A slightly above-average achiever's guide to parenting
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"We Only Throw Soft Things" and Other Rules in Our House
July 12, 2017
One of my dear friends works in early childhood education and when Chewie was still a baby, she gave me some fantastic advice that to her (and possibly to all of you) was a “duh, obviously” sort of thing, but to me blew my mind. She said that when giving advice to small children, you need to tell them what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do. This is why in our daycare there is a constant refrain of “Use your walking feet!” instead of “no running!”
My friend explained that if a child hears “no running” the only part their brain will grab is the “running” part, and that’s what they’re going to do. Until they have better recall (and frankly, life experience), you’ll need to supply the thing that they’re supposed to do instead of hitting their brother with a hockey stick…for a hypothetical example.
I’ve used this advice ALL the time with my boys. Honestly one time Chewie was on the playground as an itty bitty toddler and kept putting rocks in his mouth and I heard myself saying “we put rocks into the garbage” instead of “don’t eat that rock!” And I’ll be damned if he didn’t spend the next 10 minutes picking up all of the pebbles on the playground and putting them in the garbage.
As my boys have gotten older and more daring, however, my instructions have become a little more elaborate. Which has lead me to create a “List of rules for spirited children”. I should take an aside here and point out that I don’t want to be gender normative and say “these are my rules for raising a boy” because I have seen boys who will quietly sit and color and girls who bolt from the playground faster than either of my boys when they see an open gate. But I will say this list is “for spirited children”. But I mean spirited. I have friends who are like “oh yeah, my kids are so rambunctious too” and then I see them at the playground and they’ll be running around the playground like a normal human child while Chewie is literally climbing on the outside of the playground structure like a flipping wildebeest. And while it’s not a competition (okay, I’d be lying if it wasn’t clearly obvious that I take pride in this and absolutely view it as a competition), your kid is not rambunctious. Your kid is normal.
If, on the other hand, you are in the distinguished club where you’ve received two phone calls in one day from daycare about two completely separate and unrelated injuries your child has sustained through their own daredevilness, then this list for you. So, without further ado, my “List of Rules for Spirited Children”.
“We only throw soft things”- See? This is written in the ‘here’s what you should be doing’ phraseology. I said this in the early stages to Chewie so he wouldn’t break things in our house. If he tried to throw something hard, I’d replace it with a stuffed animal or soft ball. But I neglected to account for the fact that stuffed animals have eyes that can seriously sting and he can now whip a ball with a lot of speed. So it necessitated rule number 2:
“You can only throw at someone if they’re ready to catch”- Although again, it doesn’t matter if you’re ready for a speeding bunny rabbit to get chucked at your head, Bunbun can still leave a mark.
“I will only chase you if your room is clean”- I have stepped on too many G-Damn lego blocks to not make this a rule. Bonus? Their room gets cleaned.
“If you are going to climb on the windowsill, wait until Mommy can backstop you”- True story, my toddler knows what “back stopping” is and requests regularly that I come over and do it for him while he climbs on our window sill. I’ve gotten too tired to continue to hold him and the bottom of our glass is frosted so he can only see out the top. It’s really a problem of my own making.
“If it’s not fun for everyone, it’s not a game”- This one has been a new development on account of the baby, who has gotten squished by our couch cushions and literally sat on by his brother so many times, we need regular check ins to make sure everyone is ‘having fun’. Payback is gonnna be a bitch though because his “little” brother weighs only about 10 pounds less than him despite the 2.5 year age gap. Soon BFF will have his revenge.
“You need to look for mommy every time you change rooms/turn a corner”- Without this, I am convinced my toddler would run for approximately a mile before it even entered his head that I might not be following. I suppose I will take this as a compliment that he has a strong attachment to me and feels confident enough to run away.
“If you ever get lost, look for another Mommy”. Because of the aforementioned #6 on the list, I’ve been pretty positive that it’s a foregone conclusion Chewie will at some point get lost in a public place. Therefore, in addition to teaching him his full name (which sounds like he’s saying Chewie Person” instead of "Pearlson" cause he can’t say his l’s, which I'm sure will be super helpful for the Police), and his address, I’ve also taught him that if he ever gets lost, he should look for a police officer, or—since those are rare—to look for another Mommy. Because chances are in terms of strangers he could ask for help, another Mom who’s got kids with her is gonna be the safest stranger to talk to. Although, unless she too has a truly spirited child, I’ll probably get a Sanctimommy glare for her as she returns him to me.