Despite his love of transferring objects from one container to another, Theo is not really a fan of picking up his toys. I mean, it’s putting them into a basket or box or whatever, so you’d think it is right in his wheel house. I’m sure it’s an issue of not wanting change or not wanting to stop playing or just wanting to have all his things out on display at all times. In any case, he typically fights the pickup with his usual spirited arguments.
This is the other day.
“I don’t want to put the cookie cutters away. I want to leave them on the floor.”
“But if we leave them on the floor, we might step on them and hurt our feet.”
“I want to hurt my feet.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to have more room to play? That way we could run around the house without tripping over the cookie cutters.”
“I want to trip over them.”
And so on for as long as you want to have the conversation.
What I have discovered, though, is that sometimes you can get his body to act without his brain knowing about it. Instead of continuing the debate about whether or not to pick up the cookie cutters, I tried picking some up myself. Then I handed him a few. Without thinking about it, he dropped them in the bucket.
So, I gave him some more, and he did it again. Then I pointed out some on the ground that he could pick up, and we managed to get the job finished. This reminded me of Constructive Living, a mental health approach I recently heard about.
To be completely reductive, the basis of Constructive Living is to accept reality (our situation, our emotions, etc.), remain focused on purpose, and then do what needs doing. Rather than trying to get motivated to wash the dishes or do some exercise, you just wash the dishes or do some exercise. You don’t have to be happy about it, but you acknowledge your emotions, the fact that you don’t feel like doing the chore, and then you do it.
I’ve tinkered with this myself when it comes to getting things done around the house. It is actually pretty effective, and it gets easier with practice. It can apply to writing as well.
Sometimes, when I have a particular project I want to put off, one that I know I’ll have to work on eventually, I take the “just five minutes” approach. I tell myself that I’ll work on this specific writing task for five minutes, and if I’m sick of it after that, I’ll put it off a little longer. I can stand anything for five minutes, right?
Once I get to work on it, I start to get in a little rhythm, I see a little progress. I might not even realize when the five minutes is up (sometimes I set a timer) because I’m already getting into the right mindset for working on the project.
Or, I might really be sick of it after five or ten minutes. I might put it off again, but at least I have something to work with now. Even if I move on to something else, I’ll have those initial thoughts circulating and I won’t be returning to an empty page.
Other times I’ll try fifteen or thirty minutes. It really depends on the project and how much I want to avoid it. The point is that taking the action often leads to the motivation I was looking for in the first place. And even if it doesn’t, I’ve still been somewhat productive.
It works with Theo on occasion too. Sometimes, I don’t argue with him about whether or not he’s ready to go to bed. I just take him to his room. He says he’s not tired, but often falls asleep in less than five minutes.
Often, it isn’t really that he hates picking up toys. He just thinks he does. Or he is just being difficult for the sake of standing up for himself. Occasionally I can hand him some toys and gently lead him into to picking them up. Other times he throws them on the ground and decides to dump out every box, basket, bag, and backpack he can find.
So, I acknowledge how I feel about that and proceed with the clean up.