Toddlers are not known for their ability to calmly and rationally accept constructive criticism. Anyone who ever wondered where the phrase “choose your battles” came from clearly did not have children. Every day I make hundreds of split-second, often ill-advised decisions between what I know is right as a parent and what I have the energy to enforce.
When my toddler asks if he can go outside barefoot in subzero temperatures, I know the correct answer is “Of course you can’t. Are you crazy?” However, telling him “no” is like slapping him in the face with my glove, biting my thumb, and issuing a triple-dog-dare all at the same time.
Once the gauntlet has been thrown, any toddler worth his salt has no choice but to accept the challenge with the same passion, intensity, and complete psychosis with which he approaches everything in life.
Rather than fielding a hundred questions about why the snow is cold, why the snow is white, and why Snow white lived with dwarves, I have decided to let my children learn a few of life’s less dangerous lessons through trial and error. Instead of arguing with my barefoot toddler, I simply open the door, smile, and wait for the budding frostbite to do my job for me.
Whenever I’m tempted to say “no” to my toddler, I stop and think for a moment about whether or not letting him make his own mistakes will lead to any kind of serious damage. If not, then I sit back and enjoy the show.
“Mommy, can I eat dog food?”
Check label. Nothing toxic.
“Mommy, can I drink Drano?”
Check label. Probably not a good idea.
“Sorry, son, but here’s some dog food.”
“Mommy, can I jump off the coffee table onto the hard wood floor?”
Look around. No sharp corners, and the table is only two feet high.
“Just don’t land on your head.”
“Mommy, can I jump out the second floor window?”
Definitely not a good idea.
“Let’s watch some tv instead!”
“Mommy, can I ride in my toy dump truck?”
It’s annoying, and he’ll probably end up dumped all over the kitchen floor, but it’s not life threatening.
“Mommy, can I ride my toy dump truck down the stairs?”
It’s tempting to just open the front door and send him flying, but I don’t fancy a trip to the emergency room.
“How about we give your teddy bear a ride instead?”
“Mommy, can I wear my hair in a mohawk?”
He looks pretty good in hats.
“Grandma will be so excited.”
“Mommy, can I wear the cat as a hat?”
He looks pretty good with eyes.
“Let’s dress the dogs up instead.”
“Mommy, can I have a drink of your coffee?”
“Do you take milk and sugar?”
“Mommy, can I drink from the bottles in the liquor cabinet.”
Jim Beam, Smirnoff, and Jose Cuervo do not go well in a sippy cup.
“Well, it may be 5:00 somewhere, but not here. How about some nice dog food?”
I have saved hours, dozens of headaches, and countless “because I said so”s each week by following this simple philosophy before issuing a challenge to my stubborn toddler.
It’s parenting, only easier and a lot more fun.