Friday, January 6, 2012

Charlotte's "Yes" zone...

I'm very much NOT big on chasing my toddler around saying things like, "No no no!" "Don't dump that out!" "You can't eat the dog food!" "Let go of the kitty's neck!" "That's breakable, don't throw it!" and things of that nature. It's totally exhausting, and having to do it while visiting childless homes is enough to motivate me into making sure Charlotte has a Yes Zone.

"Yes! We can have a tea party!" "Yes! You can push your babies in your stroller!" "Yes! You can color on that paper with Color Wonder markers that don't leave marks on the walls!" "Yes! you can dump your toys all over the floor and I don't have to pick them up so the dog doesn't eat them!" "Yes! You can take all of your books off the bookshelf!" "Yes! We can pretend to eat your cupcakes!" "Yes! Yes! Have at it kid! Explore, have fun!" Because these are the things she does when there aren't super fascinating and dangerous distractions all over the place. She learns through play and doesn't have to hear what she's doing WRONG five billion times a day.

My reasons for creating this space for her aren't entirely selfish, but I do like that I don't have to get off the phone every two seconds to "correct" or "redirect". That is mentally and physically taxing for both of us. Instead, my time is spent engaging with her and praising her new discoveries, teaching her new words, listening to what she tries to tell me about her books or her babies, and being able to have a telephone conversation without wondering when (not if) she's going to swallow something she shouldn't, or put something in her nose.

So, I said "Bye bye!" to my dreams of having a livingroom that resembled one from HGTV, and said, "Hello!" to one that is functional...for a toddler :) My couches are not perfectly lined up with my windows, and yes, it looks sort of odd. But who gives? There's a giant gate between my livingroom and my kitchen and it's a total eye sore, but guess who's got pink jammies and isn't playing in the dog bowl?

I have fielded questions about whether having this arrangement at home will inhibit Charlotte's ability to develop healthy boundaries and understand what she can and cannot play with since, right now, she can pretty much play with whatever she wants. My answer to those questions is basically that she doesn't spend every second of her life in the house, in the Zone. She has plenty of opportunity to be up to no good ;) Although I generally try very hard not to put her in situations that will result in my telling her No a hundred times a minute. I don't particularly think it's reasonable to expect a child her age to hear a set of directions two or three times and retain that information/boundary forever. Kids need practice in order to really understand a concept. For example, if the dog food is out at a relative's house and she is playing in it, I will tell her that it's not for her and she can't play with it. I'll do this maybe three times and then put the food away. Later, the food will be out once again and we will run this drill again. There's no way I'm spending 45 minutes teaching her to stay out of the dog food the first time she discovers it's there. I will add, though, that I feel this way now because she is only 18 months old. As she gets older, my expectations for information retention will rise.

BUT even school age children can't always be expected to hear "No" or the like one time and miraculously "obey" 100% of the time from then on. Sometimes, we need to just cut our losses and remove them from the situation (or remove the situation from them) and move on, try again later before everyone is nutso. One example that comes to mind is when I was teaching my 4th graders and one of my students kept tapping his pencil while anyone else was talking. I told him to stop...he didn't. I had two choices 1) tell him again and again until it ticked me off that he wasn't listening to me or 2) silently walk over, gently take the pencil and move on. I chose #2, and the point was made all the same, and took about 4 seconds of my time and zero percent of my sanity. Also, he didn't have to endure a lecture or public reprimanding. And I don't believe that the boundary issue was missed. I believe the same thing when dealing with my toddler. If she goes for my glasses, I put her down. Point made: go for my glasses, and you don't get to sit in my lap. If she throws her food on the ground from her high chair, I say "All done." and take the tray off. Point made: if she throws her food, her food goes away. If she goes for the cat's throat, I show her how to be soft and give her another chance before putting the cat at a safe distance. Point made. Bada bing, bada boom. I also believe that discussions and explanations absolutely should be a part of redirection, but I'm not about to be long-winded about it just yet.

My point in this is simply that I'm not comfortable with my child living these months of her life being scolded. And frankly, arguments seriously stress me out.

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