It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Unexpected Ally

Nigel is saying “please”! And “thank you”! Routinely – and with a smile!

How, you may ask, did Mary achieve this, so quickly? So painlessly? So effectively?

Fact is, Mary didn’t.

Remember our 23-minute standoff? Nigel is one very smart and even more tenacious little dude. He did not, as many – most! – children would, take that experience and decide, “Hm. Mary does not cave like I expected. Perhaps this means Mary is not to be trifled with.” (Because toddlers do not hesitate to dangle their prepositions when necessary.)

Many children would have begun to take this lesson. Nigel did not. Instead, Nigel decided that his response to the struggle would be to cease speaking to me when in the high chair. At. All.

“Hey, sweetie! Want some apple?”


“My, you drank that water quickly! You must be thirsty. Want some more?”


“Malli is using blue paint. Would you like red paint, or green?”


“Everyone else is having a cookie. Want one?”


(Oh, but meantime? Meantime, is parents are all excited. “Hey, what have you done to Nigel these days? He’s suddenly morphed into Polite Boy. ‘P’eas’ and ‘gank oo’ and ‘toe-wee’ and ‘kooz me’ all over the place!”)

It is clear I am being punished. I can handle this, though. I don’t even have to get into it directly. This one is easy: no Good Thing will happen in the high chair until there are Words Spoken.

“Everyone else is having a cookie. Want one?”


“No? Okay, then, away you go and play.”

No second chances. He can stand and watch the others eat their cookies. This was a total set-up – I hardly ever give the kids sweet treats: that’s the province of their parents.

He stood and watched the others eat their cookies, but he did not whine or fuss. He took the consequences of his silence on the chin. Gotta love a kid like that, but I could see this was going to take us a while.

Enter Malli.

“Hey, Malli. Would you like some more asparagus?”

“Yes, please.”

“Oh, Malli! What Good Manners you have. You said ‘yes, please’, just like a very big girl. Good for you!” Malli gets a hug. And more asparagus, which she loves. Nigel takes all this in.

“Nigel, would you like some more eggs?” Not asparagus for Nigel. He eats those things on sufference, but scrambled eggs? Loves ’em. It pays to pick your motivation carefully.

“Eggs.” Hey! A word! A spoken word! From the boy in the high chair! But I’m not stopping yet. I may be pushing my luck, but I’m sticking to my principles here.

“Can you ask nicely, like Malli?” Big warm smile at Malli.

A slight – very slight – pause. I hold my breath. “Yes, eggs, please.”

HA! And that’s it, folks. The wall of silence had been breached, never to return.

Peer Pressure is My Friend.

© 2006, Mary P

October 5, 2006 Posted by | food, manners, power struggle, socializing | 14 Comments