Parenting Rules

A growing list of wisdom I’ve gained over the years.

No grudges/punishments after midnight. This applies to spouses as well. Everyone (including you) gets a clean slate in the morning. Everyone deserves a fresh start and second chance. And just as importantly, it’s stressful and exhausting to try and remember every bad behavior that needs correcting.

If I am grouchy and see my kid do something bad, I may make a rule (“no TV for the rest of the day!”). If/when they do it again, my instinct is to then extend that rule (“no TV for a week!”) but this is too hard to enforce and then what the kid ends up learning is that I don’t follow through on my threats. There are no good easy ways to maintain discipline, but if I am inclined to start doling out punishments that will last for more than a day, better to just change the environment, physically move them and me somewhere else.

• Related to the above, give feedback immediately. A popular concept these days is ‘gamification’ and the essence of that is immediate feedback, both positive and negative. If a child (or employee, or spouse, or friend for that matter) does something that you want to reinforce, don’t make a mental note to give them ice cream later – give them a hug and praise them right then and there. Similarly, if you see behavior that you want to correct, again, don’t delay your reaction. If your reaction is not immediate, the child will not associate your reaction with their action and your reaction will seem irrational.

Sugar is ok as long as you have a plan for where the kids will be when they are burning it off, running around and screaming, and where they will be when they crash, grumpy and unmotivated. A sweet treat about an hour before leaving a playground is great because the kids will run around and start to get tired around when it’s time to leave anyway.

… more to come

Star Wars

We don’t have any Star Wars-related suggestions at Matchstick. I loved Star wars as a kid, and had the figures and the trading cards, and spent hours drawing T.I.E. fighters and X-Wings, but as a movie and a concept and a universe, Star Wars is candy. I loved Star Wars when I was a child, but I loved Cap’n Crunch, too. I won’t let my kids eat that stuff now.

Kids love Star Wars and many adults are nostalgic for it, but the movies and books and games and other merchandise is fun without having anything redeeming about it. If anything, the big lesson of the Star Wars stories is that all problems can be solved with magic and/or fighting. Watch any kids after watching one of the movies and all they want to do is hit each other with sticks. It’s odd to see kids’ backpacks at school, many of which have images of stormtroopers with blaster rifles running and shooting – not the kind of imagery normally allowed or encouraged at schools.

One could argue that Star Wars gets kids interested in Space, but I would argue that it actually perverts interest in Space because kids would much rather watch a version of space that manages to have sound effects in a vacuum, where vehicles can travel from one planet to another in a few minutes.

I don’t hate Star Wars (although episode VII was merely poorly-implemented fan ficton) and I let my kids play with the toys from the 70s that my mom saved in the attic for all these years, but I don’t push it and don’t have any Star Wars-related book or toy recommendations. There are plenty of more meaningful, educational, and dare-I-say ‘wholesome’ stories out there.