Priming the Pump

Her: Daddy, have I already had juice today?
Me: No Elena, you haven’t had any juice.
Her: Daddy, can I have some juice with dinner?

Jenny brought to my attention a habit that Elena has started to develop. When she wants something, she might ask a preliminary question–to which she already knows the answer–as a way of preparing us for the main request. As we tried to figure out this interesting communication pattern, we realized that we employ a similar strategy when leading her through a thought process towards a logical conclusion, for example

Me: Elena, is that food?
Her: No.
Me: If it isn’t food, then it doesn’t go in your mouth. Please take it out.

The fascinating thing is that she isn’t just parroting back to us the things we say to her; she’s co-opted the whole pattern and adopted it for her own purposes. She envisions a desired outcome, and breaks down the steps of her reasoning so as to lead us along a pathway of thoughts maximizing the likelihood that we will agree with her conclusion and comply with her request.

In response to her problems with staying in her room and falling asleep at bedtime we came up with an incentive program. Any night that she stays in bed, she gets to choose who tucks her in the following evening. If she gets up, she loses that choice. I haven’t kept close track, but it seems that she’s more likely to begin the nightly tucking-in discussion with the question Did I stay in my bed last night? when she knows the answer is yes, and leads off with I want Mommy to tuck me in tonight! when she knows that she already lost the right to choose.

Elena is at a stage where she wants to understand the world around her. She asks about where everything comes from: Where did my scooter come from? quickly followed by Did Heavenly Father make it? Most of the time, the answer to that second question is no. When I wonder about where she, my fast-growing daughter, came from, with new ideas in her head every, my faith is affirmed as I answer about her that same question with a yes.

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