Saturday, September 10, 2016

Stealing from Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers used to tell his TV audience, "I like doing this with you," or "I like doing that with you."  He was always telling us what he liked to do with us.  Ever since I was a child, I remembered this about him, and as a father, I have brought it into my own regular use of expressions.  "I like riding bikes with you," or "I like going to the park with you."  Our kids, whether 12 months old, 12 years old, or 25 years old want to know the things we like to do with them.

Another thing I think kids want to know is what they do well too.  "Hey, you're really good at tying your shoes," or "The way you helped that kid today was really thoughtful and a smart way to do it."  Things like these.  They might want to know we like the clothes they are wearing as well.  "That dress is really cute with the flowers on it.  You always pick out nice dresses." Or, "That army jacket is really cool.  That was a good pick on your part at the store last week."

But, don't take my word for it.  Try it out.  Get on YouTube, PBS, or Amazon Prime and watch some of the old Mr. Roger's shows.  Steal his stuff.  You don't have to use his well-developed style of voice - I certainly don't.  I use my authentic voice and always tell my child the truth as I see it, not exactly the same way as Mr. Roger's might have seen it.  Nevertheless, I do steal from Mr. Rogers, and quite liberally.  Oh, and don't forget, you can steal the songs too.

I am certain that Mr. Rogers would endorse our crimes against him by stealing from him.

*photo taken with permission from flickr creative commons by mike baker @

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Extending Boundaries

When it comes to boundaries with our kids, I'm all in.  Let's get that straight.  I love consistency, and I love the safety that our kids feel through consistent boundaries.  However, when it comes to extending boundaries, I am also "all in".

By extending boundaries, I mean being very selective in the boundaries that we as parents choose to enforce.  A mentor of mine from several years ago likens this to an ice skating rink.  The boundaries are wide enough to allow our kids the freedom to play and express themselves within the confines of the skating rink.  The boundaries are firm, yet wide.  For this mentor and his wife, the main boundary was kindness.  Inside of kindness, all sorts of things were allowed in family and public life.

As an example from my own life, when I take my toddler on a walk, the main boundary is staying out of the street.  She knows "no street", and abides about 90% of the time.  (Of course, that means I am right by her always for the other 10%!)  Outside of "no street" she is provided with all sorts of space to do as much or as little as she pleases.  For example, very often, she wants to explore the yards of our neighbors as we walk to the park.  I have decided that this is okay.  The worst thing that happens is I get yelled at.  In the meantime, she gets to skate around the ice rink with all sorts of freedom.  By the way, sometimes, we never even make it to the park, and that's okay too.  Why would I be so determined to get her to the park if she has enjoyed herself in the yards of others?

There is another benefit to extending boundaries, which is that the boundaries I choose to enforce are much more heard by her, or any other kid for that matter.  This is sort of like the "boy who cried wolf" applied to another situation.  If we set all sorts of boundaries and restrict the freedom of our children, then it seems less likely that they will hear our boundaries when we do enforce them.  "No street" is much stronger in isolation than in the midst of a bombardment of "no's" which become background noise to many children.

By the way, this isn't just for toddlers.  When our elementary, middle school, and teenage kids have consistent, extended boundaries, which allow playfulness and self-expression, then our more crucial boundaries become much louder to their ears and hearts.  The real question to ask ourselves is, "Is the boundary I'm establishing here really necessary?"  

Photo taken with permission from flickr creative commons by Laura Bittner @