A while back, J and I hit on the idea of using eye contact to get and hold C’s attention. He learned the trick quite well. Whenever he really (really, really) wants something he makes sure to somehow make eye contact. Sometimes that means getting in front of us. Sometimes, he grabs a pant leg. Sometimes, he just shouts "look at me!"
This past vacation he took things to another level.
Hershey Park, like most amusement parks, is filled with rides, treats, and tantalizing activities. Getting through such a park with a 3 year old requires a little bit of discipline. Otherwise, every time you are in line for one thing, you end up running over to another thing, and then you never get to do anything but stand in line.
Some time ago, I discovered that a great way to keep a hold of C is to put him on my shoulders. I hold on to his ankles, leaving his hands free. When he gets restless, I bounce, spin, or jump – and he gets so distracted by having to hang on that he forgets whatever he’s distracted by.
At Hershey Park, however, every time he stopped being distracted, he was immediately tempted by something else. My never-fail shoulders approach was being put to the test.
At one point, he put one hand on each side of my head and leaned way down over my left shoulder, staring at my face. Naturally, I looked his way.
Eye contact was made.
"Ice cream. Ice cream, okay? Ice Cream."
I tried to look away, but he was holding my head to keep his balance and leaning way too far forward. I had his ankles, but if he lost his grip on my head, he was going to fall forward over my shoulder and end up dangling from his ankles. Not only would this be painful for him, but there were a lot of people around, and they tend to react badly to children falling off shoulders.
I tried reasoning with him, but he knew he had me.
"Ice cream, okay? How about ice cream? Think about it. Ice cream."
It’s worth pointing out that it’s very difficult to walk (or even stand straight up) with 30+ pounds leaning over your left shoulder and pulling your head in that direction. During this discussion I was moving in a fairly tight little circle – trying to keep my balance.
C just maintained that eye contact, talking in a very nice tone of voice. "Ice cream? Yes. How about some ice cream? I’d like some ice cream."
It was very hot outside. And it’s amazing how much hotter it gets when you’re walking in circles with a toddler on your shoulders. It gets even hotter when you have a small crowd of people watching you negotiate terms with your toddler – and chuckling.
Ice cream really wasn’t such a bad idea.
Actually, I’d been about to suggest it myself.