Limits – Yes, No, Maybe?

Here we grow again! Night Owl and I are adapting to a “new normal” right now as he expresses his desire for I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.C.E.

Most-used phrases:

“Why can’t I live by myself?”
“Why do you get to tell me what to do?”
“Why is there a rule about that?”
HATE that you get to tell me what to do!”

Which is kind of funny, because it may mean I have to start to communicate with him the way I do with his father.  Things go a lot more smoothly if I ask instead of tell my DH to do anything.  And then I have to ask without manipulating…the trials of living with creative minds.

Seriously, though, I would not have it any other way.  I love that Night Owl is imaginative, that he wants to explore, and that he wants to push boundaries.  In an adult, those qualities can lead to great and amazing things.

In children, they lead to experiences like this:

We had just come back to the heat from our summer cabin in the mountains.  Night Owl decided to cool things off by having a snowstorm and making an ice skating rink...out of baby powder.

We had just come back to the heat from our summer cabin in the mountains. Night Owl decided to cool things off by having a snowstorm and making an ice skating rink…out of baby powder.

You have to understand that I am all about safety and security.  My husband and first-born son are not.  It makes for an interesting conflict – I want them to be safe.  They see no problem with rappelling up the trunk of a tall tree with a parachute cord to see if they can.  Or spraying baby powder to make a snowstorm.  Or filling a playpen full of ice and water to play “Ice Ship” and go exploring to the North Pole.  Or climbing to the tallest shelf in the house (10 feet high) to sniff out legos in boxes that haven’t been opened yet. How about making a zip-line out of masking tape to “swashbuckle” from the desk in his room to his dresser? (Yes, these have all happened – Night Owl is six. Can you imagine what else is in store for us?) 

He wants to try EVERYTHING.  I want him to keep two feet on the ground at all times.  I try to be careful with how I express my limitations because the last thing I want to do is instill fear in our children.  THIS  article by Dr. Jim Taylor has been really instrumental in helping me come to grips with the fact that I have to grow in order for my son to have the best opportunity to express his personality without feeling oppressed:

The challenge for you involves determining your own natural comfort zone in allowing your children to explore. That zone is dictated by your inborn temperament and the perceptions about how secure the world is based on your own experiences growing up. Your comfort zone will be determined by where you lie on the continuum from risk taker to risk averse.

And, if you allow it to, you will send messages to your children about where that comfort zone is. If your children’s inborn comfort zone is smaller than yours, then you will likely just reinforce those limits and possibility prevent them from extending those limits through experience.

If their limits are farther than your own, then your comfort zone may act as a leash, restraining them from broadening their already more expansive comfort zone.

We definitely fall in the “parent comfort zone is smaller – child’s limits are farther” camp.  I see our way forward in three steps: I am going to talk to him about how to evaluate situations, I will offer him decision making tools (that I hope he will use!), and I will definitely be taking more deep breaths.

How do you navigate child safety and healthy exploration?