Toddler Talk Society

The nagging cycle

PESTER POWER It forces mum to buy baby whatever she asks for  

If there’s one thing you learn early on as the parent of a toddler, it’s to be very careful about what you promise to do for the kid. Casual comments such as, “We’ll go to the beach tomorrow, ok?” or “Sure, baby, we’ll get you blue sandals,” uttered rashly in a moment of magnanimity can come back to haunt you. Repeatedly. For days (and nights) on end.

Because, contrary to what you might have been led to believe, toddlers do not forget. And they pay close attention to everything you say – when they want to. They might appear to be lost in a world of their own, filled with noisy toys, noisier cartoons, and elaborate pretend games. They might appear to not hear you at all when you’re yelling yourself hoarse, calling them for lunch. They might appear to have no memory of things you asked them to do five seconds ago, such as putting away their toys or pulling on their underpants. However – and this is where you need to be careful – the mere mention of certain trigger words can change all that. Those include (but are not limited to): favourite locations (park, beach), favourite foods (cake, chocolate, icecream), favourite people (BFFs, grandparents, cousins) and, of course, anything new (books, clothes, toys).

Suddenly, you’ll find yourself caught in the glare of your toddler’s full attention, and the Nagging Cycle begins. You may think you’ve been nagged before in your life, but you’ve not truly been nagged until you’ve been nagged by a toddler. That’s because they have no nagging boundaries. They’ll repeat themselves 20 times in under a minute. They’ll nag you while you’re in the toilet or the shower. They’ll nag you first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Their ability to get fixated on that single object or goal would be remarkable if it wasn’t so exhausting. If a toddler’s determination to obtain a promised pair of blue sandals, for example, could be harnessed and directed towards the betterment of humanity, we’d probably solve the global food crisis in a matter of days.

If you think you can put them off with vague promises of ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow’, think again. An older child might accept that and lay off for the night. Toddlers, however, have a flawed and very fluid concept of time, and that becomes their most potent weapon in this particular battle:

You: I promise, we’ll go to the shop tomorrow and buy the blue sandals, ok?

Toddler: Ok amma!

(Two seconds later)

Toddler: Is it tomorrow now, amma?

You: No, baby. It’ll be tomorrow when the sun comes up.

Toddler: But I want to go now!

You: It’s dark outside now, see? All the shops are closed. We’ll go in the morning.

Toddler: Ok amma!

(Two seconds later)

Toddler: Is it morning now, amma?

Sometimes, the toddler will fake you out, making you believe that you’ve distracted her. Remember those good ol’ days, when they were ten months old and you could distract them with a shiny object or two? Well, you attempt the same gambit with your two- or three-year-old, and she plays along for a while. She coos over the bird or bus or whatever it was that you pointed to with such manic excitement from the car. There, you think smugly, situation handled, and with minimum fuss. You bypass the shoe shop and head to the restaurant for lunch.

Then just as you enter and wait to be seated, she looks at you expectantly and says, “Are we going to buy the blue sandals now, amma?”

Which brings us to the final stage of the Nagging Cycle: The Meltdown. This occurs when the misguided parent attempts to outsmart the toddler (see above) or has to, for whatever reason, deny the promised object or goal (play date with BFF is cancelled. Beach trip is rained out.) After days of such dogged nagging, no red-blooded toddler can take this lying down. Not without also screaming and sobbing, at the very least.

Therefore, dear parent, I say to you, be careful what you promise. Yours is not a forgiving public.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 6:11:46 AM |

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