What is it about children and couches? Is it just my children who cannot walk past a couch without upending a cushion, pitching a throw pillow, twirling an arm cover on one finger, or dragging the throw-blanket away for a superman cape? If there’s anything I regret most in this life it is buying a couch with unattached cushions. A day does not go by when I don’t have to track down and return some critical seat or back cushion for our couch. I will put the couch back in order and no more than leave the room before the cat appears wearing an arm cover as head piece or a child flies past me with a seat cushion strapped to his chest as a shield. I always know when my youngest has been messing with the stereo, not because of the sound but because of the huge stack of couch cushions positioned in front of the cabinet so that he can reach all the knobs. On the scale of life’s difficulties I know that replacing the cushions and washing the pillow covers once again is relatively low. But what drives me nuts is that I could have prevented this.
Parenting is all about prevention. Kids grow up, this is inevitable. Our job as parents is to create an atmosphere that is safe and sane and gives them enough freedom without turning ourselves in to shrews who are constantly yelling, “Why is the couch cushion on the swing set?” We need to be smart because kids’ brains are gaining on us every day. Prevention. I’m telling you that is the key. Buy couches with attached cushions. If you don’t want your kids watching 10 hours of TV a day, cut the cable (and break your own habit too). If that video game seems way to mature for kids, get it out of your house. You want your kids to read more? Don’t tell them to read, fill the bookshelves. Reduce the screen options. Kids won’t stay bored for long – I promise. Learn to say no. If you don’t want your kids to have it, then don’t give it to them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t fall for that “all the other kids are doing it” crap. My kids still don’t know how to play Nintendo and have no idea what a reality TV show is. And it’s not making them social pariahs. Just because so many kids out there are allowed to watch inappropriate adult television shows, play hours of violent video games and eat corn syrup sweetened diets and society shrugs their shoulders, doesn’t mean it’s OK. Whatever you decide is right for your kids, be clear with them because making no decision is certainly making a decision. Kids know this and they capitalize on it. Just remember - you don’t get another shot at raising your kids.
The same goes for eating healthy and organic. Of course kids aren’t going to choose the healthy choice if it’s stale and unappetizing and there are Transformer Fruit Snacks on the next shelf. If you don’t want your kids to eat things that aren’t good for them – don’t buy them. Don’t have them around. Fill your cabinets, fridge, and counter tops with healthy options. Fresh fruit, nuts, cheese, whole grain snack food, and yogurt should always be available. I left a bowl of freshly picked apricots out on the counter this weekend and my kids ate every last one by Monday morning. (Of course, I’m still finding pits all over the house too, but that’s the price I’ll pay.)
Think through what you really want for your kids in terms of lifestyle, habits, eating, and priorities. And take a hard look at your home – make the changes you need to make. Kids aren’t supposed to have all that impulse control mastered yet so we need to set them up to be successful. Sometimes teaching them about healthy choices means not having any unhealthy ones available. I look at it this way – I’ve only got a few years to have any influence on their lives and even fewer in which I can actually control much of their lives. I have to make the most of my time, my example, and my decisions now. Sure they may make all kinds of unhealthy choices the moment they set out on their own, but at least I’ll know the foundation I helped them build is strong and there is a good chance that some habits will be hard to break.
The Slenderman Lesson
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