I’m not an expert when it comes to parenting. I don’t have fancy letters at the end of my name. I just have two Noodges. One almost 14 and the other 12. What I do have is almost 14 years experience at this job, but the job changes every day. Just when I think I’ve got the Noodges figured out they go and change on me and I have to start learning all over again. But here’s something I know to be true: If you want children who are well behaved you have to set boundaries. Right from the beginning.
I read an article recently, that I was going to give you the link to, (but I thought ah, don’t waste your time,) that read in so many words we should reason with our young children. I think they were referring to the toddler to early elementary ages since the examples in the article use a child playing with trains. Here’s what I say to that: either the author was on crack or he doesn’t have any children. The example went something like this, Mom: “Sweetie pie, in five minutes you have to stop playing with your trains and clean up. Deal?” And they shake on it. Yeah, okay. Five minutes later: “Sweetie pie, five minutes are up. You need to clean up your amazing trains now.” Child: “Sure, Mommy.” And the trains get cleaned up. This isn’t a game show. There’s no deal. Monty Hall isn’t in your living room.
In an ideal world filled with lollipops and chocolate rivers, the above scenario will happen. In the real world? It’s a little different. My first suggestion would be to make sure the child can tell time before you go making deals about five minutes.
But let’s get to the point. Set boundaries. And those boundaries start in infancy. Yes. Infancy. Early on my Noodges had a bed time. And I stuck to it like an OCD dictator. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad.) But the truth? We stuck with that routine every night. They ate dinner, had a bath, a little play time, up to read a book and by 6:30 or 7 they went to sleep. Yes, my kids went to bed that early until Noodge 1 started kindergarten. I was a stay at home mother with two kids who didn’t nap. By 7 pm we were all ready for a little separation. My kids never argued with me about bed time. They still don’t. Bed time is bed time. And when they were younger it was non-negotiable. No deals. Monty Hall never lived in my house. Now, bed time can be discussed and reasoned over because they are older.
Obviously, the boundaries changed as they grew, but my Noodges know where the line is. They might walk right up to that line and put their big toe on it, but they don’t cross it. And if they do they’d better be ready for the consequences. My Noodges know there is a consequence for their actions. You know how I know? Both Noodges have said to me on different occasions, “If I did that (fill in the blank for that), or spoke that way to you, you’d kill me.” Now, don’t go running off and calling the authorities on me. I would never hurt my children, but they don’t know that. Hey, I’m Italian. We parent with a wooden spoon. It’s the first gift you get at the Italian Baby Shower.
All joking aside, parenting isn’t a democracy. You can’t reason with a three year-old. Kids don’t get a say about the rules because if they do then my friend, you just picked door number three and there’s nothing good behind it. You want to give them a warning, go ahead, have at it. But kids, especially little ones, live in the moment. They don’t understand five minutes from now. Heck, even a 14 year-old boy has a hard time with “you have ten minutes to get off that video game” when he’s in the middle of a battle that will save the world from total annihilation. Forget trying to get your three year-old Sweetie Pie to put his trains away in five minutes when he can’t even tell time.
Tell your kids to clean up now. Make them do it. Stick to your guns. No deals. Trust me and you’ll be the big winner of your own parenting game show.