Claire Black: It’s irrational to reason with a two-year-old

Giving in to the demands of toddlers store up trouble in the long term. Picture: Getty Images
Giving in to the demands of toddlers store up trouble in the long term. Picture: Getty Images
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‘OH WHAT happened?” My son says this a lot. He has just turned two. He also says, “Where are you, pancakes?” when he’s hungry, “Come back, ambulance” when he hears sirens and “I’m running late” for no apparent reason whatsoever. I blame Thomas the Tank Engine.

He is cute, but as he is two, he has all of the emotional volatility of a 14-year-old with 1 per cent of the vocabulary with which to express it. The rest is manifested in head-banging, head-hitting, random squealing and a weird body movement which makes him impossible to pick up or hold on to.

When he says “what happened?” he’s not actually asking for an account of what has just taken place. He knows. Usually he has hit himself on the head, often with his own hand. He doesn’t enjoy this and so then he looks at me as though it’s my fault and opines, “what happened?” This really means why didn’t you give me the biscuit/toy/apple juice/episode of Thomas that I wanted thereby preventing me from having to whack myself in the head and then ask you this question to which I don’t want the answer. Being two is complicated.

So what do you do? According to research by psychologists at Oklahoma State University, when your child is being violent, defiant or not listening (behaviours which might otherwise be described as “being a toddler”), offering compromises might work in the short term but over the long term, they store up trouble. When the researchers went back after two months to assess the children of the parents who caved in, it was worse, while those children whose parents had reasoned with them showed better behaviour.

Reason? How can this word ever fit with a little person for whom logic is a discovery yet to be made. He walks, talks, he can throw a ball, keep a biscuit out of the gob of the dog, but expecting rationality is a step too far. I have friends with decades on the boy who struggle to manage that. For my money judicious use of distraction (“Oh, I think I heard an ambulance…”), diversion (“shall we sing The Wheels On The Bus?”) and, if all else fails, one of those sucky pouches of organic fruity stuff that feel slightly less dirty than, say, a Rich Tea biscuit. Such is my reliance on the organic pouch as an emergency parenting tool, I spent more on those the other day than I would usually spend on a bottle of wine.

I spoke to another parent who said he’s given up banning toys in bed for his children. I don’t blame him. They don’t listen to reason (“darling, trust me, a fire engine doesn’t make for a comfortable pillow”). And who would miss the chance to see what’s there in the morning? According to my source, the other morning it was a laptop charger and the bathroom scales. Delightful. And utterly illogical other than to little people who play by their own rules.

Holidays revolve around dog days

WHEN you tell people that you’re getting a dog one of the first things you’ll hear is, “Oh, they’re an awful tie”. It’s one of the most unhelpful statements anyone can make.

A bit like saying, when someone tells you that they’re pregnant, “oh, right, congratulations. Parenting costs a lot of money, doesn’t it?” Both statements are true, it’s just that no-one who is about to take receipt of a child or a dog needs to hear either truth. The dog/baby is coming. The deal is done. If you don’t know that you’re never going to be able to go on holiday/afford anything comfortably ever again in advance, then you’ll know it soon enough once the price of shoes that last six weeks max and the fact that a vet bill is never less than £40 becomes clear. But it could be that dogs being a tie is one hoary old chestnut that’s about to be put to bed since almost 75,000 pet passports were issued last year. In our household, such is the power of the dog, whenever any travel is mentioned, the first question uttered is not “what’s the weather forecast?” but “can we take the dog?” which is why the furthest we’ve been since Daphne arrived three years ago is the Isle of Lewis. It never crossed my mind to get her a passport. Wait till she sees the queues at the airport though, she is not going to be impressed.

Lenny’s lesson

I APPROVE of Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux telling their guests they were attending a birthday party and then getting hitched. And I approve of them making guests hand in their mobile phones too. Bet Lenny Kravitz wishes he’d done that at his gig in Stockholm last week. That might have stopped the millions of photos and gifs winging their way around the internet of him splitting his trousers on stage and revealing he’d omitted to wear underpants. Embarrassing, yes, but less so than having your lawyers start talking about invasion of privacy as images of the malfunction spread like wildfire. Talk about trying to bolt the gate after the, ahem, horse has bolted. «