1) No playing with matches or touching them, unless you found it and are giving it immediately to an adult.
2) No playing with plugs, or sockets.
3) You may not go outside without permission. (The flip side is, ‘You must lock the sliding thing at the top of the door every time someone goes out or in.’)
4) No banging your chair back so that it tilts on a diagonal. (This used to be annoying and damaging to the chair. Now it is also dangerous.)
5) No hitting or biting, either yourself or anyone else.
6) The parent who put you in time out is the parent who ends the time out.
7) Do not throw anything that is not soft. (Ducks, pillows, and scarves are allowed to be thrown, and are often thrown as part of a game. Balls are not included, either.)
8) If you throw your food or dump your bowl, you are officially done.
9) If you choose not to eat supper, you get nothing except water until 6:00am. (This sounds awful, but it’s really not. He either chooses to eat, or chooses to sleep. This became a rule because he wanted to play instead of eating supper a few times, which lead to sleepless nights. After two or three nights in a row, I understood that it was a game and a habit – that gained him more playtime, and attention in the middle of the night. So, we made the rule. It only had to be tested once, and now he makes his choice and accepts the consequences. Yeah, it was awful. Yeah, it was mean. But oh, man, was it necessary. And better now, when he can’t get out of bed, than later, when he’ll be able to.)
10) Only Mommy milk is instant. Everything else takes at least a few minutes to prepare. Since you chose not to drink Mommy milk anymore, you no longer have instant food. And not always, at every second, can we give you attention. The moment we can, we will.
11) Writing is only on paper. Not on laundry baskets, floors, walls, or buckets.
12) You can take a big-person book off the shelf to read it. You may not take it off the shelf to step on it or otherwise harm it. Books that get torn will get you put in time-out (only since he started ripping books to see how we were going to react; before that, we took the book away and told him that we don’t rip books).
13) After you make a mess, you have to help clean up. After you help clean up, you get lots of praise.
14) When someone is talking to you, listen. (This is a rule for the parents, too.)
15) If you hurt someone, you have to apologize, give a hug, and do “gentle”. Hitting in order to get attention, gets you none. If you want something, ask nicely.
Rules for the parents:
a) Do not make a rule that you cannot or will not uphold. It lowers your status considerably. (I learned this from my own parents, the hard way.)
b) Choose your battles. If it’s not dangerous, and he’ll grow out of the stage, let it be. For instance, if he wants to wear a belt with an outfit that doesn’t need it, or if he wants to mismatch his clothes, let it be. No kid does this after they’ve grown up. Or, if he wants to take all his clothes out of his drawers, let it be. It takes about ten minutes to put them away neatly, and five seconds to dump them in. No kid does this when they grow up – unless they’re looking for something. So, let it be. Ditto for your clothes. But not for Dad’s pants that must be folded a certain way; those you have to teach the kid not to touch.
c) Stick with your rules, and give appropriate punishments. For instance, banging the furniture next to your playpen at 2:00am cannot be punished with time-out, because both parent and child need to go to sleep and are overtired. So, the punishment is psychological: Tell the kid that he had a choice of where to sleep, but now, since he made a bad choice, Mommy is going to decide where he sleeps. Then put him back in the playpen (note: playpen has been out of use for months now), which was what you were going to do anyways. Note that this is not really a punishment, but it sounds like one to the child, who doesn’t know whether or not you were going to let him decide. Also note that the option of pushing punishment off until morning is kind of stupid when the child is less than two years old.
d) Don’t do something that you’ll regret later. For instance, don’t go out when it’s almost naptime. If you do decide to risk it, be prepared for either a very late nap and a later bedtime, or for a very cranky toddler. Either way, you have only yourself to blame.
e) Anything that you do not want to see played with, needs to go high up. Otherwise, you have only yourself to blame.
f) Items on the counter must be at least two inches from the edge.
g) Act mad, don’t be mad. And even if it’s so funny that you can’t be mad, you’d better play the part, or the kid will never learn.
h) Save the real anger and yelling for the big stuff – like running into the street. Ditto for slaps.
i) Something you don’t like – time-out. Something moderately dangerous (picking up the cord to the fan or a box of matches) – gets a gentle slap on each hand and time out. Something extremely dangerous (trying to plug the cord in, opening the box of matches, running into the street) gets a not-so-gentle slap on each hand, three slaps on the bottom that wear the parent out and barely hurt the kid – there’s a diaper, remember – and time out.
j) Messing around with documents like birth certificates, passports, and the like is categorized as “moderately dangerous”, earning a gentle slap on each hand and time-out.
l) When the child is playing or reading nicely, or helping out, give lots of specific praise. (“Wow, you really listened quickly; I didn’t even finish the sentence!” or “This is going so fast. There’s no way I’d be able to clean everything up this fast without your help.” or “You knew just what I needed! I didn’t even have to look for my shoes!”)
m) Admit when you are wrong, and apologize for it.
n) Kids are smart; treat them as such. Teach them what they can touch and what they cannot. Teach them to take responsibility for, and to accept the consequences, of their actions.
o) Take responsibility for your actions and accept the consequences of them. Yeah, many adults have issues with this. That’s a big problem, but it’s not one of mine, not one of Yitzchak’s, and won’t be a problem for any of our kids, G-d willing.
(This one is from November 2012. See what happens when I go through five pages of drafts?)