I absolutely love discussing parenting rules to follow with my friends who are parents, too. I can learn so much just by keeping an open mind and understanding what works for other parents.
In fact, I just had a very interesting conversation with my friend yesterday about this very topic. She and I spoke about the generational differences in parenting techniques as well as cultural ones.
The day before, I had discussed with our friends what parenting rules they followed while keeping in mind everyone’s individual needs and personalities. Our conversations compelled me to write these blog posts!
You might need a double espresso to unfollow these parenting rules. If you missed Part Un, here it is!
Sending my child to her room
Next on the list of parenting rules I do not follow is sending my daughter to her room.
This was a very personal choice and was also dictated in part by the layout of our house. C’s room is upstairs, and we generally do not spend time upstairs during the day, so I would find it inconvenient and a bit too isolating to send a small child that far away (up a staircase).
But mainly, I am against using her room as a punishment. I want my daughter to feel comfortable in her room. I want her to play there, to sleep there. Imagine the kind of issues I might have by creating a negative association with her sleeping space!
Plus, I am not sure that sending my daughter to her room, where there are toys, would send quite the right message if she is there because of acting up. If for example she lashes out and hits our dog, so I respond by sending her to her room, does she really understand that she has done something unacceptable? If she already associates her room with playing, I might as well be rewarding her behavior.
Instead, we have a designated space (okay, let’s call it what it is—Time Out) where C can go to calm down. We therefore remove her from the situation while simultaneously removing any distractions (there are no objects in our designated Time Out space), so she can be alone with her thoughts.
Make no mistake about it: she does NOT like being sent in Time Out. But at least she knows why she’s there.
Baby-proofing the house
I’ve spoken about this already in my post on RIE parenting, but it definitely belongs here, too.
You do need to make sure you are creating a safe space for your children. Obviously, please remove sharp objects, protect your power outlets, and keep toxic substances such as cleaning products under lock and key. And if you have any particularly sentimental objects, put them in a safe place to avoid disappointment.
That said, I did not overhaul my entire house just because I had a baby. Our usual décor, which is already pretty minimal, remained largely as it was before C’s arrival. We did not put a single baby lock on any drawers (but we did remove any dangerous objects from said drawers, as I stated above).
This was a personal choice. I wanted to still feel at home. Our house, our rules. Our daughter needs to learn to live by our rules. It was tough in the beginning because once she became mobile, we had to follow her closely around the house.
We created a lot of frustration initially by forbidding her to touch this or that and by taking objects out of her hands. But frustration is an inevitable part of life, so we allowed her to experience this frustration and she eventually understood through discipline what was okay to touch and what wasn’t.
I will say that it helps to have a LOT of trustin your child once they can understand how to manipulate certain objects. For example, certain things I would never have given to C at 6 months, but at 18 months, she could already understand “be gentle,” “be careful,” and “don’t break it.”
But we created a space entirely for her, her room, which was 100% baby-proof. I could leave her in there and feel sure that she was safe. It was the natural next step when she grew out of her playpen.
This was the compromise that worked for us.
Making a big deal over booboos
Here you might say that I am contradicting myself. Isn’t “booboo” a cutesy word? Well, yes, but we use it intentionally, and in the right context.
Booboos are just that: mishaps that might hurt us a little, but don’t cause alarm or lasting damage.
When C skins her knee, it’s a booboo. It’s my way of relating to her that yes, she got hurt, but it’s no big deal this time. I also try to reiterate how it happened: “You were having so much fun that you went a little too fast and fell down.”
I am a big fan of using the sportscasting method. “You fell down” is better to narrate a situation in which you can see that your child is clearly fine. Conversely, if you respond to the same situation with “Oh my goodness, my poor baby, are you okay?!” then you are teaching your child to overreact.
The fewer tantrums I am witness to, the better I feel. I don’t want to add to the ever-increasing number of situations which my child feels require a tantrum. Children look to adults to know how to react in every situation. If I remain calm when C gets a booboo, she’ll learn to stay calm, too.
These days, when C falls down, she usually narrates it herself! “I fell down!” And then she gets right back up. That’s an attitude I want her to carry into adulthood anytime she faces adversity. “Oops, that didn’t work, guess I’ll get back on the wagon and maybe try something else” is exactly the attitude I want her to cultivate, not “I’m a failure at life.”
I might be reaching here, but not terribly far. Perspective is everything.
I might add that if your child does seriously injure himself, try to keep your sang froid. You can explain calmly using proper words that he is really hurt and how you are going to help him. Even use a bit of humor if possible! Breaking out into hysterics never helps us to work better or faster to fix the situation.
Treating elimination as something gross
As parents, we deal with a lot of poop. (And yes, if you want to give it the non-cutesy word, we’re elbow-deep in feces a lot.)
I never pulled a face when opening my daughter’s diaper, nor did I ever use words like “smelly” or “gross.” I wanted her to learn about her own elimination, so I showed her what was in the diapers and named it. I even acted curious about it, but never turned off (even though inside, I sometimes wanted to run away!).
It might seem contradictory, but I believe having a proper respect and understanding for why and how we eliminate waste goes a long way in potty training our children.
I’ve been told that children have a hard time pooping on the potty because they aren’t familiar with what it is that’s coming out of their body.
Avoid that by using the proper words for waste and explaining to your child what’s happening, especially if you notice in the moment that they are eliminating in their diapers or over the potty.
C doesn’t view elimination as gross because I purposely approached it from a perspective of curiosity. She is not fully out of diapers yet, but at least she doesn’t seem to have any inhibitions so far!
Using sympathy to calm a tantrum
Our children have a million different reasons for throwing a tantrum.
If you know your child is throwing a tantrum just to get on your nerves, feel free to ignore him completely.
The last thing you want to do is to inadvertently reward undesirable behavior by according to much attention to a tantrum, whether it is positive or negative attention (because both are a reward for the child).
Use your best judgement and respond in a way that fits with the situation. For example, lately C throws tantrums over disappointment. If I can see real tears, I’ll give her a hug and let her take her time to release that emotion, while sportscasting: “I know you feel disappointed. You really wanted Mama to brush your teeth instead of Papa.”
Describe what’s going on, and especially, name the emotions. Use an even voice and embody a stance of calm confidence.
However, if I can’t see any tears on her, I know she is just screaming for attention. But I don’t want to encourage this behavior. I still talk to her to describe the situation, and if she doesn’t calm down, I ignore her.
If it gets worse, I let her know that she’ll soon be going to calm down in Time Out. It’s not a threat or a bribe: it’s giving her an opportunity to make a choice between continuing the tantrum and calming down on her own, or doing son in Time Out.
Intervening in conflicts with other children
The last parenting rule I do not follow (at least, the last one I can think of today!) is intervening in my child’s conflicts with others.
Intervening in your child’s conflicts with other children is a situation in which you need to really use nuance. It’s natural for us to want to defend our children, but please, take a chill pill and consider what the situation actually requires.
There are always times when it is necessary, such as bodily harm being done, etc.
From the start, you should learn how to nuance your interventions. C’s nanny has a great rule that any toy in the shared living space should be—you guessed it—shared. She and her children know that she can impose the sharing of said toys. Any toys that are kept in her kids’ rooms are not to be shared with the other children she takes care of, and she can then impose that as well.
You’ll find similar rules that work for you and your family. But do give your kids the language and the emotional tools they need to solve conflicts peacefully on their own rather than doing it for them all the time.
What parenting rules do you follow (or not)?
Hopefully my ideas have given you something to think about! Parenting is hard. It’s easy to feel disappointed or frustrated when things don’t work out the way you think they will.
But you know what? Being a kid is hard, too—and disappointment and frustration are two major things kids deal with on a daily basis.
So keep an open mind and keep the lines of communication open between the other caretakers of your children. You might just learn that trying something outside of the status quo will greatly benefit the relationship you have with your child!
Do I refrain from following the above parenting rules 100% of the time? Well, no. I mess up a lot. Or sometimes I feel it’s necessary to deviate. Use your best judgement, and don’t throw yourself a guilt trip if you bend the rules once in a while!
For more on parenting “rules,” follow my other articles:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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