We know that boundaries are important for our children. We know that the lack of boundaries actually breeds insecurity, but did you know that we moms can get so bogged down with rules that it’s hard to know what is what. Here is one rule you should focus on.
I’ll never forget the day.
It was a day like any other… except… well…
Except my (newly) 3 year old had taken off his dirty diaper and wiped poop all over the walls.
And the floors.
And his bed.
I nearly died. I might have laughed except it was the second time he had done it.
I was at a loss… I mean… doesn’t he know that’s disgusting? Isn’t he aware that poop smells and one does not want their room to be covered in it?
All manner of consequences went through my head. How could we impress upon him this was a bad behavior?
Thankfully, my husband cleaned it up. He’s more meticulous than I am and I was busy taking his actions personally and trying to determine where I’d gone wrong as a mom. I got down on my knees, made eye contact with my beloved destroyer, and told him not to do that again.
And he never did.
(Note: Some have said legitimately that a 3 year old who did this could be potty trained so to clarify, he 3 year old was potty trained by day but still wore pull-up by night…the above event happened one morning)
Inside, without knowing why, I’d adopted the principle of what others now call…
The Ten Year Rule.
When your child misbehaves, ask yourself this question….
Will they still be doing this in 10 years?
If the answer is no and it feels right, pull an Elsa and let it go.
The 10 Year Rule
- ➡️ If your kids aren’t likely to be doing this behavior (or its intensified cousin) in 10 years, then don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
Don’t create angst, a breach in relationship, or unnecessary power struggles over something that is age related and not a value or moral issue.
So how does this play out in real life?
➡️ In 10 years, will they still be doing this?
Kids are not adults.
They are often doing childish things, not foolish things. They don’t know high from low or in between and it’s our job to teach them.
We do this by providing a foundation of love and acceptance and teaching our kids the family boundaries.
So when you feel tempted to fly off the handle, become an angry mom, or feel like a failure, ask yourself these types of questions.
- Is this behavior something you see many 12 year olds doing?
- Is my child acting this way because they are tired, irritable, or otherwise off kilter?
- Is this behavior something that could grow and morph into something that’s reallllly not good?
- Do I need to dig deeper here and see what was going on underneath the surface?
- Can I let this go? Does it *really* bother me? If so, why?
If you think some of your children’s misbehaviors aren’t really that big of a deal, give yourself permission to let it go. You will absolutely know when, deep down, you don’t think something is okay.
Sure, you will need to instruct, coach, and keep appropriate boundaries within your home, but you can relax knowing some behaviors are not hills you’re willing to die on.
In 10 Years Will This Behavior Have Escalated?
On the other hand, there are some behaviors that we want to nip in the bud as quickly as possible. We don’t want our children to continue these habits or – worse – to develop more severe behaviors because we didn’t intervene.
Here are some behaviors you’ll likely want to address.
These are behaviors that are worth the effort it may take to help work through them with your child.
Remember, you are always on your child’s side.
Some of these behaviors may include:
- outright defiance
- backtalk (difference between stating opinion and backtalk)
There will be others. We want to give our children the benefit of the doubt, but when we can no longer deny that our kids are exhibiting behaviors that are likely to get worse as they get older, we must step in.
Is It Self-Control Related?
Research has shown self-control to be a predictor of future success.
This is because it’s the same self-control a 5-year-old exhibits when completing a chore before moving on that will help him complete his work as an adult.
Sure, it morphs and changes and grows, but self-control is something that comes with maturity, practice, and time.
There are a lot of behaviors we mothers don’t like that result from a lack of self-control as well.
- Notice when your child is exhibiting self-control and point it out. “You didn’t hit your brother even though he made you mad, that shows self-control.” This will be particularly effective if their previous impulse would have been to strike.
- If your child routinely cannot stop themselves from breaking a family rule, then consider some type of scaffolding to help. Create specific rules and consequences that will help your child build their self-control in this area.
- Dig deeper. In a recent book I read it said that no one really “acts crazy.” If we think someone is acting crazy, it means we are missing some vital information. Dig deeper.
In 10 Years Will We Laugh About This?
In my humble opinion, one of the best tools in a mama’s toolbox is a sense of humor. You can laugh, cry, or rage.
Sometimes laughing makes it seem better.
This is my personal favorite way to handle confusing motherhood situations. No, I don’t laugh when kids break the rules. But I DO laugh when their behavior reminds me of my favorite comic from childhood… Calvin and Hobbes.
If you think the behavior is something that is a tad mischievous, but childish… laugh and move on.
If your child doesn’t know better and isn’t trying to hurt anyone, but does something a bit borderline or annoying, correct and move on. Try to see the cuteness in it and go about your day.
About that diaper incident…
Remember my son who rubbed his diaper on the wall?
Well, it got worse before it got better.
A few days after the poop events, he wassupposed to be having rest time / quiet time in his room. I happened to see him tiptoeing out of the bathroom with some toothpaste tubes to eat.
I calmly told him to go back into his room because rest time wasn’t over yet.
A while later when rest time was over, I went to get him. There by the door I saw a puddle on the floor.
“Son,” I said in mild shock, “you peed on the floor.”
With a genuinely innocent look on his face, my son calmly replied, “I didn’t pee pee on the floor. I peed on the door and it fell on the floor because you told me to stay in here.”
Let’s hope that’s still not happening in 10 years…
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