This morning, baby (18 months) cried because Bethel picked up the book she had put down. She wanted the book back.
I was faced immediately with the thought that I had to choose what lesson I wanted to teach.
- I could have dealt with screaming to get what she wants.
- I could have dealt with helping her understand if she puts a book down, it doesn’t belong to her.
- I could help her learn how to ask for something by saying “please book” and trying to get her to repeat it. That’s a possibility, since she now says “pease milk” in a heart-melting way.
- The problem is, if I start to teach her how to ask for something, I have to ignore the fact that she’s whining as she says “pease.”
- And if I allow her to ask for the book and request Bethel give it to her, in a way I’m negating the tradition that we cannot claim all toys we have touched in the last hour.
- I could opt for a spiritual message. It is selfish to take toys or books away from another child, but I’d like to word it in positive terms. In some ways, it seems like it makes more sense to have a baseline of expected behavior before teaching God’s higher standard (fairness versus love).
I decided that teaching her to ask for something she wants, without crying, is a more basic skill than teaching her not to whine.
Now, with all the lessons before me, I wonder whether I actually had to choose only one lesson. I think I can at least label the bad behavior as I teach her to say please: Grabbing is selfish. Say please book. After she says please, I can say, God wants us to love sister. That’s dealing with the heart rather than merely the behavior.
I still think that ignoring the whining tone might be good, but maybe I can teach that too. I can minimize it at this age by an exaggerated happy voice, saying the words I want her to say. Please book! For some reason, babies model the tone they hear. If I say the words in a serious tone, she might miss it, but if I make a goofy happy face and say the words rhythmically and deliberately, she’ll respond with a smile rather than a whine. In theory, of course.
That’s almost all the lessons I started by thinking I couldn’t teach yet. I’ll let you know how it goes. Since she’ll be waking up from her nap soon, we’ll have a sharing challenge…. momentarily.