House-Proof The Child
What is better: a child-proofed house or a house-proofed child?
This question gets to the very heart of our parenting philosophy. The Mateo & I have always prioritized instilling internal controls within our children. Certainly we took obvious safety measures in our home. But we also realized that there would always be certain dangerous situations that we could not control.
Thus, we set out to "house-proof" the children. When Jude was 8 months old, we moved to a home with a second story. Instead of installing multiple baby-gates, we taught him how to safely crawl up and down the stairs. There was nothing funnier than watching this little baby plop onto his belly at the top of the stairs and then scoot himself down the stairs feet first!
I believe it's also possible to "house-proof" a child in a moral sense. It's all about instilling those internal controls. Is it better to put the cookie jar out of reach on the top shelf, or teach the children self-control?
Honestly, it was more work for me to teach the children to ask every time they wanted a snack. But this work pays off because the children learn how to live with rules, boundaries and behavorial expectations.
I frequently ask myself this question: does this prepare my children for real life? If I remove temptation in all it's forms from my child's world, how will they be prepared for life outside our home?
I firmly believe that to teach true moral integrity, I cannot insulate my child from every single possible negative influence. Rather, I must instill the proper internal controls so that when they are faced with the tough realities of real life, they will choose rightly.
Will they fail? Yes. There have been times when a child sneaks a cookie or hits their sibling in frustration. There have been times when I have been sorely tempted to put the cookies on the highest shelf.
But again, what best prepares my children for real life?
Sometimes the best preparation is failure. Babies learn to walk by first standing, falling down, standing again, falling down. Children learn how to walk morally by sometimes falling down. Instead of becoming discouraged with them (or myself), I accept that failure is a vital element of the learning process.
And last time I checked, the only one sneaking cookies was me!