t expect it in a nearly 2.5-year-old.

She could teach some adults out there a thing or two about adaptation. 🙂

Moderation

I was listening to OnPoint from NPR on the way home today, and their subject was about childhood obesity in the US.  The discussion vacillated from point to point, including taxes on soda, the rise of “Super Size” fast food meals, and the subsidies toward corn farmers that allows for all the high-fructose corn syrup in snack foods of children.

I was struck, however, by two callers to the program.  One of them complained about how they find it difficult, as a parent, to prevent their kids from getting high sugar snacks, as schools and day-care programs still offer them (along with fruit, veggies, etc.).  Another parent pointed out that they only allow their children to have soda “on special occasions, like parties.”

For the record, I used to drink quite a bit of soda, especially in late-high school and college.  Only after getting married (i.e. having someone to make healthy dinners for me…) did I lose the 30 lb I gained over that 7 year period, primarily by not eating Hot Pockets every day for lunch and upwards of 64 oz of soda per day anymore.  I would estimate that my Linsenbardt/Plochberger genes probably kicked in around the same time, allowing my metabolism to bring me a bit closer to my family’s general body size.

Growing up, however, I can’t say I was over-weight.  I drank soda.  Mom sent fruit snacks along in my lunch (even though those “fruit snacks” contained maybe 0.001% actual fruit…).  I ate chips.  I ate candy bars.  I ate ice cream.  And, to this day, I still do.

I think one thing those callers, and many overly-liberal parents, are missing is the “moderation” piece of the puzzle.  Denying your children soda, or making your kids eat exclusively organic food, will not solve the obesity problem amongst young people.  Preventing your children from watching more than 1 hour of television a day, or keeping them from video games, will not prevent your kids from being over-weight.  These approaches can help, but they are, by no means, a silver bullet.

My intention with Meg, and any future kids, is to try and instill a sense of moderation from the beginning.  Yes, she can drink soda.  Yes, she can have candy bars.  But will I let her down a 32 oz soda on the way to Wal-Mart and another one for the trip home?  No.  Will I send a “snack size” candy bar in her lunch, and then let her have a “king size” one for a “snack” when she gets home from school?  No.  Will she eat all the vegetables on her plate like her Dad does (even if she and he don’t like them)?  Yes, she will.  Will those vegetables be organic?  Sometimes, but it’s more important that she eats them at all, along with the rest of her “balanced diet.”  It isn’t a black-or-white issue of only eating some things and not eating any of another.  It’s the same reason Prohibition didn’t work out so well.

Maybe my opinion(s) will change over the coming years, but I guess that’s where I stand for now.  Lest she turn out like Cartman.

Edit: The USDA came out with some new info on the potential benefits of a soda tax recently.  Some of the info is summarized in the following chart, and quote:

A tax-induced 20-percent price increase on caloric sweetened beverages could cause an average reduction of 37 calories per day, or 3.8 pounds of body weight over a year, for adults and an average of 43 calories per day, or 4.5 pounds over a year, for children. Given these reductions in calorie consumption, results show an estimated decline in adult overweight prevalence (66.9 to 62.4 percent) and obesity prevalence (33.4 to 30.4 percent), as well as the child at-risk-for-overweight prevalence (32.3 to 27.0 percent) and the overweight prevalence (16.6 to 13.7 percent).

The Atlantic has another article discussing some of the proposed benefits, as mentioned in the new USDA report.

Unsolicited Parenting Advice, Part 1

There are a few things we’ve learned in Meg’s short 2 months and since no one really likes to hear other people’s opinions about raising their child unless specifically asked, I’m just going to put it out in internet-land in case you do want to know.

When Googling a problem or an ailment (like my recent “well water breastfeeding runny poop”) ALWAYS click on the link to the forums for other people’s experiences. Read the posts, then do the exact opposite of what they say. Those people are idiots! Hilarious, but idiots.

Robbed of childhood…

CNN is carrying a story where an elementary school near Boston has banned “tag” and other “unsupervised chase games,” afraid that students will get hurt and their parents will sue the school. From the article:

“I think that it’s unfortunate that kids’ lives are micromanaged and there are social skills they’ll never develop on their own,” said Debbie Laferriere, who has two children at Willett, about 40 miles south of Boston. “Playing tag is just part of being a kid.”

Another Willett parent, Celeste D’Elia, said her son feels safer because of the rule. “I’ve witnessed enough near collisions,” she said.

It’s kinda sad, methinks, how this seems to be happening across the country. I’ve heard mention of teachers who stopped using red pens to mark mistakes in homework because “it’s too degrading” to the student. Is there research somewhere where people have looked at people my age who grew up with red pens and dodgeball? Is there a significant percentage of us that have become violent psychotics because of red pens and “unsupervised chase games?”

I guess I’m saying that I hope that, when I’m a parent, I’m not that protective of my kids. If I am, I’m afraid that they’ll never learn anything about life and won’t be able to fend for themselves…they won’t be able to leave the house because of fear that they’ll bump into someone on the street, or someone will criticize their work.

On the other hand, I tend to be relatively protective in general…guess I’ll have to work on that…