This morning, Arlo was eating a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast. When I wasn’t looking, he started picking out the Cheerios from his bowl and piling them on top of each other on the table. By the time I had noticed he create a small mountain of Cheerios in front of him.
By default, I would say “No Arlo, don’t do that. That (Cheerios) is for eating and not for playing” as I pointed out what he did wrong. Arlo would huff up and yell, “I made a pile!”.
I replied, “Arlo, no you have to eat your Cheerios….Cheerios are for eating.”
“No, I made a pile!”, Arlo yelled back.
“Arlo, NO! Put the Cheerios back in the bowl!”, I demanded.
There was a brief stare down at the kitchen table.
As I began to assert my fatherhood-authority stance, I stopped and took a moment to think about what he was telling me. Arlo made a pile out of Cheerios, and for him, as a 2-and-a-half year old, that was a significant milestone. And so, I smiled, and acknowledged with, “Wow, you made a pile!”.
“Yeah!” Arlo replied, smiled, and admired his work. “I made a pile.”
“That’s a really nice pile Arlo, good job”, I said.
“Yeah,” Arlo said proudly.
I then started to explain, “That’s a nice pile of Cheerios that you made, but you know after that you have to put them back in the bowl and eat them with your milk.”
“Yeah!”, Arlo replied and then started putting back his Cheerios back in his bowl. When he was done, he started eating them again with his spoon.
During that moment of resolution, I saw in his eyes that he did understand what I was saying and what he was doing wrong, but I realized I had to acknowledge first what he was trying to tell me. After that, he was content and then started to do what I had asked him to do.
In the end, there was really only spilled milk on the table to clean up, but it was worth it. We “both” communicated and understood each other and that led to a great morning together after that.