Smash Crash & Bang: On making rules & setting boundaries

On any given day I have to set, re-set and enforce rules. Some of the rules are life-savers, while others stem from convenience or necessity (at that moment). The title of the post stems from a talk with the kids about how or why so many toys were being broken - yes, even the wooden ones, and why some toys are monopolized on a daily basis. While I did not use the word "monopolized" in a discussion with preschoolers, I was very clear on the matter - all toys must be shared with everyone - every day. This meant:
No hiding toys, and definitely, no telling the other kids which toys they can and cannot play with.

When the discussion rolled around to the broken toys, Big boy admitted that "'s because we Smash Crash & Bang them everyday..."
I always thought that making and enforcing rules, and applying them to children was all about parenting styles. I have tried to be mindful that each child that comes into my care has his/her set of rules at home. Due to this fact, when we all come together, I like to ensure that there are few gray areas, because, in my opinion, gray areas are confusing, especially for children.

In the past few months there have been some occurrences that have led to various warnings and discussions about rules, and safety and even respect. It's not easy talking to young kids in the moment, because, sometimes emotions get in the way, on all sides.

Some of the major incidents include at least one broken toy every single week since ( has been too long to remember); participation in daily activities, and showing a positive spirit about said participation, as well as personal safety concerns.

I have tried to ensure that the kids have a say in our home/activities by developing a dialogue and change of ideas and practices:
  • 2 months ago (or so),the kids made/changed some things about our circle time routine.   Instead of doing circle time every single morning, we agreed on 3 mornings a week.
  • I am allowing the kids, especially the older ones to work out their differences. For the older kids, this means using words to describe how they are feeling and why. I certainly help to facilitate the discussion, but try as much as possible NOT to have such a strong presence that they feel overwhelmed.
  • Since we have only 1 planned activity per day, I am helping the kids explore other play options  (ie. time, place, and props/materials). 
  • We haven't done it formally on more than 2 occasions, however, I have allowed the children to practice democracy in voting for what they see fit (ie. storytime at AM snack, and the circle time issue I spoke about above). On both occasions, we discussed the importance of our activities, and agreed that we will vote on these issues again in the next season. I think this works, because we change our schedule/rhythm based on the seasons anyway.

Some of the rules are set:
  1. Wash hands before/after  eating...using washroom...playing outside
  2. Eat at the table
  3. At clean up time - pick up at least one toy
  4. Please say "Please... & Thank You!"
  5. Don't grab, throw toys
  6. Don't hit or hurt our friends. TRY to show them we are sorry IF we do. (ie. Kids don't HAVE to say the words "sorry", but maybe rubbing friend's arm or back is okay).
  7. One child on (going up or down) the stairs at a time

Some of the rules aren't really rules...they are our way of life here:
  1. Hold handrails when walking up/down stairs
  2. Big kids watch out for the little ones...don't run too fast while the little ones are on the floor
  3. Go to the washroom before you "REALLY" need to go
  4. Ask for help if/when you need it
  5. Use your words if you can
  6. Say STOP & NO if you don't like something
  7. ...listen if someone says STOP or No (more)...Stop right away!
The rules work more often than not. I have a great group of kids. But there are things that just happen over and over, and then we get to a point where we really don't have much else to do - we need change. This realization has inspired me to find the answer to the stress of the situation - how to work with the kids to ensure harmony. 

Yesterday and today we had a good discussion about safety and how to play safely and respectfully. The older boys reacted positively to the discussion, as there was much understanding of what had happened...more or less how we got to this point, and why I was concerned. I guess we could refer to this as the cause and effect side of teaching young children.

Some NEW rules that we discussed  and will put into effect asap are:
(these new rules stem from the pile of broken toys, & safety concerns)

These issues are were  discussed in this manner...
Problem: Toys are being smashed into other toys/walls etc. When you do this they end up broken or damaged. They are no longer safe to play with, and must be thrown out.  
Issue: We never end up with "more" toys because we are ALWAYS replacing broken toys.
Game plan: Smashing toys breaks our toys. We will try not to do it anymore.

Problem:  Due to possibility of trips and (or) falls, downstairs toys need to be kept downstairs...upstairs toys...upstairs. 
Issue: Falling down or tripping hurts our hands, heads and bums. Sometimes when we fall down, we can't see the "hurt" ie. bruises or scratches, and sometimes the hurt is inside our bodies, so we always have to try to keep our hands free, just in case. Plus our moms and dads will get scared and sad if we get hurt. 
Game plan: We will try to always remember to leave toys where we found them, but, if we want to bring a downstairs toy upstairs or vice versa, we will ask...get permission and ALWAYS wait for someone to help.

The set rules are pretty much embedded into the fabric of our home and play activities, but let' s be honest, kids need constant reminding, and I need a lot of patience and time to enforce the rules. It's not perfect - it could never be! But we are learning to cooperate and trying to remember that  it is okay to make mistakes. 
I am also learning as a parent and provider that rather than punish children for breaking the rules, children need to see the cause and effect aspect of just what is happening and why it does/doesn't work. Rather than state a million problems...a solution that seems reasonable must be discussed and put into practice over and over and over and over...and hopefully, they will get it.

And to you parents...thank you for letting  me work with your children. It cannot be easy for kids to inhabit 2 worlds, but the more we communicate and try to stay on the same page - the easier it will be for all.

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Kierna Corr at: July 31, 2015 at 7:34 AM said...

Great post Salma, I think we all end up re-negotiating 'rules' as time goes by and re-evaluating what is important and what might be ok to just 'let go'.

MK at: August 4, 2015 at 3:54 PM said...

We need to go over ours too...

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“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank…but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.”
~ Forest Witcraft

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