Making the rules

family & parenting / Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I met blogger @meandmybigmouth for lunch a few weeks ago. It was brilliant to catch up and find a new haunt in Soho for speedy tucker. When we were chatting, he told me some of his family’s rules.

I’m always fascinated by the rules other families live by, and by their traditions. It is such an insight. I won’t betray his here; they are his stories and a part of his family life and how that lovely gang of his works. But he did talk about a general life rule, for all kids not just his own: a ‘zero tolerance/no second chances’ attitude to children saying ‘please’. I’m impressed by it and thinking of emulating it once the kids are older. Mainly, I’m still kicking myself I didn’t get his take on ‘thank you’.

Being hardcore on ‘please’ is one thing, the rewards are obvious: whatever you asked for. Of course it is important for children to be polite and learn to operate in a polite way, without a crazed sense of entitlement or a lack of respect because it makes everything nicer for everyone – but it is hard to explain this to the very young. This simple economics, however, even very young toddlers ‘get’. If you don’t say ‘please’, people won’t give you stuff. But ‘thank you’? Hard to explain that one without getting a bemused look or even an explanation from a three year old – ‘why would I bother doing that? I’ve already got it.’ In the end I settled for: ‘If you don’t say ‘thank you’ then people won’t offer you stuff again‘. Though presenting it in brutal grabby terms felt wrong somehow.

Ps & Qs aside, I had another conversation about rules today. Our family has many of the usual suspects:

be polite
don’t touch the fire
don’t run by/on the road
don’t kick daddy’s seat in the car
no drinks balanced on the arm of the sofa

and of course

Be gentle aka if he looks like he doesn’t like it, he probably doesn’t so DON’T DO IT

Most families have variants I expect. We have one other though, one which is a definite rule and which I often say wearily to Spider-boy near the Piccadilly Line. It was only today when I said it loudly that I realised how weird it sounded:

Don’t do slapstick on the (tube) platform

Not for the first time, I blame/salute Justin Fletcher for giving my life this physical comedy focus.

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