Photo/Stories from the field: Who drew that castle?



One of the things we’ve been interested in the connectors are negotiations: practices, strategies and techniques employed by children to negotiate their wants, their time, play, food, obligations etc. The following instance is a vivid example of strategic thinking around avoiding being punished – and yet getting credit for one’s artwork!

Who drew that castle, on the side of the bed? I wondered, and asked Manos my six year old boy interlocutor. He told me that he did, and I said that it was nice. He told me he used an ink pen, because markers wouldn’t stay on the lustrous surface of the bed. While we were talking, he suddenly said that he could now tell to his father, that it was him that drew it. He run out of the room, leaving the door open, and I heard him telling to his father that it was him who drew that. His father came walking with him back to the room, remarking that it was not his son’s friend Maria who drew that. No, it was him. His father didn’t protest much – he smiled in fact, and went out of the room.

I asked Manos what that was – why did he say to his father that Maria drew that, and why now he admitted that he did it? He told me, that before a couple of weeks, when he did it, his father would have been very angry, had he told him that he did it. So he just said that a friend who was visiting did it, and let some time pass. His father got used to the drawing, and Manos estimated that he wouldn’t be angry by now, he explained, and he wouldn’t really scold him now. He didn’t want to ‘keep the lie’ forever, he told me, he just wanted to give his father some time to get used to it. I smiled with his plan, which I found pretty strategic and very successful. Manos is a very strategic person I think, and often he talked to me about how he would weigh possible ‘inappropriate’ actions (i.e. secretly eat the rest of the cake) against possible punishments (i.e. stay in his room for an hour), to decide whether it’s worth doing it. In fact, he has a back-up strategy for punishments too: just under the castle drawing, under his bed, he keeps a big box with toy soldiers and gormiti monsters – he calls those toys the ‘punishment toys’. He plays with those only when he has to stay in his room as a way of being punished, and he ‘strictly’ refrains from playing with those at any other time, in order not to get bored of those, and to always have something interesting to do while being punished.

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