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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reciprocal exchange, scripted yet unscripted

For the longest time imaginable, we have been trying to extract reciprocal conversations with our boys. We started off small, but gradually as they grew and learned, more has been forthcoming. I can still remember the ‘game’ that we invented. Coloured paper coins had different letters on them:-
Q for question
S for statement
C for comment
P for praise
We gave them each half a dozen. They had to use them all up before they were permitted to escape. Escape was the reinforcing positive reward. Oh how stilted it all was. Oh how frustrating. Oh how many times I had to cut out more coins as they were crushed, screwed up and hurled.

They grasped the basics. They knew what was expected but it was hard. It was difficult. It was unrewarding for them, just one more chore to add to the never ending list. It’s only redeeming feature was that it was finite, the end was always in sight, completion and gone.

It’s been a long time a’coming but every so often I get the chance to sit back, feet up and listen to little unprompted chats.

“So whya cats better than dogs then?” she asks him at the dinner table as he hunkers in close proximity to his untouched meal.
“Coz dey are man’s best friend.”
“No, that’s dogs yah dipstick.”
“Oh man yah kill me.”
“What else?”
“Cats are meow.”
“Dogs bark louder.”
“Oh man yah kill me.”
“What else?”
“Cats run fast.”
“Dogs run faster.”
“Oh man yah kill me.”
On and on they go, again and again and again as the spaghetti congeals on the plate. How else could it possibly be? It’s not as if you should eat and talk at the same time, how rude would that be?

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