Thursday, June 23, 2011

One of the Tumbling Thoughts

Order In the House

I am revisiting and taking a fresh look at women's issues. Today I'm thinking especially of a simple idea or two that helps establish more order in homes with young children underfoot. Let's be real -- sometimes they are underfoot!

At the same time, I’ve got boundaries. I’m a no nonsense kind of mother. I’ve got too many kids to let everyone have their whim and fancy. If I let them have their way, we’d have an entire farm full of animals and Coco Puffs for breakfast this morning.

Amy Scott for Amy's Humble Musings

This woman was writing about a simple idea, but one we often forfeit or overlook: we don't have to let them set the pace. Their whim and fancy does not need to be indulged.

"But what if I say no and stifle their creative impulse?" "Maybe I'll damage their psyche." "What if they really need to express their individuality this way?"

Voices of Parents Magazine, your neighbor, the professor in your child psychology class all echo in your brain. It's frightening and intimidating. Because we have strayed from a basic understanding of God's plan to father us through training, discipline, and denial of our every whim, we no longer embrace these things with confidence. We do not experience these principles as a culture; somewhere along the way they were tossed aside and now we are afloat on a sea with no mooring. Every few years a new wave of questions and concerns emerge, challenging the mode of parenting that just five years earlier was the new rage.

Parents are tied in knots, the kiddos run the show more and more, much to their detriment. Remembering that we are raising children who will one day be adults is important. Then, remembering that adults are better off if they have learned to control their impulses and deny themselves of being ruled by whim and fancy, which empowers them to live responsibly instead of whimsically, we might have a clue as to how to train our children.

Back to just a couple simple ideas.
1) Do NOT give your child a snack every time he says, "Mama, I'm hungry." Do not give them juice every time they say they are thirsty. Always have water available, but juice and food can be limited to table time and meal time.

First of all, it makes life easier for you. There are not constant interruptions requiring you run to the kitchen, to clean up crumbs, etc. Your work in the home is important and needs attention, usually more than their fleeting desire to have a fruit roll up or Goldfish snack. Secondly, they will be healthier in the long run by learning to control their appetites, not relying on food for entertainment.

Obviously, this assumes that you will feed them nutritional meals at appropriate times. Knowing that lunch or snack time is planned, you can then respond confidently (when Johnny asks for munchies at 9:00am), "We had a nice breakfast just an hour or two ago, and Mom has a plan for the next meal/snack time. You can wait until then."

Keeping a water bottle available at all times is a simple way to ensure that they are getting the necessary fluids. If they refuse to drink water, they are probably not altogether in need of liquid refreshment. Of course there are exceptions to this, but not typically. It is a matter of training them to like clear, fresh water -- something health consultants everywhere agree is most important to our well being.

2) Do NOT allow your children to get out a toy without your permission. Do NOT allow your children to begin a new activity without cleaning up the previous activity.

Simply put, children will go from toy to toy, activity to activity with no regard to the cycle of the home or the mess being created.

You know whether there is enough time before lunch to get out Playmobil and build an entire village. They don't. Therefore they should ask, you should consider the general welfare of the home, and make an educated decision. Do NOT be afraid to say, "No, this is not a good time for Playmobil. Why don't you sit on the couch and read for the next 15 minutes until lunch is ready." Whining and crying may ensue, especially if your child is not accustomed to putting off his desires to embrace yours (and yours are the ones in tune with the general welfare of the entire home) but persevere. He will learn. As an emerging adult, the lesson learned will be invaluable.

Learning to put things away PROPERLY before moving on to new activities is also invaluable for the home, for your well being, and for the child. That lesson will serve him well for the rest of his days. So, although it may be difficult to implement initially, it is essential.

One final word: be confident in exerting your authority.

You are allowed to wake up, check your plans for the day, and decide that for the morning you want them to play with Playmobil. Not coloring, not dress-up, not outdoor play, but Playmobil. You can require that of them. Such parameters allow them to create, play together, and make a memory while it confines them in a way that causes them to stretch their attention span, their creative resources, and their social skills. When the morning is over, they can pick up the Playmobil -- or you can allow them to leave it out, but ONLY if they continue play after lunch. If they want to move on to a new activity after the allotted time, they must put it ALL away. Then they need to ask permission regarding the next activity.

Another day you may decide that they need to play outdoors for the next 1 1/2 hours while you deep clean a room. You can do that. You are free to send them out to play. They have water available, they know outdoor play rules, you will check them routinely, but you will insist that they engage in outdoor play. You are free to do this. It is not harmful. It is good. It is directed play. It will benefit them. And when they are done, they need to pick up the yard, put away the scooter, bring the toys to the shelves, etc.

YOU are the CEO of the home. YOU decide what is best for the general order and productivity and health of your home. They cannot. They do NOT have the experience, knowledge, or maturity to consider their own real needs let alone the needs of others. They need you to set the pace, to order their steps, and to care for them in this very practical way.