I think an awful lot about parenting. Maybe because right now it’s my job. One thing that’s true is that we have very few rules at our house. I do my best to parent less out of rules and at least mostly out of principles. I guess I feel like it’s more true to how life works, and it goes beyond the surface, the behavioral-management level, and gets to the heart of things.
One parenting principle I’ve been passionate about lately comes from The Byrds, a Pete Seeger song: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” I’m sure you’ve heard it. The words come straight from Ecclesiastes in the Bible, but anyway, it goes:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn…
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace…
Ok, so you’re probably thinking, “What the heck does that have to do with parenting?” Well, I think I can summarize a whole lot of what I need to teach my kids with the simple phrase, “There’s a time for everything.”
There is a time (and place) for everything, and a time (and place) to refrain from everything. Loud crying out of anger or disappointment is not absolutely wrong; it’s just not always appropriate. The same goes for hysterical laughing. And spitting.
My almost-2-year-old loves to spit. His grandpa first taught him how to spit when we were camping a few months ago. Now he “practices” incessantly. In my house.
At first, I was telling him, “No spitting! Yuck!” But then I thought of that principle and I had to decide quickly how to teach him when and where spitting is appropriate and when and where it is inappropriate. So now I say, “Howie, when do we spit? No spitting inside unless you’re brushing your teeth.” Or, when we’re outside, I’m trying to help him learn to spit only in casual settings and not towards people.
Where an outright “no spitting” rule would solve the problem of nuance, it would also force us to miss out on the sheer fun of occasional and appropriate spitting. This principle frees us to make the most of every opportunity to spit! And, as the mother of two boys, I can assure you that there are many if you look for them. Watermelon seeds (hard to find anymore, but still occasionally available at your local grocery store), sunflower seeds, outdoor balconies under which there is little to no foot traffic, bridges, and tooth brushing are all wonderful opportunities to practice spitting. Whenever we encounter one, we live. it. up!
Have you thought of this before? How do you teach your kids that there is a time – and not a time – for everything?