Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Creative motivation

Managing the behavior of a developmentally quirky kid like my son requires a gratifying degree of creativity. It becomes obvious pretty quickly that conventional parenting techniques don't work, but you're often surprised and charmed by the little things that do. My son doesn't like big consequences, either positive -- too much pressure -- or negative -- too much stress. Yet he'll often do our bidding just for a look at our keys, or to beat a count of 10. Recently, I've hit on another motivator for him that's entirely too silly to work, and yet it does: that old kiddie game of "Got your nose!" He's really old enough, both chronologically and developmentally, to know that that thumb tucked between my fingers is not his actual nose. You can see him thinking it over, sometimes touching his nose or whatever other external organ I've claimed to snatch, and knowing it's not real; and yet, he wants it back. He can't rest easy until I pretend to return what I've taken. And to get it, he'll do things he normally takes great pains to avoid, like telling me what he did in camp, or writing in his journal, or settling down to read, or even keeping his fingers out of his mouth for a short time. He'll do what I ask, if I'll just give him back his nose or his ear or his big toe. I'd love to tell his teacher about this in September, so she can add it to his list of motivators ... but I have a feeling she'd look at me funny. Besides, a mother's gotta have a few extra tricks up her sleeve. And maybe a nose or two, too.

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