# 5 ~ It’s What They Do!
Let’s explore the point of Rules. Parents should set rules, boundaries, guidelines ~ whatever word you choose to use. Children thrive and grow up with character and ethics when they have been raised to follow a pattern of “yes” and “no” norms. No, you don’t have to raise them in a box, but lines should be drawn early on in their young lives, and they need to be taught the repercussions of breaking those rules, you the parent have set.
Children will push your buttons and break the rules every chance they get. It’s what they do! This will begin as soon as they have freedom to crawl, walk, and talk. One of their first words is “No!” with as much mettle as they can muster. That ‘mettle’ increases with age. They will pull off an intimidating stance, arms akimbo, and “Humph” in attempt to dissuade you. When this is their reaction at three, you best keep that giggle muffled and hide your smile, because they start taking notes when you first say, “No!”
Their mental notations are based on the most keen observation tactics known to mankind. Navy Seals could learn a thing or two, I’m sure. Your toddler knows and correctly interprets every glance, every tilt of your head, every raised eyebrow, every ‘almost’ smile, every nuance in your words, and they remember what the provocation was behind each. They know exactly how far they can push. They know when you are too busy to notice they are getting into things they ought not. They even learn how to distract you in order to do what they want better than an incredible ‘slight-of-hand’ experts. They are exceptionally capable of getting what they want, when they want.
One of your greatest skills as a parent is knowing your child. That skill set must grow exponentially if you have more than one child. Every child is different. Some children will sit still when you tell them to, but the next child? You have just asked the impossible feat. They simply cannot. One child may get into everything not under child-lock and key, while the next has no desire to explore. One child will run every chance they get, while the next doesn’t want to move unless their hand is safely clasped in yours. Herein lies the secret of knowing your child.
This last one gets especially tricky if you leave your front door open for a minute, or if you are in a parking lot or a mall. You must be responsible and find a way to get all your toddlers to stand quietly by the door until they are completely and safely held in tow. If we went out in public for an outing, I used to just put all three of them back in the car and go back home if they refused to hold my hand. Why? Because I knew one of them was a wanderer. It was not safe for them to be unsupervised for a moment. This was my rule. It was inflexible. “Hold my hand or we go home!”
Here’s the thang! We, as parents, sometimes for convenience sake, change the rules. We want to be watching a movie, face-timing, or playing a game on one of our devices, so we leave the child gates open and let our toddler have run of the place. In fairness, we did not always have toddler safety latches on drawers or even gates. We had to watch them every moment. We did not have the distractions of cellphones, laptops, and tablets. But we had books, recipes that took hours to prepare, and VCR’s. Yet, even with distractions, you must know where your child is and what they are doing at all times. If it gets quiet? Run, don’t walk! It only takes one. One instant of complete silence. One moment. One slip. One climb. One ingestion. TO CHANGE YOUR WORLD!
Set rules. No means no ~ always. Don’t say “NO!” to something that is subject to change based on your mood or you are sending mixed messages. They figure those out faster than lightening can strike a tree. Don’t say “NO!” to something just because you’re too busy to allow it. Don’t say “NO!” to an act from your toddler that will become impossible to always say “NO!” to that same act.
Alternatives to “NO!” are “Not now”, “Maybe later”, “Just a minute”. You are not changing the rules and they will understand when they are able to trust those responses. “Not now” implies that at some point they can do the thing they are wanting to do, let’s say pull out the markers for making pictures, and when we take them by the hand in an hour or so and and sit down and supervise their marker use, they know you can be trusted. They learn to accept your “Just a minute.” as a promise. They learn you can be trusted, and that, my parenting friend, is priceless.
If you say “NO!” and mean it, they learn that can be trusted as well. So many times, we shy away from that word, but we do so to our own detriment as well and to the detriment of the child. “Yes!” becomes the prize after a day of “NO!” I would like to tell you the negative answers far outweigh the positives only in the earliest of ages, and while that is true to an extent, negatives are still appropriate well into their teen years. We are still responsible for raising our children until they are grown. From the moment of Creation, your child is straining to be an individual. They are developing their own identity, personality, and independence. It is your job to allow them to become who God created them to be, while keeping them safe and raising them to be descent, GODly adults.
You are blessed! God is trusting you to raise HIS creation in a responsible way. And you will see how blessed you are when someday they entrust their children to your care. Or when they drop by for a little advice, because they learned early on they could trust what you say. Or when they text or call just to check on you and let you know they love you. Blessed!
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6