“Don’t make me put this baby down!”

That exclamation, appropriated from some friends who also have a three-year-old and a newborn, neatly encapsulates our parenting experience over the last couple of days. Andrew has been pushing the behavioral envelope (as can be expected of three-year-olds) and quickly learned that retribution isn’t quite as swift when I’m gone and Elise is feeding Maggie. We’re trying to establish some inviolable rules, such as no backtalk when we tell him to do something. That includes foreign languages; he’s picked up some street Spanish from his friends at preschool. We’ve had a couple of amusing moments when I applied my formidable high-school Spanish skills to try to tell Elise when he’s cursing and when he’s just making it up. I was amused, anyway; Elise mostly throws the book at him. He had a household-record 18 minute time-out today when he repeadtely talked back and stuck his tongue out.
Bilingual potty-mouth notwithstanding, he’s obviously trying to adapt. He has surprised me a couple of times with his willingness to get along. Yesterday I took him to the local playground and he toted along his new favorite toy, a plastic front loader with boy-sized accessory shovel that makes for an above-average sandbox toy. We found one other father-son team in the sandbox on arrival, and the rival three-year-old was predictably attracted to the toy. When asked if he could share, Andrew replied that he would share “in two minutes.” I took that as an indefinite put-off, a preschool equivalent of “in your dreams, Dad!” But sure enough, after a few turns of scooping and dumping, he volunteered that he was ready to share and carried his toy over to his new friend. We dads watched them play happily for a few minutes, Andrew filling the bucket with his shovel, Lucien dumping the sand into a pile.
Lesson learned: he’s always listening. He won’t always admit to it. I won’t do him any favors by underestimating him.

3 thoughts on ““Don’t make me put this baby down!”

  1. Matthew, too, is using more sophisticated manipulation methods. We’re getting lots of “Not now. In two minutes.” and “I’ll do that later, right now I’m going to lie here on the couch.”

    Where does he get this stuff?

  2. Hey James, I just found this blog and wanted to say: Congratulations! I loved the 18-minute time-out story. We’ve just started using the time-outs and Jack seems to get the hang of it. This morning he put his buffalo in time-out. He did it perfectly, Supernanny-style: while putting the toy on the Naughty Step, he said, “Buff-o, you time-out because you did someping. Stay there, I get you.” He then came in the kitchen, where Jim and I were muffling screams of laughter. A few seconds later, he got up and went back into the foyer, addressing the buff-o: “Now Buff-o, love you, but no more doin’ somepin, OK, Buff-o? OK! Time up! Kiss! Pay ball!!”
    I hear the 3s are much worse than the 2s. True or false?
    Also, what about whining? I hate it more than anything in the world. Your view: ignore or punish? It seems like punishment takes us down a very long, never-ending road. But I (maybe used to?) hate those parents who ignored those whiny horrible children in the store. Is my kid going to be one of those kids? NO! I say, but then there’s the whining, and I don’t know what to do. E

  3. Erin- Welcome, and thanks for the great Jack story!
    Re: 3 vs 2 – The guy who coined that “terrible twos” junk obviously sold his two-year-old to the circus and never got the rest of the story. 3 is definitely worse. 3 is more willful, more bloody-minded, and more capable of pushing Mom and Dad’s buttons. The trick, as my own mother reminded me last weekend, is to pick your battles. Right now we’re focusing with no backtalk. Table manners, jumping on the bed, and other offensive behaviors are frowned upon but aren’t always time-out material, else we’d spend all day trying to keep him in the chair.
    Whining hasn’t been a huge problem for Andrew, but we ignore it to the best of our ability. In the store, we press on. The problem is that whining often leads to tantrum, and what do you want the kid to learn – that whining doesn’t work, but whining and then pitching a fit does? See above comment about three-year-olds. The three-year-old fit is a lot harder to manage.
    I can hear all those grandparents snickering right now…parenthood is truly its own revenge.

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