I posted this anecdote on FB yesterday. Thor and I were talking about something and it came around to behavior. I reminded him that bad behavior landed kids on Santa’s* Naughty List, and that the Naughty List kids got lumps of coal in their stockings. Rhetorically, I said, “And what would you do with a lump of coal?”
Thor shot back with a huge grin, “I’d make ROCK MONSTERS!”
This is the blessing and curse of the intelligent, resilient, imaginative, self-confident child. You can’t threaten them into good behavior. You have to actually work to get it out of them because if you give them lumps of coal, they are going to make rock monsters, so why worry about getting coal? Coal is just as awesome as anything else. Rock monsters rule.
We learned this about that child when he was barely a toddler. I was attempting to threaten him into eating his vegetables by saying I would take away toys. When I had to make good on my threats, he watched me, stone-faced with tears in his eyes, and he said, “I didn’t really want that anyway.” And how do you deal with a toddler who has already learned the importance of counting the cost before he’s made a stand? We had to go about it a different way–and I’m not saying we got the right answer after one or two tries either. We had some embarrassing meltdowns of patience before we hit on what works with him.
I don’t mind telling you that this is one of my favorite things about him. He knows his own mind. He knows what he does and doesn’t want, and he has always pre-considered what it is worth to him. Fortunately, we’ve discovered that the one thing he hasn’t been willing to risk is our disappointment. We’ll see what happens in those teen years, but right now, what I see is a kid who is going to do okay in saying no to all the right people. I hope he will.
Life is a lot harder when you say yes to the wrong people, and when you say yes to the wrong people as a young adult, you have an awful lot of life left to live with those decisions and regrets.
*I’ve always tried to be honest with Thor about invisible things like Santa, and God, and what makes weather happen. We play at Santa, but when he’s asked if Santa is real, I’ve told him that the spirit of Santa is real, but not the mythology of the man in the sleigh. Every year, he asks me. Every year, I answer. Every year, so far, he has said, “It’s okay that you think that, Mama, but I know Santa is real.” So…Santa is real here. And that’s fine with me.