Monday, April 6, 2009

Our little cleaner

A number of entries in this series of often-disjointed posts have to do with tidying up after some typhoon-like mess wrought by Sonny, or with salvaging a situation turned parlous thanks to his roving adventures.

Last week, however, came a stunning twist: There he was,
actually helping us clean up. It happened on a day much like any other. Sonny had ruined our neat row of mineral water bottles by playing his own version of ninepins, had scattered some toys and was otherwise working manfully to meet his quota of chaos. Then he saw a discarded wet wipe that Mum had left about (possibly after being drawn away to respond to some Sonny-related emergency). The little fella picked it up, toddled over to our TV console and commenced a diligent wiping of the surface.

Mum and Pa were both present and managed to avoid fainting, crying out in shock or otherwise overreacting. Instead, we both rushed forward to unleash great blasts of "positive reinforcement".
That is to say, even if it was a completely random activity on his part, we had - right then and there - a chance to imprint it onto his neural pathways. If we made enough of a fuss over him, praising him to the skies and clapping madly, he might begin to regularly scrub and rub for fun. In the same spirit, Mum has been played the exciting game, 'Put The Stuff Back To Where You Found It' with the little fella, and Sonny has shown some promise as a practitioner.

Let's come clean here: We're hoping that, in the not-too-distant future, our son will be building his character the old-fashioned way, by helping out with a good number of household chores. We've no intention of turning him into a cruelly-oppressed slave, but even a child of - oh, say - four can make himself useful by washing the dishes. Then there's the sweeping and the dusting and the laundry... he needn't be the only one saddled with these chores, mind you, but he can certainly take on his share of them. But more important than that, we want him to be doing so voluntarily - and how better to manage that than by introducing the key aspects of it when he's just a wee tot so he can learn them as play?

Some folks might cynically dismiss us as heartless monsters bent on squeezing every bit of utility out of our child, perhaps even defacing his childhood and robbing him of innocence. That is just so much hooey. Child labour is bad, but a labouring child is one who learns discipline and the joy of hard work.

Know the difference. Ahem.