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?
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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.
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The 10 Year Rule
While listening to the God Centered Podcast a month ago, I stumbled onto this concept coined by author Karis Murray in the book Grace Based Discipline.
- ➡️ 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.
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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.
Read: The Tried-And-True 1 Year Old Sleep Schedule
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…
I love this! It totally puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Well I’m already guilty of getting uber-upset over something my kids will likely not do in 10 years. This morning, I gave them a big stink not only for going to bed so late at night but waking up super early. They’d been chatting and giggling, and like you said, I took it personally. But you’re right, in 10 years, I wouldn’t care if they stayed up late or woke up early and spent it all talking to one another. Definitely something to think about, especially to help guide the next steps to take.
Rachel Norman says
I am so so so so guilty of freaking out and overreacting so this “rule” was like balm to my soul!
Really great advice, as always, Rachel. Honestly, it’s not my toddler who is giving me the most grief, it’s my six year old. Thankfully the rule applies across all ages. I’m going to remember this today!
Rachel Norman says
I think it DEFINITELY applies across all ages. It really helped me feel a bit better, it’s a graceful rule, isn’t it?
Thank you for this. I need your advice. As you know, we have a 2.5 year old little guy, a 12 month old baby girl and another blessing on the way. We are on our way to 3 in 3 years! I definitely struggle with the discipline aspect of parenting.
My 2.5 year old will squeeze the hand, foot, arm of his little sister with gritted teeth to cause her pain if she goes after a toy that he’s fond of. Our home is generally pleasant and I’ve worked hard to try to make it a peaceful place to recharge so I don’t know where he’s getting this behavior from.
Any advice on how to handle this? We have tried time out for this and it just doesn’t seem to be working. Is this normal for a 2.5 year old?
Rachel Norman says
Well Denise it’s normal in MY house :) My 2 year old will react violently if someone comes to steal his stuff because someone is *always* coming to steal his stuff. I spoke with a child development expert and she said that seems a normal response to someone coming to mess with you. Ha. That said, you still have to address it, but not to think our 2 year olds are deviants, they are simply in the possessive phase.
Great advice! I definitely need to take things with a grain of salt more often and not so personally.
There is one issue I have been dealing with for a while now, and it could definitely be one of those things that is not simply grown out of. My preschooler has gotten into the bad habit of lying and sneaking, either to try to get something he wants, avoid getting in trouble, or avoid an unpleasant task. So far it is quite obvious when he is not telling the truth and I have been calling him out on it. We have had several discussions about trust and why the truth is important, but his behavior persists. Any advice on how to nip this one in the bud? I’m afraid it will start to blossom if I don’t get it under control now. I try giving him a second chance to come clean, but usually he insists he is not lying until I nail him on it. What consequences might be appropriate in this situation?
Sorry for the long comment, but it seems other places I search for advice are all saying that lying is not a big deal. I disagree.
Love your blog and value your opnion!
Rachel Norman says
Rachael, I COMPLETELY AGREE that lying is a big deal. Particularly if they are doing it over and over. It IS a developmental milestone, but it’s still one we must address. The things I’ve read say that we don’t need to overreact in our responses because that signals weirdness to the child and they get freaked out then try to lie again to cover things up. Another is to separate the lie from the infraction so they get in trouble for the infraction AND in trouble for the lie. Another thing is to give our kids time to come clean so don’t entrap them. When you know he’s lying you can say, “I’m going to go do X for a few minutes and come back, I’d really like you to think about what really happened and tell me the truth when I come back.” This gives their conscience time to work and overrides their protection reflex which says ‘lie to protect.’ Otherwise I’ve read some good ones on Babywise Mom so google ‘lying babywise mom.’ Hope that helps :)
Separating the “infraction” from the lie has really helped in our house over the years. It especially seems to help if I tell them the specific consequences for each. Eg. “Doing that thing was wrong and you will have a five minute time out for doing that. But lying is another wrong and you will have another 5 min time out for lying. So you’ll be stuck in timeout for 10 whole minutes. If you tell me the truth though, that will be very, very good. I will be really proud of you for telling me the truth because I know that can be hard. If you tell me the truth, then you will only have the five minute time out for doing the bad thing.”
I completely agree. You definitely have to choose your battles. I am a new reader to your blog and am very much enjoying it.
Very interesting article. Although, I must ask. What if he does that again, only this time he does it in front of other kids on a birthday party or something like that? Don’t get me wrong I agree that parents shouldn’t stress about every little mistake their kids make but I’m just saying that you shouldn’t strictly follow the 10 year rule.
Rachel Norman says
Oh I totally agree! First time infractions, I’d go with the 10 year. If they start repeating something in defiance of your boundary or instruction then you’ll know it’s moved into disobedience which should definitely have some discipline!
Oh my goodness, I am so guilty of this. Then I feel the mom guilt for doing it. I am so glad I’m not alone, and to learn about this rule! This is amazing! I’m sure I will find ways to implement it today!
I saw that you have an email list, but I couldn’t find where to sign up. I would love to sign up and hear more tips and tricks
Rachel Norman says
Danielle, at the bottom of this post you should see where there’s a free series image, something about chaos to peace? If you sign up for it you’ll get my weekly newsletter :)
I love this. What about bad habits?
My 4 year old has developed the habit of (wait for it)…rubbing his nipple when he’s processing information. (Deep in thought, in front of a screen, really listening)
Part of me knows that this habit won’t last forever but it seems as though no level of gentle reminding will help break it. So, then my concern mounts to fear…will he be the ‘weird kid’ doing this at 10? 12? An adult?
Same goes for nail biting, which he also does. I’ve worked so hard to create a peaceful environment but this seems to be how he processes things- maybe a sensory issue?
What are your thoughts?
Hi, I must admit my first thought was why was a 3 year old still wearing diapers?? I am not saying that to judge – I understand you have 5 kids under 5!!! – but simply to say that if a child is old enough to take his diaper off himself and smear poop all over the wall he is certainly old enough to use the potty himself. I have 3 children myself and I know it’s super hard so really to all the moms this is not to criticize but just to say that there were many things that prompted bad behavior in my kids when I should have given them the tools earlier to do things for themselves. I.e. I would get mad that they left their toys a mess, but should have showed and taught them earlier to tidy up. When I finally did take the time,it worked. Sometimes we leave things and hope the kids will ‘realize thwmselves’ When we should be giving them all the necessary tools to behave well. Good luck to you all! And thanks for this post Rachel!
Rachel Norman says
HI Sarah! Yes, he only wore it at nap and bedtimes. So this was clearly the case of growing out of naps and not needing that diaper! It was probably in the morning after a night with a diaper ;)
Nina Javez says
I loved when you said “will we laugh about this in 10 years” . Its so true , my kids and I often laugh about things they did as tots that turned out to be random and harmless
This is very helpful advice, nice and simple! Something I have been worried about with my 15 month old is that when he gets frustrated, he bends over and bangs his head on the floor a couple times. I try hard not to react in a strong manner, and calmly ask him if he is frustrated/not to bang his head. In the past week he’s started doing it more often.
Ashley Hoober says
this is truly a wonderful post. Ive been sharing it with everyone
Such brilliant advice. Thanks for the perspective.
Can you elaborate more on “scaffolding”? I know what the term means, just not sure how to use it in the sense of rule breaking. Any information or resources would be greatly appreciated!
Dawn Baggett says
Mom of seven here and I absolutely love this post! Great practical wisdom here ✨🙌✨
Great article! I’ve got an almost 6 year old who obsessively picks her nose and always has her nails in her mouth! It drive my husband and I crazy! We’ve talked about hygiene and how this spreads germs which she’s knows but she can’t seem to stop. Help!!!
Rachel Norman says