Since Iris became mobile, she has slowly grown more adept at getting into things which are age-inappropriate. This has presented a new challenge to me as a parent in respecting my child. I don't believe in permissive parenting, but I do strongly believe that our children should be treated as people - treat them as you would like to be treated. No, I don't mean give your baby some iced-coffee in their sippy or let them watch Aliens on a Friday night. Nor do I mean they should be allowed to play with items which could be dangerous, or other such things. Let's see if I can give a little bit of perspective...
Imagine that you go to the mall this weekend. You wander around, in and out of your favorite stores. While their advertising is as flashy as ever and their windows are adorned with the season's hottest things, everything seems dull, the same as every other time you've visited. Then all of a sudden you spot something new. It could be a new clothing store that you've been dying to see come to your town, a game store or a technology related store. You make a beeline, your heart racing with the excitement of something new and shiny.
And there it is - the perfect new dress; the newest highly rated game; the fastest and most user friendly new cellphone. You run your fingers over it, smiling to yourself that you've found what you've been hoping for. You're so glad. Then all of a sudden... "That's not for you, give it to me!" A rude salesperson grabs it from your hands, sneering at you, "I don't think this is in your price range."
I imagine that's how Iris perceives things when I, without thinking, grab something from her that I don't want her to have. I certainly wouldn't want someone treating me so rudely or with an abrupt, knee-jerk reaction. "But, a baby can't understand such complex emotions!", you might exclaim. Go ahead, grab whatever your child is playing with right now... see what happens? They start crying. This new thing is so special and great to explore when... bam, it's ripped away. Get your partner or spouse to grab something from you today and see how you, yourself, react.
Let me repeat, I don't mean that kids should play with legitimately dangerous items - please, do grab those scissors! But when they get into your folded laundry, your new roll of toilet paper, drop your cellphone or reach for your unread magazine to shred - be gentle. The world is still so exciting and new to them, and they won't have impulse control until they are over 5 years old. Treat them as the age they are, but respect that they are a person too, no matter how small! If you don't want them playing with something, take a moment to explore the item with them. Show them how it works, how it feels. Then, "this is fun, but not for Iris right now. You can play with this ball!"
Which would you prefer - "do you need any help? Well sure, I can put that away for you!" Or, "that's not for sale."