I have written previously about how fervently my daughter tests limits. She seeks out mischief. She enjoys the challenge and the excitement of finding new ways to keep us on our toes.
Whether she empties out all the tissues from the tissue box and scatters them all over the floor, pulls the petals off the bunch of flowers I have been given as a birthday gift or removes 18 towels from the linen cupboard, and places them in a bath tub full of water, everyday, we are discovering all the ways our so called child-proof house is not actually our-child-proof.
It is sometimes hard to keep our cool when it seems like everything she touches, she finds a way to mess up or destroy. When we come across her pulling every item of clothing hanging in my wardrobe onto the floor or smearing my lip balm all over my bedside table even though she has been frequently reminded she is not to do these things, keeping anger out of our voices can be difficult.
But who is ultimately responsible for these occurances? Is it really reasonable to expect a three year old to refrain from this mischief, to curb her impulses? I don’t believe so. She needs our help.
We are well-aware of our daughter’s tendencies and need to ensure we restrict her access to certain things and monitor her play more frequently to help her before she causes so much mess or damage that we become frustrated with her. Our increased vigilance is helping her to learn that she can’t do these things. That we won’t let her do them.
When we are not mindful or vigilant, we are setting her up to fail.
When I leave my makeup on the bathroom bench, I am setting her up to fail.
When I leave the tissue box within reach, I am setting her up to fail
When I leave my water bottle on the floor beside the bed, I am setting her up to fail.
When I keep the clothes in her sister’s bedroom piled in the cupboard within easy reach, I am setting her up to fail.
When I leave pens on the bench, I am setting her up to fail.
When I leave a full bottle of shampoo on the bathroom bench where she washes her hands, I am setting her up to fail.
When I leave the nappy cream on a change table she can easily climb, I am setting her up to fail.
When we leave the children to play quietly so we can have a lie in, we are setting them up to fail.
It is our job to provide our children with a safe environment in which to explore and to guide them towards treating the things we possess with respect. We help them to do this by using the logical consequences of engaging them in the clean up or reparation process and not by using other punitive forms of discipline. In the absence of punishment it may take them longer to internalise that destructive forms of exploration are not acceptable, so being proactive and patient is key.
And when it all gets too much for me and I become exasperated that she is not learning more quickly, I remind myself that she will learn, in her own time. She will not do these things as an adult so for now, I will put things I treasure out of reach and monitor her movements more closely to keep her from failing.