TINY FINGERS AND LITTLE BUTTONS.
A friend came for a visit with her son, aged 16 months. While it was a first visit for them, it was not for me. A little girl of the same age listened carefully to our explanations of what should not be touched and then spent two hours peacefully extracting all the books from the lowest shelf, placing them on the floor, then putting them back into the shelf, then repeating the process. She had small interruptions when anything edible was brought in; that’s how I discovered that she loved cheese and could say the word in four languages! The parents worried that maybe her speech was “behind her age” because she never bothered with the details for many other words, e.g. everything fluffy was “kitty” and everything with wings including a Christmas toy angel was “birdy”. I told the parents to stop worrying since, a) the girl was barely a toddler b) she never got mixed up between the furry and winged varieties. I appreciated the Montessori system which was used in her nursery school too.
The little boy ran around non-stop. He didn’t yell, jump or misbehave in any way. Yet he managed to push every button he could find with lightning speed including the alarm button, so that I had to call the security company. In spite of their being two of us adults we could not manage to catch up with him, so he turned off the computer, turned on the TV, grabbed every remote control device he could find, opened the fridge, climbed onto the kitchen table and bit off a large chunk of cake without the benefit of cutting it first. And I was so sure I put everything that should not be touched by those tiny grubby hands up and out of his reach! He played with the largest soft toy that we still have at home for a few minutes which gave us the much needed respite. Having settled down things with security and calmed down the mother who was horrified and almost sobbing because she thought he must have broken everything in sight, I suggested we go out.
The whole experience made me think again of several important things. For instance, I used to do a lot of writing and translation; there were always open dictionaries and reference books on my desk, and papers strewn around. Yet my own three kids never once tore or mixed up anything. Why? How? Simple. The moment that tiny little hand stretched out to grab a crinkly piece of paper or to drag down something, anything from my desk, I would firmly say “No” and pull that little hand away. The starts before they are one year old, when they begin to crawl and to make conscious movements. How many times does one have to say it to actually teach a child? As many times as it takes. The trick is never to turn No into a Yes. If you say “NO” to your child, you may have to repeat it 102 or 1002 times in succession, then do it again next day, and the next, and the next. Just keep saying it until it finally sinks in. It helps if you offer something else instead, to show that while that interesting thing is Mom’s, this one is definitely fit for a child. You play with your toys and I play with mine kind of situation. And there should be enough “toys” to play with together. Even though your child cannot talk yet, talk to them, explain what you are doing, what they can do. Children get the tone of voice, the mood, they remember the cadence and the formulas you use.