Kids Don’t Come with Manuals


They say kids don’t come with manuals, and as a young mom, I certainly felt the truth of that statement. When I had my daughter at the age of 23, I lacked the guidance of a mentor or model. My own mom passed away just 3 months after my daughter was born, and my aunts and mother-in-law lived far away. So, armed with parenting books and a local college parenting class, I did my best to navigate this new chapter of life.

Times have changed since then, and now I learn valuable lessons from watching our son and daughter-in-law raise their children—our delightful grandchildren.

For instance, “back in the day,” if my child asked for a snack before dinner—even with a polite “please”—my response would have been a firm, “No, it will ruin your dinner.” But my son takes a different approach. He acknowledges the politeness with a “Thank you for saying please,” but also adds that “a snack isn’t an option right now.”

Observing this process has taught me that offering choices is an effective way to teach children and make things easier for them (and the adults too).

This week, I had Asher, the 2-year-old, with me as I browsed Hobby Lobby.  He spotted a brightly colored baseball hat on display and promptly put it on. He looked so cute in it. Several women stopped to admire him, cooing about his cuteness and engaging him in conversation.

But then Asher lost interest in the hat. He took it off, dropped it on the floor, and started strolling down the aisle.

“Asher,” I said, “please pick up the hat and put it back where you found it.”

His response? What many 2-year-olds would say:  “No.”

Okay, I thought, time to put into action what I’ve learned about choices. I said very calmly and sweetly, “Asher, please put the hat back or we’ll need to have you sit in the cart. Which would you like to do?”  (He’s become quite the independent walker in stores and despises being confined to a cart.)

As he looked at me, I was saying to myself, “Please pick it up, please pick it up.”  Not only did I want to avoid any conflict, but I was also aware that the ladies were standing there watching, waiting to see what he would do.

It seemed like hours, but I’m sure it was just a few seconds before he picked up the hat and put it back where it belonged, then casually started walking away.

I released the breath I was holding, as I heard the ladies delightedly exclaim how well-behaved the little guy was.

I’m so glad that I have a parenting model now… even if it is my own son and daughter-in-law.


(Thank you, Home Depot, for having carts that are kid-friendly. Asher does love the ones he can “drive” himself.)







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Comments (2)

  1. gypsymonkeyscrap

    I love this! I wish I had had this insight when I was raising my kids.

    February 24, 2024 at 7:13 am
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