I have three kids (1, 6, and 8), and really want to protect them from harm. I want to teach them how to not humiliate themselves. I want to show them how to grow up and become responsible adults.
But sometimes I feel like micromanaging their lives.
Following them around and helping them to understand that it isn’t acceptable to fart in public and laugh, or to not eat their own boogers. But the sad fact is, they only listen about 70% of the time. That percentage seems to be going down as my children get older, which is the opposite of what I’d hoped for. Sometimes the best way for them to learn is by screwing up.
Getting hurt. Getting embarrassed. And sometimes, after I’ve told my child not to do something a million times, comes a lesson learned the hard way by my kids. And I’m happy about it.
Here are a few examples of natural consequences and the lessons learned the hard way by my kids….
Running in cheap plastic Disney Princess shoes
My 6-year-old daughter is a mighty lover of Disney Princess, and she has a large collection of high-heeled princess shoes. All of them are made from cheap brightly collared plastic with little support and little grip. They remind me of something from the Fredericks of Hollywood catalog, and if they were on an adult, they would look very trashy. But on a little girl, they seem to be appropriate. I have mixed feelings about the shoes overall.
Anyway, Every time I see her run in them, I know she’s going to take a digger. I tell her not to, but she doesn’t listen. It took her taking a couple sideways slides on the driveway, scuffing her elbow, and a lot of tears for her to figure out those princess shoes are not sports apparel. And it is my hope that she will forgo the stupid shoes all together and pick some classier footwear.
Eating a large bag of Circus Peanuts before a social event
Tristan and I were headed to a two-hour church function, so I bought him some Circus Peanuts to keep him occupied. He was 7. I gave him the candy in the car because he pitched a fit about not being able to hold it. I told him not to eat it before the event. I told him to pace himself or he would get sick. But he didn’t listen. He never does when it comes to candy. He pumped the whole bag down before we even got to the church. And once there, he said, “My tummy hurts.” I didn’t gloat. I didn’t say, “I told you so.” Instead, I looked at that water in his eyes, and picked him up, and ran from the chapel, and to the restroom, fearful the whole time that he was going to puke on some nicely upholstered church bench, or ruin some dude’s suit. He spilled his beans (or in this case crappy candy marshmallow peanuts) in the toilet… thankfully. This is probably the biggest problem with natural consequences. I often risk embarrassment, too.
I think he figured out something very special that day.
Going to the bathroom while wearing rollerblades
I told my 8-year-old, Tristan, not to do this, but he wouldn’t listen. He was in the restroom, doing his business, when I heard a thud. I’m optimistic that he learned a valuable lesson.
Climbing stuff not meant for climbing
My one-year-old, Aspen, is a climber. I could spend all day following her around the house, taking her off chairs, the sofa, bookshelves… She likes to flip over laundry baskets and then climb on dressers. She tears crap off shelves, breaks it…laughs at me from great heights. She always looks down at me with a curled lip, her face soaking in satisfaction. I tell her to stop. I take her down, and say, “No. No.” But it doesn’t matter. She’s one. She doesn’t care. Finally, I just started letting her fall. They say babies bounce, well… I suppose the same could be said for toddlers. I must say, though, she’s good at falling and getting back up. Which is a life lesson in and of it’s self… I will just be happy when she finally figures out not to climb so I can stop clutching my chest all the time.
My son is a chronic booger eater. I tell him to stop all the time. I tell him it’s gross. We discuss it, and he laughs. One day I said this; “I ate a booger in front of a girl on the school bus once. I thought she was really cute at the time, and I thought eating a booger would make her think I was charming. I was probably eleven. I put the booger in my mouth, then I stuck out my tongue, and showed it to her. She put her head down, and puked in her lap.” I told him how embarrassed I was. I told him how it ruined my 6th grade year. He laughed at me, put a booger in his mouth, and said, “Mmmm.” Still waiting for that natural consequence to sink in…
What are some lessons learned the hard way by your kids?
Clint Edwards’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. He’s the author of the new book This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.