Pushing boundaries

April is a fully-fledged person.

I have a theory about the terrible twos. I think that most parents are completely unaware of just how much their children understand. The reason why many kids act out so horribly and push limits and defy and scream and hurl themselves on the ground is because they don’t understand their parents’ responses to them, or rather, the lack thereof.

April is stomping her way closer to that most terrible of ages.  Already I can see the defiance and outrage brewing in her, but often it seems that if I just explain things to her, rationalize with her, she actually stops and thinks about it. I can practically see the cogs turning as she considers her next move. I think that my 20-month-old daughter understands accountability. I’m not saying that there aren’t kids who genuinely will not listen to their parents, but maybe that has something to do with the parents’ listening skills. Children are, after all, the most remarkably apt mimics in our human world.

A lot of the parents I socialize with tell me the same thing. Two wasn’t such a bad age. It’s the age of exploration and discovery, so let them explore and discover. And when they’re doing something dangerous or just driving you crazy, explain to them why you want them to stop rather than just yelling at them and telling them that they’re bad. April understands bad. As she brings the wet paintbrush to her mouth, her eyes fixed on mine, she stops a second short of the goal.

“Bad. No!” she utters, as she redirects it. I try not to use that word, but still, she seems to get the idea.

Granted, kids will be kids. April has these incredible moments of absolute rage and mortification. She hurls her little body to the floor, pea-sized teardrop gushing dramatically from her eyes. These outbursts usually involve my refusal to give her something. However, after a brief explanation (“you mustn’t run around with your toothbrush in your mouth because you can fall and seriously hurt yourself”) she usually gets over it. Or, in the case that she has been given a time-out, she adjusts her behaviour. Maybe I’m just lucky and have an incredibly apt child. But rather than congratulating myself on producing  extraordinary progeny, I prefer to see all kids as fundamentally intelligent and knowledge-seeking. Something my parents taught me: there is no such thing as “because I said so.” Would you respond favourably to a boss who tells you that you have to do things a certain way with no explanation?

So my highly opinionated little loin fruit is a complete package-deal human being. I see parts of me in her that both amuse and terrify me. I foresee many great debates and much bargaining in my future. Being stubborn and bossy and producing a stubborn and bossy child, well… I think I can handle it. I come from a long line of outspoken, determined* women.

According to Annie, the kids all understand that once they eat the paint it’s all over.

Now they simply wait until they’re just about done to eat it. And eat it they do.



*Read: bossy, stubborn — my mom doesn’t like these adjectives




2 Comment

  1. You are just the best mommy.

    Consider writing a book, seriously.


  2. i loved reading this post! realy, it’s so entertaining and interesting at the same time!
    totally agree with you on the ability of small kids to understand so much more than we think. my theory: when a kid asks you something, whatever the age, answer to him in the most appropriate way but don’t think he can’t understand something.
    at age 3 and up they start asking 1001 questions: your job as a parent is to answer. no just because’s!
    take care
    ps: i hope you will be able to come to the first edition of the playgroup on tuesday at share the warmth!

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