(While cooking dinner)
HER: Are we putting mushrooms in?
ME: Yes we are. You don’t have to eat them if you don’t want to.
HER: I want to mummy.
ME: You want to eat the mushrooms?
HER: Yes, I like mushrooms.
ME: You like mushrooms? But you always say you don’t like mushrooms…
HER: No, mummy, you always say I don’t like mushrooms. But I do.
ME: Oh. Good.
The worse thing is, she’s right! I do (did) say lots of times that she doesn’t like mushrooms. And, often, I even said it completely unnecessarily, as in:
“Oh, yes, she is a very good eater. The only thing she doesn’t like at all is mushrooms.”
or “She will try anything, well anything except mushrooms anyway.”
or “You don’t have to eat the mushrooms if you don’t want to. I know you don’t like them.”
I’ve been doing exactly the thing that my mother always used to do which I found really, really annoying – assuming that a preference once expressed is set in stone, that just because Ariel really, really dislikes something this week means that she will continue to dislike it indefinitely. Which is especially stupid when the person you are talking about isn’t yet three and changes her preferences more often than she changes her vests.
And I’ve been doing exactly the other thing that I try so hard never ever to do – negative reinforcement.
I make a real effort not to say “you can’t do that” or “you don’t / won’t like that”. Instead I try to either keep quiet or, if it actually is necessary to say something, to make positive, specific, reasoned comments. Such as: “you’re a bit too little to climb up there right now – when you are bigger and stronger you can have a try” or “just have a little bit of that one to start with, it’s a very strong flavour so you don’t need much”.
The theory is that f I tell her often enough that she can’t do or doesn’t like something, then eventually she is likely to believe me!
And I fall down on mushrooms of all things. Mushrooms!
And Ariel makes me proud – because even though I have been accidentally programming her to dislike mushrooms, she has rejected my suggestions and decided to eat mushrooms anyway. Possibly to spite me.
What a strong, independent-minded, wonderful little girl she is. Hooray!