It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Do I really need this?

“But I WANT to!!!!!”

Nigel’s outrage is heartfelt. And more than a little exasperating. It doesn’t matter what it is, these days. When he’s told no, or that he’ll have to wait, or that a plan will be changing …

“But I WANT to!!!”

As if the world must needs stop and deliver precisely what he desires, simply because he desires it. In and of itself, this position is not noteworthy. All toddlers feel that way.

“I WANT!!!”

… is all that matters. Other peoples’ needs, the pressures of time, the realities of space, season, logistics, the laws of physics … none of this matters at all, all of these are mere distractions from the almighty…

“I WANT!!!!”

Except that this has never, not once, EVER worked at my house. Yes, it works in other sectors of his reality, but it does NOT work here. Give me a petulant foot-stomp and “I WANT” and you’re far more likely to get a rousing rendition of

You can’t. Always get. What you wa-ah-ahnt…

than you are to get you what you want. (Which reaction is, of course, exactly what they need. They don’t want it or like it, but, my job is to see that they get, like the song says, what they need. Caving in to a petulant “I WANT” is precisely the opposite of what they need. At the very least, they can ask politely.)

And so, though he did of course try it on me when he entered the turbulent storms of toddler-hood a year ago, it took only three or four weeks to eradicate that delightful little quirk. Oh, well. He’s a smart lad. Another couple of weeks of diligent, consistent, re-training, and we’ll have it out of his behavioural repertoire. At my house, at any rate.

But, ugh.

Why has is come back? It’s obnoxious. It’s petulant. It’s exasperating. It’s LOUD.

I don’t WANT it. Booo…

Maybe it’s for my sake? Maybe the fates have determined that Mary needs a little character-honing? Maybe Nigel’s regression is a sort of professional development?

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need.

(For your entertainment: that’s a YouTube link to a very old recording of the song. Craggy old Mick looks as fresh and dewy-faced as he probably ever did.)

June 11, 2008 - Posted by | Nigel, power struggle


  1. My dad was talking to me one day over dinner. He mentioned something that he wanted. My 4 year old had to speak up to tell him that “You don’t always get what you want, Grandpa.” I guess she’s heard that a few times, huh?

    Ha! Doesn’t it just warm your heart to know that your little lessons are being absorbed?? I’ll get it warmed Grandpa’s heart, too!

    Comment by ktjrdn | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  2. Oh, how timely. My first-ever daycare client is just entering his second week of care with me, and as of today the honeymoon is officially OVER. SO over. Little Mister is apparently quite used to getting his own way at home and could not understand why I was just NOT. GIVING. IN. I’m not sure whether to take comfort that you are facing the same issue with a child that’s been with you for years…or be discouraged that two years from now I’m still going to be having a battle of wills with this same child.

    Take comfort. They don’t all revisit the same issue. One of the reasons I wrote about it is that I find it exasperating — and inexplicable. It does happen, with some kids, but not with all by any means. And of course I don’t have to tell you to keep up with the not giving in! I’m rooting for you!

    Comment by mamadragon | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  3. Ugh, no wonder… I thought we had gone through this before and gotten it squashed, but here again, my 3yo wants EVERYTHING. It seems never ending and some days it’s enough to make me crAZy. From rising ’till bed, I have to hear about what he wants, and then ride out the tantrum when he doesn’t get it. Arg! I always sing him the same song, though, because my Mom sang it to us… But yesterday I heard him singing his rendition of it: “You always get what you want…” Hm. Seems that we still have some work to do.

    Clever little monkey, isn’t he? “I don’t LIKE that reality. I’m just going to change it to suit myself!” But even when you change the words, sweetie, you STILL can’t always get what you want… Hang in there. If you’re consistent, he will get it. In time.

    Comment by rosie_kate | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  4. It seems like it keeps coming around for another try. It didn’t work last year, or the year before, but maybe this time? Um, no. I’m even less impressed that four seems to have brought with it the ability to dissolve into tears about it, though I am unmoved, sadly for pumpkinpie. Our refrain tends to be, “This is not how you get ANYTHING.” Even a reasonable request ends up with her in a mess sometimes, because she simply hasn’t asked correctly or waited to find out what we respond before losing it. This too shall pass, I know, but still. Gah!

    Oooo, the drahma! You’re getting a sneak peek at 14, my dear. Drahma every day! Here’s hope for you: my experience (like that of my mother’s before me) is that from about 5 or so through 12, they’re just lovely. In fact, mine were just lovely till fourteen… (Apparently I gave my mother grief a little sooner than that. Mum called those years “The Golden Years”, because everything went so smoothly, by and large. The storms of toddlerhood behind, the storms of adolescense yet to come.)

    Comment by kittenpie | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  5. Jeffrey follows up every “I want it” with an “I… need it.” While I find this pretty much hilarious, it doesn’t get him anything and it does become tiresome.
    Hopefully Nigel will remember that in Mary’s house you don’t get something just because you want it. It is curious that he’s gone back to it though.

    “I neeed” … the filthy red shirt, not the clean blue one; a bottle of pop; to go to the park at bedtime; a fifteenth story when daddy has no voice left… Oh! The NEEEEEDS.

    Comment by Dani | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  6. And yet it doesn’t really ever seem to end.

    Oh sure, they learn over the years what it takes to “get what you want”…ask nicely, be polite, back it up with a sensible arguement – flow charts are impressive, but in the end…

    It’s still an “I WANT!”, only more articulate.

    The older they get the more diligent we must be in pointing out the difference between want and need.

    Love the reference to the Stones. 😛

    I remember trying to teach a grade 5 class the difference between “want” and “need”. It was quite startling, how much they DIDN’T get the concept!

    Comment by Zayna | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  7. My husband sings that song to our three year old daughter all the time. So much so, that she coined her own phrase — “You get what you get, and you don’t have a fit.” Though she does hate it when we through her words back at her (tee hee).

    So nice when they really get your lessons, isn’t it? Whether or not they enjoy having them applied… (teehee)

    Comment by midlife mommy | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  8. I’m shocked to see Keith sporting a Bay City Rollers haircut! Does anyone remember them …?

    My best friend in grade nine was “in love” with one of them. Don’t ask me which one: I could never tell the difference…

    Comment by Stephen | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  9. I’m always torn when they try so hard to ask nicely for something that they CAN’T have. I just can’t give them many things that they want, even if they ask nicely. It complicates the lesson. Any suggestions for explaining the difference to a kid?

    It’s kind of bittersweet to insist they ask politely, when you know that once they do, you’ll be saying “no”. I still do it, of course. Politeness is a pre-requisite for anything, regardless of its availability, but I do feel for them. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this one.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  10. Mary, I love that you answer our comments. It feels so personal to “chat” with you. Too bad Ottawa is a bit away from Atlanta or I’d stop by to spot you next time you need glasses repaired.

    Thanks. It’s more work for the blogger, of course, but for me a lot of the fun of blogging (could it even be the whole point?) is in the interactions with readers. I would likely have to change this approach if I were getting dozens of comments, but so far I’ve been able to do what feels right — without spending an excessive amount of time at it! (As the optician handed them back, she said, “There. Now don’t step on them again.” I burst out laughing. “That’s the plan!”)

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | June 13, 2008 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: