One of the nice things about a new house and a new life is you can convince a trusting 3-year-old that certain things are going to be different. Things that, if the truth be told, don't necessarily actually have to be different. Things like "no toys in the kichen" and "we only have apple juice at breakfast". The sort of things, in other words, that I've been trying to change for some time and haven't managed to. Until now.
"Things" that in another house might be called "Rules".
I've had rules in the back of my head for a while now. A couple of months or so ago I read an article by a man who had brought up his son on his own (though sadly can't remember who he was or where I read it, sorry). Anyway, he said that one of the secrets of his success (ahem) was that he had a small set of fixed rules which were never breakable*.
Now, if you'd asked me before I had the girls, I'd have said that you have to have rules and you have to be consistent. In fact, if you asked me now, I'd still say that you have to have rules and you have to be consistent. But the thing I can't decide on is what those rules should be.
I know that they've got to be clear, I know they've got to be enforceable, and I know that they've got to be few. You can't have too many rules, it just gets confusing. But then I get stuck. In fact, the only rule on which we are decided, agreed and live by ourselves is that the girls aren't allowed to hurt each other. Hurting each other brings the wrath of Mummy down upon them. But even then the extent of the wrath of Mummy depends on all sorts of factors mostly relating to how thin Mummy's patience is wearing by that point...
But what else? What rules should we have and how should we enforce them? Is no toys in the kitchen a good rule? Is it enforceable? And what about when the rules conflict? If L bites A and then owns up, should I be cross because of the biting, or pleased because of the honesty?
I asked some friends about this, and they said that they had been told that the most important thing was to decide what was important to you, and then to live by it as well as imposing it on your children. In other words, if you think the most important thing is that your children are polite, you must be polite. If you think they should be honest, ditto....
Which just adds another question - what about the times B and I conflict? I'm tidy, B's not. He's got endless patience, I'm not so hot at that. Where should our priorities lie?
Is this just another impossible parenting question, or can we achieve a set of simple, enforceable rules? And if so, how?
*One of these was that when Daddy said "It's time to go" it was time to go. No questions. No answering. No procrastination.
To which I say, in tones of disbelief "How?" Whatever he's got. I want some of it.
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