We all want our children to learn to be independent, but it has to go hand in hand with learning to be responsible. That has been a challenge for my daughter. She wants to do things for herself; things like making breakfast or getting a snack, but, being a child with developmental disorders, she can’t remember to put things away if she is not using them or is finished with them. This was the cause of much frustration for me this morning when I entered the kitchen to find the door to the refrigerator wide open and half of the contents spread out on the floor and most of the containers open. The damage had obviously been done some time in the night, as well, as there was not a smidgeon of chill to be found on anything. The mess alone made me angry and the thought of the cost and waste took me far beyond that.
What NOT to do
I called my daughter to the kitchen and furiously demanded to know why she had made such a mess and destroyed all the food. Dumb question number one. She did it because she was hungry and she doesn’t remember rules. I know this. I asked her if she knew how much money she had just wasted. Dumb question number two. She doesn’t. She has no concept of money or value. I asked her if she thought mommy had nothing better to do with her day than to spend it cleaning up after her. Dumb question number three because that is what mommy’s are supposed to do, right? Right… Then I asked her if I needed to put a lock on the door to keep her out of the refrigerator.
Out of all the “dumb” questions I was wasting my breath on, this was the one she chose to answer. “Yes, mommy, I need a lock to make me stop.”
I was momentarily stunned, then I said, “Well we can’t put a lock on the refrigerator. That would be crazy. You just need to remember the rules. You don’t get food out of the refrigerator without asking first.”
“But I can’t bemember” my daughter replied, frustrated.
“R…rrr…rrr…remember,” I corrected absently. “What can we do to help you remember?”
“You can put up a stop sign!” my daughter suggested after a few moments. A pretty good idea, actually. And later that day, after I finished cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, we went shopping for a stop sign. Unfortunately, we didn’t find one… so, back to the kitchen.
My daughter and I stood in front of the refrigerator both scowling at it as we tried to come up with a solution to our problem. Finally, inspiration struck, and my daughter gave me a sly little smile as she walked up to the refrigerator and reached around to the side of it to pull off some magnetic letters which she used to spell the word “STOP” at her eye level by the door handles. “S… T… O… P… STOP!” she read out triumphantly. Then “Wait… wait…” and she took off upstairs to return a minute later with a long string of red beads which she wrapped around the refrigerator door handles. “Ta da!” She exclaimed turning to me to see what I thought.
I couldn’t help but grin! My little girl had figured out the solution to our problem all by herself and it was such a creative idea! We celebrated with hugs and hot chocolate I spent the next many days marveling over what a clever and inventive little girl I had.
Actually, I think I learned two lessons from this situation. First, my daughter needs visual reminders to help her “bemember” things. Her disability requires those reminders in order for her to be successful. And secondly, if I want the rules and boundaries to be respected, I have to involve her in making them—and in the making of the visuals to remind her of them, as well.
Remember to approach parenting with love and logic. Set boundaries, be creative and have fun!
Featured image by AngelWings