Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bub Logic

At Bub's IEP meeting last week, his kindergarten teacher remarked that he's a boy who speaks his mind. "He's very logical," she observed.

Naturally, I was delighted by this statement of the obvious. I adore logical men, and since that meeting I've been newly aware of the logic of Bub's thought processes. He employs deductive rather than inductive reasoning: instead of observing particulars and then establishing general principles based on his observations, he makes categorical statements and then applies them to particular situations. There is a certain freedom in this approach: Bub's reasoning usually works to his advantage since he's the one making up the rules. But there's also a startling verisimilitude in many of his broad, absolute statements.

"Moms don't have privacy," he observed yesterday when my ability to get him a glass of milk was impeded by the fact that I was on the potty. "No privacy for moms!"

I've been listening more carefully to his words as he's recovered from the uncanny silence produced by the flu bug that swept through our house last week. Both children succumbed within a few hours of each other, and for two days the only sound in the house was the murmur of countless TV cartoons. Awake or asleep, feverish or not, the children simply sat limply on the couch. Only when they began to recover did I realize how much their presence in the house is normally signalled by sound: Pie began to sing tuneless melodies under her breath, and Bub resumed his habitual commentary.

"I'm not sick!" he insisted, even though the milk he drank had made a prompt and unwelcome reappearance. "Sometimes I barf when I'm sick, but sometimes I'm not sick, and I still barf!" His conclusion was false, but, as hubby observed, his argument displays a remarkable ability to resist syllogistic reasoning: sickness leads to barfing, but barfing may or may not indicate sickness. A causes B, but the presence of B may or may not indicate A. (In reality, of course, the reverse is true: You can be sick with or without barfing, but if you barf, you're definitely sick.)

I have vivid memories of arguing with my parents when I was growing up - usually about whether or not my best friend should be allowed to sleep over. My parents made the cardinal error of reversing their position in response to my nagging compelling arguments, so I was both inventive and tenacious in my attempts to argue my way out of whatever unpleasant demands they happened to place upon me. I was aware at the time that giving in to a child's arguments was not widely considered to be an effective parenting tactic, a position that infuriated me. How was I supposed to learn how to develop airtight, convincing arguments if not by practising on my parents?

Those memories have shaped my own parenting: once I commit myself to a position I don't back down, knowing just how determined a child who scents weakness can become. But I'm delighted to see in Bub that fledgling instinct that the best way to get one's way is not through tantrums or deviousness but rather through head-on argument.

16 comments:

Veronica Mitchell said...

When I was a kid, I was always baffled by the way my oldest sister fought with my parents. There was a way to get what we wanted, and she just never tried it: build a logical argument based on scripture. If I could quote a Bible verse to show my mom that what I wanted was actually GOOD for me, then BLAMO! Object gained.

Omaha Mama said...

Sometimes the way kids try to wiggle around the obvious makes me laugh. And sometimes cry.

Anonymous said...

Is it logic or just a darn good memory that made Geister remind me today, as we took a scenic, loopy way home, that the last time we took this route (more than 6 months prior) it made him barf? And that hadn't I promised him at the time I would NEVER take him that way again?
Anyway, my attempt at linking barfing boys and logic.

Nicole said...

No privacy for moms - was a truer statement ever spoken?

Lady M said...

We also had a recent round of barfing and discussions of whether or not the little dude was sick.

I can split hairs with the best of them . . . which no doubt thrilled my mother to no end.

Kyla said...

Well, KayTar barfs quite often when not sick, does that make her the exception that proves the rule?

Patois said...

My youngest would persuade you rather quickly that barfing does not always indicate illness. He of the stress puking can barf on demand. Quite a talent, really.

Bea said...

Kyla, Patois - Okay, you guys are the exceptions that prove that my rule sucks - or at least, that it works only with my own children.

Beck said...

I could barf ANY TIME I WANTED TO as a kid. Can still, although I choose not to since barfing is HORRIBLE.

My parents were unpredictable. Sometimes you can whine your way into getting what you wanted, other times you COULD NOT. It was an unsteady sort of childhood.

Bon said...

my mother was sadly uninterested in logic, as the appeal to authority (and only her particular pet forms of authority, generally manifesting as parochial Protestant establishment tastes slightly out of date and out of our class) was her sole argument tactic and her perception of it far too skewed for me to be able to turn it around on her.

great source of frustration for me, like you.

yay Bub.

kittenpie said...

My sister was the same, and she got her way ALL THE TIME. Unbelievable.

But I'd also point out the barf does not really equal sick if you're hung over. But then, it's quite right for Bub not to know about that! Give him 10 yeears or so...

urbandaddy said...

Those observations were quite funny. I love it. I know when our kids put 2 and 2 together and get 5, and try to justify it, I can't help but stare in wonder and laugh...

JCK said...

Not only very logical, but impressive is Bub to deduce that Mommy's don't have privacy. So true!

Mimi said...

Moms don't have privacy. Wow. He's a keen observer of modern life, that kid!

bernthis said...

I was the same way as you and oh it is soooo tempting to just say, screw it, but I can't, I won't.

Maybe your son will be a lawyer.

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