One of the things that I’ve had to learn is to consistently ask the question, where’s this coming from? It has become a mantra as I deal with the daily workings of the child/teen mind. You will see and hear – and occasionally smell – things that will make your sensory organs bleed, and that mantra has to be close to you since it has a distinct bearing on how you respond and address them.
The key to successfully finding the answer to that question is to work at remaining calm even when your organs want to bleed. Even small children aren’t stupid and if Junior realizes that he’s stepped in a steaming hot pile, then your access to accurate, truthful answers shuts down fast. It doesn’t mean that you can’t show surprise or shock, but the initial responses need to be as matter-of-fact as possible.
For example, as I walked out the back door, I witnessed one of my children trying to perform a stunt worthy of Johnny Knoxville. The immediate response was to grab the child before he could hurt himself and remove him from the situation. It’s in the minutes afterwards, when I’m recovering from the shock, that I consider the question where did this come from? Not surprisingly, I found that Rupert at school was boasting of doing this. Mind you, there are moments when I wonder how Rupert will survive long enough to contribute to the gene pool. This led to a conversation over physical safety, common sense, gravity and believing everything being spouted by a third-grader with a death wish.
Another time, I’m driving in the car and the preschooler in the back asks Daddy, what does M*&^%*(&&k mean? Does this require a later conversation with an older sibling or child, or did Junior see or hear something on cable? In this particular instance, I pulled the car over and after talking with him, found that it had been dropped by another preschooler when her block tower fell over.
And sometimes, the answer is that there was no particular reason for doing something, like using permanent marker to doodle on the hardwood floor. In that case, all you can do is shake your head and have the child get their toothbrush.