Thursday, July 3, 2008

Overheard in the dressing room

I was in the dressing room at a well-known outdoor retailer. (I don't endorse said retailer. Instead I endorse, in a completely non-biased way, another well-known outdoor retailer.)

From the adjacent dressing room came the following exclamations.

"Marco, no! Marco, stop! Marco, stay here! Marco! I mean it!"

No response from Marco, except the opening and closing of the dressing room door. He had clearly decided that silent opposition was more effective than conversation.

I also left my dressing room, and ran into Marco standing by a nearby display. He looked up at me and, without missing a beat, asked, "Are you a grown-up?" (I am less than five feet tall, so this question is somewhat warranted.)

"Yes," I answered. "Are you?"

He chose to ignore this silly question.

"You're small for a grown-up," he commented.

"Yes," I replied. "People come in all different sizes. Have you ever noticed that?"

Again, he ignored the crazy grown-up lady.

"How old are you, Marco?" I asked.

He looked up with surprise. "How did you know my name?"

"Well, I heard you and your dad in the dressing room. He was saying your name a lot," I answered, with only a little bit of a smile. "Are you 5?"

"I'm 4!" he said, again with surprise. "How did you know?"

"I'm a teacher, so I'm pretty good at figuring out how old kids are," I told him. Just then his dad came out of the dressing room. Presumably displeased to find his son chatting with a stranger, he whisked Marco away as best he could without a glance in my direction.

I met them again later in the checkout line. "Marco! Put that back! Marco! I mean it!" his dad was saying. I wished I could give his dad the gift of counting down from 3 to 0, along with one or two logical consequences, but I didn't have the feeling he would appreciate my contribution to his child-rearing. So I paid for my gear and left them alone to continue their father-son struggle, in which Marco clearly had the upper hand. It reminded me of a saying my mom has hanging in her office: "Arguing with a child is like mud-wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig loves it."


  1. Just wondering, what would an example of logical consequences be?

    (not that I'm a new father who has trouble controlling his daughter or anything--just curious)


  2. Hmmm, examples of logical consequences for small children.

    I am not sure at what age logic becomes powerful. Certainly by 4, but I'm not an expert earlier than that. However, some examples are: you make a mess, the consequence is that you clean it up (logical, right?). You are disruptive to a group, you are removed from the group. You hurt someone's feelings, you find out something you can do to make them feel better.

    The idea is kind of like the punishment should fit the crime, should follow logically instead of being devised by a mean adult. (Of course sometimes logical consequences are still devised by a "mean" adult. I had a student who had to walk 2 miles from the before-school program to our school because he was disruptive on the bus.)

    Try this book: "Setting Limits" by Robert McKenzie. I have read the one for teachers and it is really good.

    Also, never underestimate the use of the time out! My kids have 3-minute time-outs. Younger kids could have even shorter ones. Again, probably not effective until age 3, but I'm not sure.