M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Saturday, August 08, 2009  

How To Win Stuff and Influence Parents

Thanks to everyonw for your tips on keeping our kitchen cloths clean. We've put them into effect, and haven't needed to wash one of them since, even after days of using them to clean everything from the counters to the cutting board to the refrigerator shelves to the cat's ass to the cutting board again. Our lives are so much more low-maintenance now.

* * *

In the last couple of months, M. Edium has entered the "I want" stage. Looking at catalogs or newspaper ads or even just stuff we're passing in the store, he was starting to cry out, "I want that," with alarming regularity. It's a good thing he wasn't in charge of the money, because during this period he had the marketing resistance of Michael Jackson.

And don't tell us to just keep him away from that stuff, because it doesn't work. He just invents stuff he wants, like when he spent a week asking us for an inflatable talking fuzzy Auto from Wall-E to hang from his bedroom ceiling.

After a while, he got the message that we weren't just going to buy him everything his avaricious eye alighted upon, so he started saying, "I want that for my birthday." Even if his birthday isn't until October, he apparently prefers hearing "we'll see" to "no," not having yet reached the age where one figures out that "we'll see" means "no."

The thing is, though, we'd never be able to remember all the crap he's asked for even if we wanted to (which we don't). His fourth Christmas, the thing he wanted most was a remote-control excavator. For months, it was all he asked for. It was so easy to remember, I even remember it to this day, long after the remote control excavator itself fell silent.

But now, sitting here with my fingers on the keyboard doing nothing but trying to recall all the crap he's asked for for his birthday and/or Christmas and/or our birthdays the last few months, it's all an indiscriminate blur of Transformers, Star Wars toys, Legos, Star Wars Legos, Lego Transformers, Star Wars Transformers, and Star Wars Lego Transformers. The nice thing about that is that I could go to the store right now and pretty much pick out something at random and have it be something he asked for. But since I'm not going to do that, it just got really annoying. It was like living with a walking, talking, Amazon wish list. One we had to give food to, no less.

Ultimately, Trash and I both hit the wall at the same time, and we gave up "we'll see" in favor of "will you please STOP IT?!" And to his credit, he's pretty much complied. Not just because we asked him to, I don't think, but because he gets it. He understands that his acquisitiveness is getting on our nerves. So now he'll say, "Daddy, do you want a Lego Clone Trooper Drop Ship for Christmas?"

So when he went on a road trip with my parents to the Oshkosh Air Show last week, our biggest worry wasn't that he'd get lost, or hurt, or deafened, or even sunburned. It was that he'd scam some expensive present out of Nana and Grandpa. I warned all three of them (the latter two not as much) against letting that happen, but the evening they came home, I could see as they pulled into the driveway that M. Edium was holding a big box. With a large Lego logo on it. And an even larger picture of Darth Vader's TIE fighter in Lego form. When he got out of the car, M. Edium told us, "I got it for being good!"

We were happy to see him, and wouldn't have made a big deal out of it anyway; grandparents have the prerogative to spoil their grandkids, after all. In fact, we told him we were proud of him for being well-behaved enough to have earned such a substantial gift.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that we learned the real story.

My dad called while we were camping, to make sure we had survived the previous night's rainstorm and to ask if the TIE fighter had been assembled yet. It hadn't, because we found that M. Edium's good behavior during the camping trip had a direct correlation with how long we were willing to wait to help him with it after we got home. My dad told me a little bit about when they'd gotten it, during a stop when they were almost to our house near the end of their trip.

"Don't tell mom," M. Edium had said afterward. It seemed he was suffering buyer's remorse without actually having bought anything.

My parents asked him why not. M. Edium was savvy enough to realize he couldn't tell them he might get in trouble, without risking getting in trouble with them. So he came up with another reason: "It'll just confuse her."

It should be clear by now to regular readers that as long as common expressions and sayings are not involved, Trash is not easily confused. My parents realized as much, and after they were done laughing, asked M. Edium what he meant. That line of questioning convinced him that his reasoning wasn't going to hold up, which is how he landed on this:

"I'll tell them I got it for being good."

He's good, all right.

He's known for a long time that violent tantrums and screaming won't get him what he wants. He's known for almost as long that persistent whining and nagging are no more effective (at least on an intellectual level; there are still times when he just can't stop himself, just like all of us). As for lying, he's a pretty late bloomer and hasn't figured out how to do it yet. I think he gets that the best way to win us over is to explain in reasonable terms why he wants or doesn't want something. If it makes sense to us, he knows we'll listen.

But sometimes even that doesn't work, and failing that, there's something that will get him his way, every time, no matter what, especially with his mom. Whether it's getting to stay up a little later, having another M&M, or being alloed to borrow the car. And that's a good scam. Not one that actually fools us, mind you, but one that makes us laugh.

Some parents may reward the wrong kind of behavior and end up raising liars, whiners, or overbearing tyrants. I think we might be in danger of raising a funny con man.

Oddly, I'm pretty much okay with that. The TIE fighter was built the very next morning.

posted by M. Giant 8:33 PM 2 comments


For the record, in our house, 6 was the age at which we'll see became translatable as no, as did maybe, perhaps and possibly.

A funny con man - that is a little bit awesome. We have a Master Negotiator/Manipulator on our hands. Her kindergarten teacher told us that she can totally see our kid as head of the UN, President or on the Broadway stage. Gotta love a kid who uses his/her inherent intelligence with a purpose, right?

By Blogger Heather, at August 10, 2009 at 10:33 AM  

Very nice way of keeping record

By Anonymous Roof Coatings, at August 12, 2009 at 5:38 AM  

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