Friday, September 26, 2008

It Really is a Privilege...

... to play unsupervised. This is just some food for thought, but it has been percolating in my brain for quite a while now. As we raise our kids - especially when they are in these early training, preschool years - we take an enormous amount of time to teach our kids how they should respond and react to other humans (and animals, too, I suppose!). When a child up and smacks his brother you have yourself a bonafide training opportunity to teach the offending child how to properly behave. And when little Susy can't seem to share even one dolly in a pile of dollies and Emily responds by swiping one out of selfish Susy's arms, you again have happened upon an excellent opportunity to teach Susy about generosity and Emily about patience. The scenarios will undoubtedly resurface numerous times and your training and teaching will repeat itself. (Prepare to learn a new level of patience!)

But the only way to grab up these critical opportunities is to keep those kids in your sight. (It is hard to effectively teach when you are not certain of what caused the problem in the first place. Does Susy really need to learn generosity, or is it that Emily was using her brawn instead of her words.) If you have a good suspicion that leaving siblings or friends alone in a room to play together will result in some traumatic tear-filled episode, then one or both of those kids have not earned the privilege of unsupervised play. There is more teaching and training to do!

But the payoff is incredible, when you can leave a room and trust that the child or children left there will do the right thing most all the time.

When Jackson and Jenna were going through a stage where they got into naughty mischief whenever they were together (something not normally in either of their patterns of behavior) we had to rescind their privilege of unsupervised play and watch them carefully to correct them. The last thing we wanted was the two of them to establish bad habits of play that would stick around! After a relatively short amount of time of supervision we were able to re-establish the privilege. (Whew!)

The bottom line is that we humans have the responsibility to treat others in a certain way, and the big bad world teaches us that when we don't, we lose friends, freedoms, jobs, relationships (i.e. privileges). It is a grace we give to our kids when we apply that same real-world principle in our homes. Correct me if I am wrong, Tiffany, but that is a classic example of doling out logical consequences.

One little kiddo-caveat: When my boys were between 18 and 30 mos or so, I did a lot of "protecting and preserving" of sibling relationships. It is REALLY HARD when you are three or four years old to play with a two year old. They are destructive and lack an incredible amount of understanding. So in the interest of staving off the terrible and innumerable negative interactions between siblings, I frequently saved the older child from "the wrath of the two-year-old." And when that two year old does play with the four-year-old brother, they play under my close supervision. I can teach my older child patience and kindness when reasonable, but then when the younger one tries to trash the entire train track that the older one pain-stakingly built, I can quickly mitigate that situation by swooping in to the rescue. And as far as the 7 year-old interacting with the two-year-old, he has matured enough so that those two CAN play unsupervised. It is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, I encourage you to keep your kids close. Be close by so you can teach them over and over again what godly responses look like. It can be tedious and exhausting at times but you will not be sorry you took the time early on to train your kids in these character qualities.

1 comment:

Pate Family said...

Why yes, that is a logical consequence! :) I have really appreciated your reminders about preserving sibling relationships. I have a tendency to expect Hudson to have the patience to deal with Camden that Ainsley does. (or to even have more patience than I do sometimes!) I'm trying to talk him through how to react when Camden wrecks something, because unfortunately C. can go from playing nicely to trashing the tower in less than one second. So even if I'm sitting there...too late. I'm going with: if he ruins it I drop everything and fix it with you.