Well, the technique of counting to three had a good run, but it’s not working anymore. Nicholas tried using it himself to get us to do things we’d refused to do, he saw that we still refused, and now he sees no reason why he should comply just because we’re counting. I don’t remember ever trying it on my parents when I was little….
I suppose that hard-core Consensual Living parents would argue that I should never have used this technique on my child if I wasn’t willing to respond to it myself. They’ve got a point. But I think (and this is why I can’t really get into Consensual Living) that parents, because of our greater knowledge and experience, can at times hold firmly to a decision we have explained to a child, even if the child would rather we do something else.
NICK: Bleah! I don’t like this! I want soupy noodles!
MAMA: This is what Daddy made for dinner. You don’t have to eat it, but I will not make a different food for you until I’m done eating. I am hungry. Mmm, this is good!
NICK: But no! I want soupy noodles now!
MAMA: Tofu salad is ready now. If you want something different, you’ll have to wait until one of us is done eating.
NICK: (firmly) I will count to three. You will cook me soupy noodles, or I will help you. One…
MAMA: I will make you soupy noodles when I am done eating my tofu salad.
MAMA: Have patience, please. I will do it, but not now.
NICK: Three! I see that you are not cooperating. I will help you. (He grabs my arm and tries to drag me out of my chair.)
Sigh! Well, it was a good technique for more than a year, and I can’t say I regret having used it. Being on the receiving end of it is not all that bad–whereas if I’d been getting him to obey me by hitting him, now he’d be hitting me! (He does hit me sometimes, but I’ve got the moral high ground: I can tell him with a straight face that we don’t hit people because hurting does not solve problems.) Hearing my exact words and tone come out of my child, hearing how I sound to him, I think, “Hey, listen to that calmness and self-assurance! I guess I did that pretty well!”
And counting to three still has a magical power when he does it–to remind me that I can choose to do what he asked. There are times when I reconsider and realize that I am in fact being uncooperative for no good reason, and doing the thing he wants me to do will please him–with little to no extra effort or bad consequences–so that we can have a nicer time together.