December 12, 2005

The Master Manipulator

Matthew has inherited my love of video games. I've previously posted about his uncanny ability with them, and he's always fascinated to watch me play Katamari Damacy ("Ball Game"). A month back, Melissa bought him his first video game, "Ultimate Spider Man" for the PS2.

For the past year, whenever we go to Best Buy, this game was in the demo players, and Matthew was simply fascinated by it. "'PiderMan!! Piderman!" He'd shout, pointing to the screen. While browsing the games in that row, I let him try it. I've never seen him more excited with anything. On a continuous basis. I know that they say Video games are making kids fat these days, but Matthew is still too young to know that you don't ACTUALLY NEED TO JUMP to make your character jump, so he's effectively getting "Kiddie Cardio" when he plays it.

And it's become the first real bargaining chip that we have with him. We've tried taking away toys previously, but he's never been attached to any one toy enough for it to matter to him. But when I took away the game after a few tantrums, he really feels the loss. He got it back, and he was back into it. He's playing Spider-Man. One of the classic superheroes. He can climb walls and swing through the skyscrapers in New York City. But all Matthew wants to do is have him jump into the water, over and over again. "Hahahaha! SPLASH!!!!" Poor guy, taking dips in THAT river all day for Matthew's enjoyment. No wonder he's mutated.

Two nights ago, we had to take the game away again for bad behavior. Last night, he was really upset he couldn't play. "No, remember last night, when you didn't listen to mommy and daddy? Because you didn't listen to us, you can't play the game for a few days." Complaints ensued, but he eventually calmed down. A few hours later, Matthew was in the living room with us after dinner, and he was kissing Melissa. He's become really affectionate lately. He's always had this little Oedipus thing, kissing Mel quite a lot, but it's spread to others lately, including our friend, Shawn. So while cute, this was far from new, and it was a nice change of pace from the complaints.

Then, after a good minute of kisses and hugs on Melissa, Matthew whispers in her ear: "Play 'Piderman Game?"

I've read books on child-rearing that say that kids are master manipulators by the time they're a year old. Now, I disagree: They haven't truly MASTERED it until 3 1/2. Most kids I know haven't learned to use affection to get what they want until age seven.

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