No, Please

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When Everett started talking we could almost always figure out what he was saying from context clues, such as “nk!” for milk or “shtaah” for star.  We also learned that he does not often say things randomly – if he says “cow” or “moo” then there is some kind of cow-likeness nearby, even if it takes us a couple minutes of searching to locate.  But his vocabulary is now a flood that we simply cannot keep up with.  It is clear when he is parroting us, and sometimes it is clear that he is re-expressing what he senses, like saying “trouble” when he hears the word “problem”, or saying “no pork chop” after overhearing a conversation between the butcher and a woman at the grocery store.  However, he has recently started expressing ideas and observations that don’t seem to have any immediate relevance or urgency, and because we can’t always understand his pronunciation we have a list of words that have clear meaning to him but which are awaiting identification by us.  One word that we have no trouble understanding is No, which seems to be a significant word for toddlers.  It is one of the easiest to say and most powerful words in their vocabulary, so it’s not a surprise that many of them learn it quickly.  I anticipated that Everett would use this word in the defiant sense that I have seen from other toddlers, i.e. saying “No!” when told to do or not do something.  We haven’t observed this yet, but we have observed several other uses, such as:
1. No, I don’t want this anymore, take it away.
2. I don’t like what you are doing, please stop immediately.
3. I’m doing something I know I’m not supposed to do, so I will say “No, no, no” while I look right at you and do it anyway.

Please is another powerful word.  For some time we have been encouraging Everett to ask for what he wants rather than crying or whining, and we have also started to work on good manners in the form of please and thank you.  He has learned quickly, but now we are sometimes faced with the unfortunate situation that he has done what we asked but he is not going to get what he wants, no matter how irresistible he is.  He seems to sense this, and when he does he replaces “please” with “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!”, which among other things tests our resolve as parents.

We are very curious how much Everett remembers about past events.  To do so we have become detectives, mainly to figure out which features of the world are salient to him.  One fun way to do this is to ask him open-ended questions such as new words he learned today or the names of animals at the zoo.  Of course, this requires his participation on his part, and we recently learned that the average boy toddler responds after you call his name five times while girls respond after three.  We have started to experience this and we were initially tempted to believe that he is not listening to us when he does not respond, but instead we have learned that he is just not acknowledging.  This is how we found out that “pizza” has high salience but “put your coat on” does not.

We are thankful that Everett can verbally express ideas and desires, and are now trying to figure out what to do with all this information.

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