I used to know someone who said whatever came to his mind, uncensored. Sometimes, those words were deeply hurtful, untrue even. They were spoken at whim, without any self-check or censorship. He wondered why his ex would disappear to the spare bedroom and remained silent for days.
This person grew up in a household where there were no rules when it came to the spoken word. His mother said whatever it was that she felt in the heat of the moment. Words are just words, only stupid people get hurt by them. Cruelty masquerading as “truth”, where kindness would have served better. When I was at my lowest point, her words wounded me deeply, because I had never bore any malice towards her at all.
“What have I done?” I used to torment myself. But in time, I learned to send blessings to this deeply fractured family instead. They just have a different way of being, that’s all, where words were free-for-all, like a street boxing match where they are no rules.
My mother, with the wisdom of simple fisherfolk, had very little rules. One of her rules is from Walt Disney:
“If you have nothing good, don’t say nothing at all.”
It is one rule she enforces fiercely. She refuses to allow any bad things to be said in her house. Even when unfairness had been done to me, she would say, ‘You have much to be grateful for, Jac.” She absolutely would not hear bad things about anyone. That was her unbroken rule.
I am writing this in context of rules. Totally unrelated, I was having a Facebook conversation with mothers about why I strongly believe that children need rules. The rules we set them when they are little becomes them later in life. The boundaries that we parents set also give children emotional security. My friend, a child psychologist, told me that. Children need rules for their emotional security.
I am a scientist at heart, and I would say this: rules are like gravity. They ground you. Children need to learn how to walk and navigate under this ever-present force before they can venture further afield to outer-space and fly free. But never forget, we live in a world governed by gravity.
If you let a toddler think she could do whatever she pleases, what will happen when she realizes that the real world is not so indulgent? Thus, much as you love your baby, she/he should never grow up thinking that she/he is Boss who could call all the shots.
Car seats, for example. My second son hated them. He would scream and kick. Soon, he learned how to free himself from the child-proof safety harness. And whenever he did that, we stopped the car and waited in silence (which frustrated him more than us) for him to climb back into his seat before we commenced the journey. He had to learn that car seats are non-negotiable.
Same with bedtime. We used to co-sleep. Being a mischievous toddler with a sister 9 months younger than he, he would sometimes mess around, kicking her, rolling onto her, etc, at bedtime. This child, powered by Duracell (he is now a naval officer), could stay up partying till midnight if we allowed him the freedom. But we did not. If he was in a messing around mood, he had to go back to his cot to self-regulate until he was ready to sleep with the family. And isn’t this what society is all about? We have rules, and we have to get by best we c an (be successful even) within those boundaries.
Be it speaking only with kindness or set bedtimes, I am a strong believer that children need gravity (parents) to set the rules so that they learn how to be free safely at a later date. No, a toddler should never Be boss. I shudder whenever I see that happening – it’s like being cast adrift into outer space without the grounding force of earth’s gravity.