It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Power Struggles and Peer Pressure

The children gather round the table. Today we’re fingerpainting!

“Okay, guys. Here’s a big bib for each of you.”

Malli demurs. “No bib.”

Ah. Malli wants to play that old game, Power Struggle. She says no, and I’m to coax her into it, because we both know she wants to paint. Only I really don’t like Power Struggle. It’s a truly tedious game.

First we try appealing to her better nature. “You have a pretty shirt on, sweetie. We don’t want to get paint all over your clean shirt.”

“No bib.” No response from her better nature. Right now, she’d rather play Power Struggle. So much for the sweet voice of reason. However, it takes two to play this game, and I’m not joining in.

“Okay. You don’t have to wear a bib if you don’t want to. That’s fine. ‘Course, you can’t fingerpaint unless you have one on.” Warm, slightly regretful smile.

She chews on that for a sec. Nuts! Power Struggle isn’t nearly as satisfying when played by oneself. Some kids would up the ante, demanding to paint bib-less, but Malli and I have had our head-to-heads. I’m pretty confident she knows who’ll win a head-to-head. Still, it’s best if toddlers don’t have your full attention when they’re having to decide whether to back down – saving face is important at two years old – so I turn to Nigel.

“Now then, lovie. Let’s get that bib on you.” Nigel ducks his head so I can put the bib over, sticks out his arms helpfully so I can do up the ties at the side. I hand him a pot of paint, show him how to smear the colours. Nigel is enjoying himself, providing all manner of positive peer pressure, and I am beaming all manner of unspoken messages over to Malli.

“See, Malli? We’re having a lot of fun, Nigel and I, because we are wearing our bibs! So much fun! Painting is soooo much more fun than Power Struggle! See how much fun you can have, when you wear your bib?!?” I give Malli a few moments to watch the fun, then turn to her with a smile.

“Ready to paint, Malli?”

“Yes, please.” And she ducks her head so as to accept the bib.

© 2006, Mary P

November 3, 2006 Posted by | individuality, manners, parenting, power struggle, Uncategorized | 13 Comments