Friday, June 29, 2007

He'll Live

DISCLAIMER: This article dispenses Monster Daddy advice that should be followed at your own risk. So far it has worked for him as his Monsters have not broken any bones or lost any eyes - yet, but give it time as his children are still young.

A few years ago when my wife and I were still a single Monster family and Number One Monster was only 1 year old, we were at a playground. Number One Monster was playing and somehow came to be hanging off the edge of the playset by his hands, his feet were about 1 ft above the soft sandy floor. My wife screamed to me to go get him as he was going to fall. I shrugged and said he's trying to climb back on, give him a chance.

"He'll get hurt!"

"He'll live!" I retort.

THUNK! He lands on his back, then WAHHHHHHHHHHH!

My wife glared at me as she started to rush over but I stopped her and said I'll take care of it. I picked him up (he was alright as I predicted, just a little shock) and after a little more crying I asked him, "Do you want to keep crying or play?" After a little more whimpering, he stopped and went back to the playset like nothing happened.

Fast forward three more Monsters and now my wife has gotten used to my schtick with the kids. Tripping, falling, scrapes and cuts, etc. It's all the same to me, I pick up my crying kid and ask the same question. 9 times out of 10 they stop crying and completely forget they ever got hurt. And if it's their fault I usually hit them with the "Be more careful.. If you weren't fooling around... Pay more attention..." lines. Sometimes, I even make them to say sorry. Dang, I am a Monster Daddy, LOL!

I bring this up because I read a recent article around Father's Day about how dads and moms react differently when kids get hurt. Basically, it said that mom's first instinct is to empathize and comfort. Dads, less so.

Personally, I believe kids tend to turn to their parents for a cue. If the parent goes into a hysterical fit, the kid knows he/she is supposed to cry and make a big deal out of it. Seriously, one time my son was running along a steep slope, slipped and rolled down about 5 ft. When he stopped, he had this anxious look on his face and immediately looked at me. No crying, he just looked at me for a cue. And I laughed and said "Great trick!" and then he started laughing, got up and ran around like an idiot again.

When Number Two Monster would cry it would be like an on/off switch. One time, he was crying inconsolably and I finally got frustrated and blurted out, "Are you done yet?" To my utter surprise, he completely stopped and said, "Yes." That's all, I just needed to ask him a question.

Can't tell you how much of my sanity (especially with 4 Monsters) has been saved by simply not reacting to their hysteria and changing their perspective. Time spent crying isn't time spent playing - hey that logic really works with kids!!! (And I never need to bribe them.)

My wife has sorta gotten used to this. She knows if I think the kids will live, I'm going to let them do whatever risky activity it is they are doing. Now I have a purpose behind the madness, IMHO kids need to learn and failing, getting hurt, etc. is simply part of the learning process.

Which is why I try and keep my Mom away from watching the kids when they do risky things. She gets hysterical over EVERYTHING and never let's my kids do anything. Yes, you Asian daddies all know the type! While it might be great to have grandma babysit sometimes, watch out!

IMHO my crazy methods are working. Lots of friends and family have commented on how outgoing and confident the Monsters are. And there are practical benefits. When Number One Monster took it upon himself at age 3 to take his 1 year old brother downstairs and feed him he made a mess. My response was clean it up and do better next time. (I know my Mom would have told him to never ever do that again.) When Number One Monster at age 5 asked if he could bathe his brother (3) and sister (1) in the tub, I said, "Sure but you also have to dry both of them too and not make a mess." (Don't worry, I watched from afar. Quite cute seeing him lifting the baby in and out of the tub and lathering her up.) Sure enough there was a big watery mess but I made him clean it up and he got better the next time. (That was 4 years ago and since then he has bathed all his siblings all by himself, WOOHOO!) Now he's clipping bushes, takes out the trash. Working on him mowing the lawn and vacuuming soon, LOL!

So if "He'll live" maybe it's worthwhile to let your child take a few chances. As long as he/she gets the right message when they fail it will work out in the long run. (Just first make sure you and the spouse are capable of handling it and no grandparents are around!)


angie said...

i *completely* agree! 99.8% of the time the kids really are fine and they've learned a multi-tiered lesson: a) be more careful next time b) there's confidence/trust to be earned c) not every little thing has to be the end of the world - they have to learn to cope.

my daughter has a friend (annoying boy) who cries at EVERYTHING! it's so annoying and no one (child or parent) can have a good time when he's around . . .

i think monster #1 doing things around the house and with his siblings is worth many lessons, too. he's learning that it's not 100% about him, he's an active member of the family and household and he's learning responsibility. my kids are 7 and 5 - they help cook, clean, vaccuum, dishes, set the table, laundry and take care of the pets . . . now if i could just get them to learn to make a macallan 15 neat . . .

SoulSnax said...

Now he's clipping bushes, takes out the trash. Working on him mowing the lawn and vacuuming soon, LOL!

NICE! That's what kids are for!

Before we were parents, and people asked when we'd be having children, I'd tell people, "Oh sure. We plan on having a whole army of kids. And we'll totally be able to afford it cuz we're moving to China to start a sweatshop." Shocked people into silence.

Reyes-Chow said...

I agree as well. As a dad of three girls, I have also noticed that OTHERS are wiling to let boys get into more trouble and take more risks than they are to girls. Don;t know how many times I have had to tell people that "she can do it" when they try to help her get that last step or do anything else that they are letting the boy next to them do.

Monster Daddy said...

reyes-chow, I think about that issue alot since my girl is surrounded by 3 boys. That type of behavior only sends the message that girls are weak.

When my older boys do something, it's only natural my girl wants to do it also. They lift her up, she just turns around and tries to lift them up. This is the critical point. My mother would tell her to stop, she'll hurt herself or something. I let her try again and again. (And she eventually did lift them up, the older one last of course.)

A friend of my wife once asked her if I was going to treat my daughter differently. To my wife's credit she immediately replied, "Oh, hell no!" That was brave of her actually as she was thinking about bruises and broken bones, etc. LOL!

Yet, my daughter can be remarkably affectionate, you expect that from girly-girls. Weird combo, she be fiercely sparring with her big brother, accidentally poke him in the eye or something and immediately stop to hug and kiss him as well as any mother would.

Gloria said...

I agree with you on this. I remember always being ignored when I cried, so I rarely cried as an adult. Even after electrocuting myself, I didn't cry. I remember waking up on the couch, embarrassed that I had electrocuted myself, and showed my dad my left hand instead of my right hand, which was blackened.

Nowadays I find crying toddlers extremely annoying. Maybe it's because I rarely cried as a kid. Hopefully karma doesn't come bite me in the ass and I end up with a kid that loves to cry.