A basket of preschool deplorables: Dealing with your child’s dislikes

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year old daughter Viva, who will never find the fruit on the bottom, because she will never broach a container of Dannon.

Preschoolers have a lot of opinions. A LOT of opinions. Their little brains are busy, busy, busy categorizing the world around them. Like Hillary Clinton, my daughter has declared a “basket of deplorables,” but in this case we’re not talking about slobbering hordes of white supremacists. Instead, it’s foods, items, cartoons and animals she finds beneath contempt … and she won’t be walking her comments back anytime soon.

Let’s take a look at what my little Viva finds most execrable, then examine this phenomenon of little ones developing strong distastes, and determine whether we need to act to stop them from putting so many things down the hate chute.

Yogurt

Milk is pretty gross to begin with, right? It squirts out of mammals, which is fine for those mammals’ babies, but beyond that … seriously? My own body has decided to reject it outright. Makes sense.

Yogurt is a few steps grosser. That same milk is bacterially fermented, meaning prokaryotic microorganisms are converting carbohydrates in the milk into organic acid. Little animals are chomping on your food and pooping it into a different kind of food. Sometimes fermentation can yield something awesome–like beer–but it can also yield unspeakable horrors, like sauerkraut.  Ferment milk and you end up with yogurt, which we then usually fill with jelly to make it palatable. I like this stuff, but Viva won’t come near it. “Yogurt is gross, Dad. It’s slimy and tastes yucky and it’s very, very smelly.”

Yogurt … get in the basket.

Scorpions

Scorpions are some kind of cross between a spider, a snake, a ninja, a tank and a robot. Throw in some clown DNA and you’d have the ultimate weapon. They are clearly from hell and they are waiting under rocks to attack you. Viva will not be their victim.

“We can’t go see the Grand Canyon, Daddy.”

“Why not?”

“The Grand Canyon is in the desert, right?”

“Yes.”

“Scorpions are in the desert.”

“True.”

“I don’t even want to talk about scorpions.”

Scorpions go in the basket.

Tumble Leaf, Season 1, Episode 26b – “Captain’s Cap”

I don’t know what happens in this particular episode of Emmy-winning Amazon Original children’s show Tumble Leaf, because I am a bad dad and let my kid watch it unsupervised. The episodes of Tumble Leaf I did see were gentle, endearing stories about a blue stop-motion fox named Fig learning basic science lessons through play and discovery. I guess in episode 26b he gets flayed alive or something, because not only will Viva not watch the show anymore, she won’t tell me what happens and won’t even let us scroll past it. I need to watch this episode on my own to find out, but now I’m too scared. Tumble Leaf is Viva’s Candle Cove.

Sorry Fig, you’re in the basket now.

Kids in the 3-6 age range are working hard to figure out who they are and how they fit in the world. Tastes play heavily into that identity. Scratch that, make it the birth to 30 age range. Viva taking a stand against yogurt is her way of saying she is different than the people around her, and a precursor to her eventual desire to wear black lipstick and listen to The Cure to show the world it can’t hurt her because she is already an abyss of pain. (Or whatever it is Cure fans think.)

In the early childhood stages, learning styles and temperaments are becoming clear. If a child discovers something is difficult for them, they may decide they don’t like it. If something frightens them (I’m looking at you, “Tumble Leaf”) they may decide they don’t like it. Little ones are also developing language, which helps them define and articulate their tastes.

The trouble comes when the dislikes pile up, or run contrary to what is polite or convenient. What happens when the whole family wants to go to a Scorpions concert, but Viva won’t tolerate the sight of scorpions? No “Rock You Like a Hurricane” for the rest of us. So do we quash dislikes, or are we tolerant and accepting of our child’s developing personality?

I’m a big fan of the quashing. Trouble is, it doesn’t work. Go on, tell Viva she likes yogurt. I DARE you. You’ll end up with a faceful of Fage.

The best we can do is encourage our kids to have an open mind and tell them the good aspects of what they dislike (Sure, scorpions are murderous armored demon creatures, but without them, how would we get scorpion milk? And without scorpion milk, we can’t make scorpion yog … never mind.).

We also need to teach manners, so when our children are at loggerheads with other opinionated children, they can negotiate their way out without fisticuffs. Nobody needs to get suspended over a playground dust up about Tumble Leaf 1.26b.

Every child is going to fill their own basket with what they find deplorable. It’s part of growing up. Mostly just try to keep yourself out of that basket.

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