The Nugget Chronicles: Emotional Intelligence

One of the things we learned relatively quickly with regards to Nugget is that, when it comes to discipline, the entire concept of raising our voices in an effort to maybe shock her to stop doing whatever bad behavior she was engaged in was a total non-starter. Complete and total. To be fair, this is partly our own fault, because when we play with her, our voices raise in excitement and shouting is a common part of our family fun. Because of that, raised voices are generally met with Nugget laughing, and do whatever action even more, because, clearly, we’re having a good ol’ time being kicked repeatedly by her.

To be clear, when I say raising our voices, that’s exactly what I mean. Not yelling at her. Not berating her. And certainly not engaging in a screaming match to try to get our point across. It is simply raising the volume of our voice in a quick burst to attempt to change behavior. And, because it’s ineffective, it isn’t something that we’ve used often (it’s now pretty much left ONLY for situations where she’s actually in danger, because apparently there’s something about the sharpness of our words that makes her pause long enough for us to get her to safety).

Anyway, because raising our voices didn’t lead to any changed behavior, we had to figure out something else that might. We landed, by somewhat of accident, a pretty strong alternative. If we told her that she was making us sad, or that she was hurting our feelings, Nugget would generally stop what she was doing. Apparently, the concept of causing Mama or I emotional discomfort was enough that she’d immediately decide to be super sweet and snuggly, and cling to us in an attempt to make us feel better about the situation. If this tactic didn’t work, we would shift to the concept of “we can’t hang out with you”. As much as she loves people, this almost always brought the expected result.

That is, until earlier this week. And yes, this was (so far) a one-off incident. Also, it was after an abnormal week, where she didn’t get as much time with other kids as she had been getting, or at least didn’t get the structured time. So, after getting another influx of “other kid energy”, I made attempts to get Nugget down for a much-needed nap. This was met with expected resistance, but I persevered, because she was clearly tired. That is, up until the point where she decided she wasn’t tired anymore, and that kicking me and smacking the bed to test her pain sensitivity was a good idea.

Yes, testing her pain sensitivity. She wasn’t actually trying to hurt herself. It was almost scientific, as though she was experimenting to learn where her particular threshold was. It’s probably for the best that she isn’t a ninja, because otherwise we’d need a new bed.

Anyway, in an attempt to get her to stop doing this, and lay down for a nap, I asked her if she knew she was making Daddy sad. She looked at me, with a bit of a sparkle in her eyes. I then asked if she WANTED to make Daddy sad.

She immediately responded with “Yeah”. And this is a kiddo that only says “Yeah” when she actually wants to confirm in the affirmative.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think she really was intending on making me sad. I think it was more to the point that she was willing to continue engaging in what she wanted to do, and didn’t really care what I happened to think about it. So this lead to me taking the next step, and saying that I would have to leave the room where she was, and she’d be alone.

“I hang out with Daddy” came the next words.

So she wanted to spend time with me, but didn’t necessarily stop what she was doing. So I took the next logical step, and cancelled nap time for the day (not a terrible turn of events, really) and distracted her with her toys and books, so that she would stop kicking at things.

Turns out that maybe she just wasn’t sleepy. Or, more likely, had no desire to sleep, tiredness be damned, because the five minutes of car sleep was clearly the equivalent of all the sleep that she’d missed out on.

What’s the take-away from this whole story? My two-year-old daughter has enough empathy to generally not want to see other people upset. But she has enough emotional intelligence to decide when she cares enough to stop doing something that’s fun to her, and when she doesn’t.

Either that, or my daughter doesn’t actually care about my feelings. I’m really going to hope that isn’t the case.

I’m not ready to raise a political consultant.

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