Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Art of the Misdirect

One of the techniques I've tried to use to overcome escalating disagreements with my kids is "the misdirect." Anyone with children knows that once your child focuses on wanting something or wanting to do something, they will repeatedly ask for it until you either cave or boil over in rage or frustration (sometimes you have to laugh and think - how did I just waste so much time and energy fighting over a blowpop?)

The misdirect is simply an attempt to turn your child's attention away from the subject matter - staying up an extra hour, watching another TV show, having "just one treat" - to something else entirely, with the hope that they will magically forget what they were asking for, or, more likely, to de-escalate what could turn into a never ending verbal tug of war. Even though my kids are way past the "terrible twos" these situations still occasionally pop up.

But last night the tables were turned - Jessica used the technique on me. The last 45 minutes or so before bed she got into a case of "the askies" - she needed water (no problem), she wanted a treat (popsicle after much hesitation), she was "hungry" (grapes when she really wanted something else). As I was taking her upstairs, she asked for a cookie. I gave her my best stern Dad look and told her that she couldn't have a cookie, which was quickly followed by a whiny counter argument. I joked that maybe she could dream about them, which was followed by what I swear was a cricket noise. Finally, as this minor disagreement began to escalate, Jess pointed to her recent artwork and said, "Daddy, didn't you see all the artwork I did?" We spent the next several minutes talking about her artwork, but I was just as impressed with her first time use of the art of the misdirect. Not bad for a five year old.

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