I’m always amazed by how much my two year old thinks she’s getting away with on any given day. It makes me wonder if it’s ingrained in us to somehow believe that we are smarter or more savvy than those who have been put in charge of us. Here’s a typical scenario in our household:
MaKayla: *picks up Daddy’s laptop and attempts to open it*
Mommy: Put that down, MaKayla. That’s Daddy’s computer.
MaKayla: *caught red handed, blinks her big, beautiful, eyes and slowly shuts the laptop*
Five minutes later.
MaKayla: *picks up Daddy’s laptop while staring at me and smirking*
Mommy: I’m looking right at you, MaKayla!
MaKayla: *giggles nervously and runs off*
And I get it. At two, she’s testing her boundaries. She wants to know if I mean what I say. She’s trying to see if my “No” is for real. To her, my reprimands are only effective the moment I utter them.The next moment? All bets are off.
When she started testing us, I was initially very frustrated. I found myself becoming the stereotypical black mother. Or maybe more accurately, I became MY mama.
“If I tell you one more time…”
“You’re not slick, Kayla. Put the shea butter down!”
“Take your shirt off one more time, hear!”
And in response to her “I want, I want” pleas: “People in hell want ice water.”
Yes, I said that. No, she doesn’t have a clue what hell is or why there would people there. Yes, I’m going to be supremely embarrassed when she repeats this to her teacher or worse, to one of the ladies at church.
In my frustration, all I kept thinking was, “OK, this fascination with sneakiness and mischief is somewhat expected at two. At fifteen, it’s going to be a problem.”
Then I got a breakthrough.
I was sitting watching some random talk show that shall remain nameless lest I further defame myself in this post. The mother of a teenager was, in essence, justifying why she allowed her teenage daughter to have her boyfriends (yes, plural) spend the night. In her room. In her bed.
I think I just saw the back of my mother’s hand coming toward me in my periphery vision for just writing that.
But watching that foolishness (and observing all the other ‘friendly’ parenting going on), helped me understand something.
I WANT A SNEAKY CHILD.
Here’s a couple of reasons why:
A sneaky child understands clearly the difference between right and wrong. If there were no comprehension of the consequences of bad behavior, the child would have no reason to sneak in the first place. When I would sneak and listen to NWA’s Straight Outta Compton cassette in seventh grade (yes, I said cassette…fall back), it was because I clearly understood that the language and content was something I shouldn’t be listening to at twelve. THIS, believe it or not, is a starting point. Despite the acting out, the child has begun the cognitive process of differentiating between right and wrong behaviors. I can work with that. Sure, what’s right and wrong might change over time as they mature. It absolutely should. But, in my opinion, it’s the child who NEVER had to sneak, NEVER had good and bad, right and wrong delineated for them who is more likely to run up in schools and theaters shooting folks.
Secondly, a sneaky child is a child who can think critically. When I decided that I would go against my parents rules and forgo the PG 13 movie in favor of the Rated R movie, I had to think strategically about how I was going to make that work—especially since my parents had seen the PG 13 movie and would inevitably ask, “What was the movie about?” Without the benefit of the internet, I had to find out those details from friends who’d seen it and without giving myself away, recount parts of the film that weren’t in the trailer. I also had to make sure that the two movies got out around the same time… just in case Mom wanted to pop up early at the cinema. I had my plan and I worked my plan. And I got busted. LOL! Kids usually get busted. But the ability to think critically and to plan a really great “workaround” is something I’ve developed into a useful trait I use to this very day.
Don’t get me wrong. At the end of the day, we want obedient children. In spite of my moments of sneakiness, I was at my core, an obedient child. But even if our kids end up having a childhood filled with time-outs, restrictions and other forms of discipline, we as parents can find ways to wrangle those mischievous sensibilities in and redirect them into something positive. I firmly believe they’ll be stronger, more mentally sound adults because of it.
If not, then we always have every parent’s favorite prayer: “Have Mercy, Lord.”
So what do you think? How do you redirect the more frustrating behaviors of your children (sneakiness or other things) to help them grow and mature?
This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.