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LIZ DREIER | Walk this way

Research shows that we humans tend to repeat behavior when offered positive reinforcements. It didn’t take the kid long to train his parents to push him around the backyard in his car while he propped his feet up and laughed adorably.
Liz Dreier Column 08312020
Liz Dreier

We were beginning to wonder if our grandson would ever walk when, at 16 months, he thought he’d try it. We were elated until we found out that even though he could walk, he chose not to walk.  

And why should he?  With two sets of grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles willing to carry him, he figured, "Why do the hard work?" 

Besides, he could reach the tasty morsels in the dog dish faster by crawling.

After he started walking, which is really just glorified wobbling in his case, his mom and dad bought him one of those big, plastic cars that you run with your feet. They found one that looks like a fire engine and plopped him down in it, apparently thinking their boy would figure out how to make the thing go. 

He promptly turned himself around so that his back was to the steering wheel and tucked his feet up under him. Being young, inexperienced and easily manipulated by a cute face, his parents began pushing him around the backyard. Wonder Boy thought that was funny and laughed the whole time.

Research shows that we humans tend to repeat behavior when offered positive reinforcements. It didn’t take the kid long to train his parents to push him around the backyard in his car while he propped his feet up and laughed adorably.

Watching the video they sent made us homesick for our grandson, so we invited ourselves down for a visit.

“We’d love to watch him in his little car,” I said, but we had an ulterior motive: Before that visit was over, Grandpa and Mimi would have their darling moving that car on his own like a champ.

The day of the visit, the weather was beautiful, perfect for playing outside. Our daughter wheeled out the little “fire engine”, and we watched as she loaded Wonder Boy into the car. He sat there, bouncing as if to say, “Hey, let’s get this thing going.” 

“Come on, push with your feet!” his mom coached him. He giggled.

“You know, you can make it go on your own,” she told him, straightening out his feet and pointing him in the right direction. He beeped the toy horn and smiled up at her. 

Like a good lab rat, she pushed him around the yard — backward — much to his delight.

“Let me give it a try,” my husband volunteered. 

Now, here was a man who would not stand for any childish rebellion. This no-nonsense grandpa would make his grandson toe the line. As a father to three daughters, he had been a strict disciplinarian. 

Slacking would not be tolerated.

This would be a true battle of wills.

“Do you want to go for a ride?” he asked in his best grandpa voice, and proceeded to push his grandson around the yard backward, lest the poor boy drag a tender foot on the mean, old ground.  

I have videos to prove it.