Rules, Structure, and Toddlerhood


I’m not big on rules. Structure, yes. Rules, no.

So it comes as a complete surprise to notice the rules that set themselves as strongholds in my home, in regards to the tiny tot. Especially since I am watching a nineteen month old this week, and repeating the same requirements I place on my tiny toddler, on Bitty Boy.

The whole situation seems weird, seeing as I never sat down and decided what the rules should be, or how many I should decide to create.

In my little family, our life runs on a crazy version of routine. My tiny human generally knows what to expect on any given day. We wake up, dress ourselves, brush teeth, go to preschool, I pick him up, we play at the park, or play in the yard, take a bath, eat dinner, brush teeth, settle down, and then do our bedtime routine. The only change we expect is when Tiny visits his dad’s house.

Impending changes in structure require warning. I sit my tiny human down, and we discuss what is going to change in our routine. Mostly because I am a talker. But, I also believe it will make the change less dramatic to accept, and elicit less fits of temper.

Plus, I like explaining the world to my child. It’s a means of figuring out where his cognition falls.

That, or I just don’t know how to shut up.

Either way, even I know that reasoning with a toddler is not always the best course of action. Sometimes I need to break out Mean Mommy, and stand firm in discipline techniques. Which is where rules come into play.

Ugh, rules.

When the rules set themselves in the house, they automatically became expected behavior. I guess that makes me a dictator in my house. I think I’m okay with that. So, Tiny and I do not make charts, graphs, or employ sticker incentives. There are no red face days, and green face days. He doesn’t have a toy goal to shoot for, just a mean ol’ momma to please.

Oh, and I’m not cool enough to make sticker charts, anyway. That takes creativity.

And, I believe I mentioned that I am not a Super Mom.

However, Tiny knows the rules. There are only two, and they are absolute. Well, unless I am sick, sleepy, or generally grumpy. It may be plausible that I give wiggle room when I do not feel good. Eh. Oh, well.

Generally speaking, these are my fallback expectations, for when my tiny person refuses to play the part of the well-behaved toddler. Over all, I believe him to be a good, well-mannered, sweet baby boy.

I’m biased, though, and love his pretty smile.

Still, he does misbehave. He’s three. It happens. Heck, it’s practically expected. So, when I ask, “Son, son? What is Mommy’s number one rule?” he knows the answer. It is a requirement he has heard since the moment he became mobile: don’t kill yourself.

I know, I know. Never state a rule in a negative way, and never use the word, “Don’t.”


The people who think up ways to correctly write rules are right, but I want to debate their methods, to see exactly how their children–if they had children–behaved growing up. Because, I once held strong to those ideals, even utilizing them in my classroom. But, those days are in the past.


My perspective changes with the development of my tiny human, though. It is entirely possible that I will amend this rule to one day state, “Think carefully before you make a decision.”

See? I can play the PC part well. I just choose not to with my toddler. I remember the days of redirection.

“Let’s find something else to do, other than playing Buzz Lightyear off the couch.”

“How about we color, instead of Ninja jumping all of your stuffed animals, and knocking into the television?”

“Son, son, are you allowed to crawl into the kitchen from the living room, and sit on the countertop?”

Yeah … I still stand by my “don’t” rule.

“Son, Mommy’s Number One Rule is don’t kill yourself. It’s naughty chair time.”

See how that works for me? Now he is clued into two things. Sitting four feet off the ground, on the kitchen counter top, is dangerous, and he will now deal with the consequences. In time out.

The other rule is much more simple, though I state it in a completely dorky way. And, it is politically correct, mirroring the educational ideals of rule setting principles. For everyone who believes in that sort of thing.

I mean, I still remember my educator years, even though I choose not to follow.

So, in my other rule, I inform my son we have listening ears, and must listen with ears that hear. I find this to work when I say, “Get off the table,” and my tiny human looks at me, and smiles.

Little boys! They love pushing their limits. It’s something in their eyes. I always know when Tiny Tot is deciding whether the naughty chair is worth the risky behavior. Unfortunately, he usually weighs the odds after choosing exactly the opposite of the right decision.

Making me, the mean mommy, admonish, “Are you listening to Mommy with ears that hear, or are we going into the naughty chair?”

A pout, a frown, and a petulant voice whines, “I listen! I listen, Mommy? See? I’m not on the table anymore.”

What really works for me is the fact that Tiny Tot truly dislikes the naughty chair. That happens when an entire two months is spent sitting on a rug, in time out. Yes, this mommy can stand strong when it is needed. But, those long stents in time out makes the mere mention of the naughty chair work in my favor. He corrects his behavior, and it reaffirms the two house rules.

It’s kinda cool.

My two rules are simple, they are easy, but I believe them to be all-encompassing. And, it works for my tiny family.

Isn’t that what rules are all about?

No comments posted on November 15, 2012 in Winging It, Mom Style

Leave a Reply

Join the discussion!

Thanks for the response!

error: This content is protected by owner.