January 26, 2002 - Saturday
It seems to me, at least for these first few years of life, that many of the decisions a parent has to make deal with where to draw the line between giving a child free rein to explore, learn, and be his own person and when to set limits, reprimand, and discipline. In other words: how much to let them get away with. Harry's boredom with meals has been a problem for a couple of weeks now and he often seems to be looking for rationalizations to be finished with whatever meal he's eating. It's certainly annoying that he does want to eat and we conitnue to try to find ways to convince him to eat more, both by expressing disappointment and by reproaching his negative behavior.
Today in that normal course of lunches lately, Harry, after just a few bites, put his head down on his hands and whined that he was tired and wanted to go to his room for a nap. It's true that his nap time comes shortly after lunch, following a time for stories, but Harry is very rarely anxious to get to bed. I was pretty confident that he was not genuinely interested in napping at that moment or any time too soon, but Harry's growing awareness that his words can make us respond has reached the point where he needs to learn that his words also have consequences.
With that in mind, I almost stopped Harry's lunch right then, and maybe I should have to make it clear that I was responding to his words. But, I wasn't sure that his not eating lunch would really be a positive solution, nor did I think that Harry's comparatively modest whining really warranted such a strong and jarring response as pulling him out of his chair and taking him to his room. However, I did hasten the meal by taking over his spoon and feeding him the rest of what was on his plate. And, when he was finished and, not surprisingly, talking about going into the living and not to bed, the proverbial hammer came down: I took him up to bed. He complained, naturally, saying that he didn't want to go, but the die was cast. Each tell he complained I pointed out that he had said that he was tired and that was the reason why he was going to bed.
After settling down into the bed and began to talk as I regularly do at bedtime, I tried to explain about telling the truth and not lying. But, these are rather vague concepts, I found at that moment, to someone with a limited vocabulary and I'm not at all sure I ultimately taught Harry a clear lesson. Still, I'm pretty that trying was the right decision and I'm sure I'll have another chance or two in the future to get it right.