Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Safe Hiding Spot

The way my kids go about playing a game of hide-and-seek is quite amusing. They're young so it's not a surprise that they only have a few hiding places. They will run and open the door to the hall closet yelling loudly, "I'm not ready yet!" Ella has learned from her older two brothers where the good spots are and how she is to go about the job of seeking. It's understood that they will basically hide in the same 3 or 4 places over and over....and over. But, the seeker must not look in those places until he or she has exhausted every other imaginable place (where no one ever hides). Moreover, if the seeker goofs up and finds the hider a little too soon (without exhausting all of the other clever hiding places), then the one found is likely to be a wee-bit perturbed.

We played a rousing game of hide-and-seek this morning and this time the kids chose to play in the basement. Now, the basement is their playroom so it is filled with Lego's, cars, games, tubs full of toys, art supplies, an art table and chairs, and a futon. Again, my children are quite predictable. When they choose to hide in the basement, it's Mom or Dad that has to find them. They may spend half the morning constructing their hiding spot. But, it's always the same general idea. They move the art table and Lego table near the futon and then barricade them with chairs, pillows, and various plastic tub lids so the sides are blocked. The way that the pillows or lids block the tables may change a bit, as well as who hides under which portion of the "house" as it's called, but other than that, it's not too big of a mystery where they are hiding. Yet, they absolutely love this game. And not to disappoint, Mom takes her good ole time looking in the laundry room, storage room, bathroom, behind the chair, behind car mountain.....all the while commenting, "Where in the world could they be?" "These kids are hiding so well." "Hmmm....maybe they're in here." I do my best to make it the game that they expect to be played.

That's just it. It is what they have come to expect! Sometimes I'm not sure how it can be so much fun when it's so predictable; it's not always tons of fun for me (though I try to remain enthusiastic). Every now and then, I just wish I'd open the door to the dark bathroom and have one of them jump out yelling, "Boo!" scaring me half out of my pants. Alas, it will probably be several years before our game of hide-and-seek varies much. Right now, it's just as they expect--just as they predict, and that's why it's so comfortable for them.

Children like consistency. They feel safe when they know what to expect. Children crave and need consistency and stability; too much instability can even stunt them developmentally. Most parents understand this about their children--I know it's true for mine. I strive for consistency in dealing with my kids. But truthfully, it can be tough. I know that when Ella begins whining after being told "No," that it will often escalate into a tantrum. I know that the best solution for her when this happens is a time-out (although disciplinary strategies can vary from child to child). However, sometimes I'm just too tired of doing the time-out thing. I will tell her "No," and then the whining turns into a fit, and what do I do? I give her another warning, sometimes another after that. What? Why did I just cave? Why couldn't I remain consistent in my discipline (usually knowing full well while I'm warning her that time-out will be the end result anyway)? I struggle to remain consistent. And then, back to the drawing board....I start over vowing to remain consistent in all future power struggles with my 3 yr. old.

Well, needless to say, this morning's very predictable game of hide-and-seek was not only fun for the kids, but it reminded me of this important understanding of young children. They need consistency and predictability; they are looking for it; they are expecting it from us. It's comfortable! And, while I know that I will most likely screw this one up again (just as I accidentally found Luke a little too soon on round 2 this morning), I am not going to give up trying. My kids need consistency from me. They appreciate it and have more fun when I play the game right! Honestly, in the real everyday situations of our lives, it not only helps them, but it helps me too to remain consistent. While I may occasionally wish someone would jump from an unexpected hiding spot, I know my children feel most comforted and most able to be themselves (to just be kids) when I am consistent in my parenting. Let's try not to unnerve our children by being unpredictable! Let's just have fun playing the game of life as they have come to expect it...for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment