Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Limits

Today was rather bloody. We had several of the usual scrapes and scratches and we upped them a split head and a tooth-through-the-lip.

I have something of a dilemma when it comes to setting limits around here. I would like to say no rowdy, rough, loud, disorderly, or dangerous behaviors are aloud at any time anywhere, but then what would the boys do? It appears that it is in their nature and so it seems that I must allow some of it, right? But how much, and what kinds of things should be off limits? What kinds of things allowed?

Obviously, the really dangerous things should be out of the question. No playing with chemicals, razor blades, or power tools. But what about hammers and rocks? Should these be off limits because they occasionally smash a finger?

And as for the swing set, I ruled out all climbing across the top of it, but what about standing on the glider? I was letting it go when I saw it, but now we have a split head.

We have a general rule around here: Use things for what they are meant to be used for. Simple, right? Not so to the mind of a little boy. They see many uses where we might see only one. They are very creative that way.

Rope is meant for tying, they reason, and so I can tie my brother up in this rope. Glue is meant for sticking things together, and so I will glue all the pages of this book together. Fans are meant for spinning things, so I will fix my rabbit to this ceiling fan and watch him spin. See? You and I would never think a fan was meant to spin things, but they see these things.

All that is to say my general rules are not enough to guide them; I need to be specific. Just where do I draw those specific lines?

Also, many of things I want to tell them to stop, I realize, are not really dangerous or bad, they just don't agree with my own tastes or what I would prefer. I have often instinctively told the boys to stop something only to rethink it and see what they were doing was fine, just not something I would ever want to do.

So when it comes to setting limits, I find myself caught between what seems to be their propensity for dangerous and destructive behaviors on the one hand, and my own risk intolerance and dislike for all things disorderly on the other.

5 comments:

Mom of boys said...

I so understand where you are coming from. I was ready to limit objects to their proper uses when I realized that much of it isn't harmful and actually quite creative (such as tying the jump rope up around the little tikes car and pretending that it is a horse). My most important general rule is "Keep your hands to yourself." followed with "Nothing around anyone's neck - ever!". Yet I am still navigating the perfect balance between letting boys be boys and attempting to civilize them. I have gotten strange looks from some friends if the two oldest get into a squabble and it turns into a wrestling match. Even though I break it up, they seem appalled that this would happen after all "their son doesn't do that!". I never point out that their son has a sister 3 years apart, so no, he probably wouldn't!

Love2Learn Mom said...

Those balance things can be so tough! One rule (for myself) I try to keep in mind when I blurt out new rules is that the rule has to be reasonably enforceable.

Our almost three-year-old son is big on wrestling matches. The almost-five-year-old big sister gets him going and then always regets it because he's so strong and she ends up screaming. What's a mom to do?

I do limit horseing around to certain locations. For example, they'll get in a lot of trouble for doing piggy-back rides or wrestling on or near the stairs.

Winter makes things a lot tougher. We do have a chin-up bar in my the boys' closet doorway and make space in the basement for roller-blading. (When we were looking for this house, we purposely avoided ones with too-nicely finished basements).

Diane said...

My boys are a little older (10 and 13) but I am with you. I have spent many of hours taking care of bumps and bruises and even a few in the ER to get a head stitched up. The way that I have curbed a lot of this is by enrolling my kids in a Shotokan karate class (http://www.iskf.com/) . Shotokan is true Japanese karate that teaches respect and values as well as self defense. The whole basis of this karate is the
Dojo kun which reads;
Seek perfection of character
Be faithful
Endeavor
Respect others
Refrain from violent behavior.
Not only does Karate use up their excess energy but it strengthens their bodies. Also since Shotokan is not commercial Karate, it is not as expensive as most activities.

Suzanne Temple said...

Mom of Boys, We don't have jump ropes around here, but if we did, you can bet we'd see the same thing! How funny! Boys are boys all over the world!

Studeo, I agree, winter does make everything more difficult. I like the chin-up bar idea. In addition to a gym membership, we're talking about getting a trampoline for the three season porch.

Diane,
Great idea for when my boys get older! Thanks!

jerseygirlmama said...

I have just one baby girl, but I am the big sister of three younger brothers. People laugh at my parents because they seem so unfazed when they say things like, "Which one got his head cut open and had to have fifteen stitches?" (That would be Ben) or "Who was it who ran the truck into the tree in the front yard?" (That was Matt who did not have his license yet when it happened, but he wore Michael down who was riding with him and did have his license into trying to teach him to drive a stick.) We had many of the same "creative" interpretations of rules, the worst of which was, bb guns are for shooting so I can shoot my brother in the rear-end. (Why my parents agreed to the bb gun, I'll never know except my father was from rural upstate NY and hunted his whole life, mostly for food purposes, so it probably wasn't as big a deal. My dad also had two sisters and no brothers, so the thought probably never occurred to him to shoot his brother.) Somehow, by the grace of God, we all survived. And lived to not only tell but LAUGH about it. And if you want a laugh about our experience, here's a great one:
Mike and I went to confession once as teenagers and while Mike was with the old, retired monsignor who was hearing confessions he confessed to swearing at his brother who shot him in the rear with a bb gun!