Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Things I Don't Tell My Kids

No matter our different our parenting techniques may be, most kids hear pretty similar things (or we heard the same things from our parents.)

Go to sleep.  Eat your vegetables.  Clean your room.  Share. Listen.  Follow the rules. Look both ways.  Don't run with scissors. Dogs aren't for riding.

Most of these axioms are familiar because they just make sense. They are all things we want our children to do in order to be responsible, healthy, and kind.

But there are things I've heard kids told just as frequently, that I don't tell my kids.

What I don't say: Don't talk to strangers. 
My children are shy children. Telling them to not talk to strangers would be pointless, since they don't talk to anyone. However, while I understand the concept behind this, I disagree with the principle. I'm okay with my children talking to strangers.  I want them to make new friends.  I want them to wave back to the cashier at the grocery store.  I want them to ask questions of the fireman and policemen at the safety fair. I want them to chat with random people as we shop or walk.  Not talking to strangers doesn't keep kids safe. In fact, if a child is hurt or lost or in danger, sometimes the only person who may be able to help them is a stranger. And I let them know that.
What I do say:  Never take anything from someone you don't know without checking with your parents.  Don't go into anyone's car/house/etc unless I say it's okay.   Don't let someone you don't know into the house. We spend a lot of time going through specific scenarios. (If you haven't, watch these Dateline clips.)

What I don't say:  Don't play with your food.
While I try to give our kids a balanced diet, my boys tend to be picky eaters. If playing with their food gets them to eat it, I'm fine with that. They can pretend that the broccoli are trees, they can build landscapes from their salad, they can build up lakes of gravy behind dams of mashed potatoes. I'm fine if their fingers get used a little too frequently. (Well, kind of fine.) I just want them to eat their food.
What I do say: Eat your dinner. Don't whine about the food. Chew with your mouth closed. Have good table manners (minus the whole eating-with-your-fingers thing.)

What I don't say: Come in out of the rain.
We've all heard the saying about learning to dance in the rain. Well, I take that quite literally. A little rain never hurt anyone. In fact, splashing in puddles, getting drenched to your skin, that can all be quite wonderful.
What I do say: Come inside when you're cold.

What I don't say: No rough housing.
We've spent years refining the concept of child-proof.  And while our house is not perfect (and I've gotten braver with putting out pretty things as the boys grow), for the most part our home is a place for kids to play. And when I say play, I mean it. Go ahead and wrestle.  Go ahead and pillow fight. Go ahead and slide down the stairs. Go ahead and see how far you can slide across the floor in your stockinged feet. I often will chase the boys around the house in a game of tag. We're a family of young boys, and I think we should act like it.
What I do say: No baseball in the house. Stay off the top of the furniture. Bikes are for outside.

I also have a list of things I wish I didn't tell my kids:
Wait a minute.  Not right now. Mommy's too busy. 

I'm working on those.  Hopefully, I'll come up with great alternatives to those, too.


  1. Such a good post. I'll have to remember to reread this this summer when I am with my boys all.the.time.

  2. I agree with Gina, such a good post. My mom once told me that she tried to only say no when there was a legitimate reason. I find myself saying it a lot more than I legitimately should lately... this post reminds me that I need to get back on track. I love that you can see the things that you are doing right though--you are a great mom, and I hope you feel that way. :)

  3. honestly I am a man and father for two daughter but I will tell to my wife to read all your post really it's open my mind, thanks

  4. I seriously love this post, especially your thoughts on "not talking to strangers." You're so right about teaching our children to ask permission before going into someone's house or car versus refusing to chat.

    I've always taken my girls through the front door at church and taught them to shake the greeters' hands, look them in the eye, and say hello. Many times over the years, the greeters (who are mostly older women--grandmas) have told me how much they appreciate my kids, because most children run through without any acknowledgement towards them.

  5. Great list. I wish I didn't say "because I said so."

  6. Yes! It especially makes me glad that good thinking continues to happen. Good parenting. I too wish moms could read your posts. Just print them into a book and I'll be the first buyer.