Parenting 101, better known as common sense, involves knowing the normal things from which to protect young children. You know, like fires, climbing on the roof, or running in the street. The catch to Parenting 101 is that children don’t have much common sense. On top of that, they like to test your theories on heat conduction and gravity just to make sure you know what you’re talking about.
Then, there is a second level of parenting, which requires a parent to understand the unfathomable inner-workings of a toddler’s mind. Most parents get better with practice, but an FBI profiler couldn’t begin to predict their behavior with 100% accuracy. Parenting 201 is not for cowards.
Here are my top ten tips on moving from Parenting 101 to 201.
P101: Keep children from playing near campfires.
P201: Remove cold ashes from campfires before children decide to make their own sandbox.
P101: Keep small objects put away so toddlers won’t put them in their mouth and choke.
P201: Supervise craft time so toddlers won’t eat the colors, playdough, glitter, paper or other supplies. Note: Crayons are not toxic.
P101: Cut food in small bite-sized pieces, again to avoid choking.
P201: Chain the refrigerator door to prevent children from raiding the food supply, taking only one bite from everything in reach. Note: The top shelf is still within reach.
P101: Place breakable and inappropriate objects out of reach.
P201: Place breakable and inappropriate objects in a locked cabinet with the key tied to your person at all times. A retina scanner might be a better option. I’ve known a few kids that could pick a lock at a very young age.
P101: Never leave a toddler unattended in a bathtub.
P201: Never give a toddler a bath toy that will double as a bucket or other scooping device. A few gallons of water can be scooped out of the bathtub in five seconds, cover the bathroom floor ½ inch deep, and require an entire shelf of towels to mop up. Purchasing a wet-vac is a wise investment.
P101: Carefully select age-appropriate movies and television shows for young children; ones depicting kindness and sharing.
P201: Password-protect all electronic devices, particularly ones which allow purchases and downloads without a secondary authentication method. Note: I do not like Selena Gomez songs. Additionally, children are particularly adept at dialing 911 and texting strangers.
P101: Secure all furniture that may double as climbing equipment to keep youngsters from scaling the refrigerator.
P201: Remove knobs and handles from cabinets that may provide footholds and crevices, similar to those used by mountain-climbers. A single line of electrical fencing along the counter could be effective, but you should remember to turn it off before touching the cabinet, yourself.
P101: Remove chords from blinds, curtains, etc. to prevent children from accidentally getting one wrapped around his neck.
P201: Never leave a jump-rope or even a bathrobe sash lying around. It can be thrown over a ceiling fan blade and used to play Tarzan swinging from the tree. Note: Most ceiling fans will not bear more than 30 pounds before ripping out of the ceiling.
P101: Monitor playtime to keep rough-housing from getting too rough.
P201: Install sponge-turf in play areas to reduce broken bones and carpet burns. It does not prevent 100% of injuries, but it’s preferable to stained concrete for a landing surface. Additionally, check pillow cases for large legos and other hard objects that will leave lumps and bruises after making contact with a face or torso.
P101: Filter your language around children to avoid bad words.
P201: Redact names and other obvious identifying details when discussing family members or friends. Children have an innate ability to decipher who you’re talking about and will repeat the most embarrassing bits of information at the worst possible time. It’s true that “kids say the darnedest things.”
My list is, of course, only a beginner’s version for moving beyond Parenting 101. I wish I could give you a good age range when children outgrow such frustrating behavior, but I’m still in the throes of child-rearing and haven’t had one completely graduate from the need for a good smack in the head. The hope that gets me through most days is that I will live to see their own children repeat their follies. Oh, how that will be sweet vindication.