It’s Not All Mary Poppins

You’re outta minutes, son

“In a minute!”

It sounds polite. In fact, it’s a strategy that I carefully teach the tots. When someone asks/demands a turn, they can hand the toy over immediately, or they can choose to defer for a minute or two. (The demanders are required to adhere to the rules of Making Civilized Requests first. Of course.) Sometimes we actually time the minute; often, it’s a fairly nebulous bit of time.

Reasonably often, the children will hand the toy over immediately, but it’s nice for them to have a little time to adjust to the notion of giving it away. “Finishing up” is rarely an issue at this age. Their play is so loose, there is hardly ever never any clearly defined “ending” they’re working toward. It’s mostly a matter of giving them the mental space to change gears.

And then there’s Timmy.

“In a minute.”

It sounds polite, but it’s his only answer. Ever. A playmate asks, is told “in a minute”. The playmate asks in a minute or two, and is again told “in a minute”. No matter how much time elapses, Timmy will always share “in a minute”. In short, “in a minute” does not mean “in a minute”, it means “over my dead body”, or perhaps even “&%^ off”. The fact that it’s said with a cheerful smile and a encouraging nod does not alter the reality.

It’s a bit of a dilemma, though, because of course I’ve taught him to say this. I don’t want to discourage the boy from using a perfectly acceptable social tool. It’s just that he can’t be using it to dodge sharing entirely. It’s a helpful phrase, a little verbal grease to the social wheels. I don’t want to tell the boy not to say it, but he just can’t be doing this every time. The devious little wretch.

Well, with Timmy, I doubt it’s deviousness. He’s just discovered “in a minute” is a terrific way to make that whole problematic “sharing” business go away. Simple!

I mull it over a bit … then the answer hits me like a 2×4: “He can’t be doing this every time.” Simple!

“In a minute.”

“You know what, Timmy? You’ve said that to Anna three times already. You can’t say it every time. Now you need to give it to her.”

“In a minute.”

“No, Timmy. You said that last time. Now you have to say, ‘Okay, Anna’.”

He pauses, considering whether I really mean this, and if there’s any way out. I wait a beat, then repeat.

“Last time you said ‘In a minute’. This time you have to say, ‘Okay, Anna’.”

I really mean it. You can see the mental gears whirring as they shift. He smiles and holds out the toy.

“Okay, Anna!”

Simple! Good start, Tims.

August 7, 2008 Posted by | manners, socializing, Timmy | , , | 4 Comments