I have rules for my child. I don't have a lot of them, but I definitely have rules. I think that you should have rules, too. I think my approach to raising my child in an environment that has uneven borders, yet an understood expectation allows her to be creative and productive.
So what are the rules? I have a set of guidelines, some hard fast rules, and some rules that could be negotiated based on the circumstances. Why allow negotiations? Well, fostering a child's belief in the self is invaluable. Who am I to say that what she is thinking about a particular situation is invalid? I welcome her argument. Communication is beautiful, and all too often parents forget that communication is more than barking orders.
Okay, the rules:
- My daughter is allowed to make mistakes. I will not hover over her and prevent her from seeing the consequences (or almost always rewards) of failing the first time. Children need to fail. Children who fail and are not yelled at for making mistakes are more likely to try again. They do not fear trying. Research shows that American parents are failing their children by protecting them natural consequences. If we do not allow our children to try and fail, then they are less likely to try things for the first time. These children are not prepared for adult life where failure happens everyday, and things don't always work the first time around. So, I let my child fail because she needs to learn that not everything is easy.
- She is allowed to get messy. And if her shirt gets ruined, well, that is okay because it adds character. We're not into "art smocks" but that doesn't mean she can't have one, if she were to ask. She knows what they are. And this goes beyond the Ikea smock every kid wears now...this is about not fearing the mess. I've witnessed daycare providers and parents freak out over small messes...telling children not to get their hands in the paint...or god forbid a child have a smudge of ink on her face...all because the adult doesn't want to "deal with it." Do you know what all of these do for your children? It teaches them to clean up. You don't have to clean it up. Give the kid a wash cloth and water and let them do it.
- When the mess occurs, be calm. Use your words. Work with the child to fix the mess. Smile and keep living.
- Remember, you are your child's most prominent teacher and example of how to navigate life. Teach the child to handle things responsibly...don't teach her to be anxious and a nag.
- She must complete her schoolwork before playing. However, this is a negotiable rule under very specific circumstances: we navigate schoolwork schedule that allows her to work and then play in rotation. Some days she just has more energy than others.
Of course, I do expect my child to be respectful. She is to have manners. She is to have courtesy and respect for others. Does this mean she must be a pushover when another little kid doesn't have manners? No. She is expected to say something to that child and figure it out.
- My daughter always says "excuse me" after burping, tooting, or having to move around somebody.
- My daughter is expected to say, "Please, Thank You, You're Welcome, and Bless You" in the event that it is required. I do not have to remind her because she knows no other way.
- If she is playing with more than one person, she is expected to ask if a left out child wants to play. If not, then she can go on her way.
- She is expected to put her dishes in the sink and wipe the table if she left scraps.
What She Doesn't Have to Do
- She doesn't have to give strangers, acquaintances or family hugs/kisses when prompted. She must say I don't want to do that, thank you. At the very least, she is to say hello (this doesn't apply to strangers. She is allowed to make a judgement call on that.).
- She is not required to entertain adults as if she were a pet.
- When at the park on her own, she doesn't have to play with others, but she must tell them that she is playing on her own right now.
- When at a restaurant, she doesn't have to accompany me to the bathroom. She can stay at the table. She's understands that she may not leave the table.