Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Benches Are Not For Standing

We have a minor problem.  David keeps climbing and standing on the bench in the kitchen.  It is dangerous.  A fall seems like it would be quite painful.  At least he tends to only climb on it when we are sitting there.  Makes it a little annoying to get any work done on that table, though.

I was thinking about how to work towards resolving this problem.  The issue of discipline has been on my mind lately.  David is getting old enough that we suspect he knows when he is doing something wrong, but he's still not old enough to reason with.  So, what to do?  Some level of corporal punishment, like smacking a hand?  Or should I just let it go ... let him learn that it's bad when he falls and bumps his head?

Neither of those options appeal very much to me for a variety of reasons.  Now, let me clarify something:  I'm not really looking for advice about this.  I know, everybody does different things, everybody rallies around different philosophies or discipline books, everyone's got a different opinion and a different experience ... Given that I'm in the process of considering and implementing my own discipline strategies, I'm not seeking advice.  It'd be fun to hear what you've done, but for the story and for getting to know you better.  Right now I feel like trying to implement something else would result in decision fatigue for me.  Just wanted to clarify because it may affect how you read this article :)

So I'm not writing this for advice, but for FUN!  I wanted to share what I focused on yesterday, to remember it, because some day I might turn this into a Spanish lesson.  (I can see it now, lawsuits because of kids falling off of desks after standing on them - JUST KIDDING - we'd use stuffed animals - see, fun!!!) Maybe you also might enjoy watching me flounder around trying to teach my son some new words and safety issues.

David's Vocabulary List


I have plenty of ideas and thoughts surrounding the process of language acquisition for toddlers, but what I don't have is formal knowledge on what is developmentally appropriate in terms of their linguistic development.  I mean, it's probably in there somewhere from some of my college courses.  So when planning to begin teaching David these key words, I have to ask a question that I asked all the time when teaching foreign language full time:  Is he ready for this?  I wish I knew more about what is developmentally appropriate (this is something I'd welcome feedback on!  Jenny, I feel like you sent me something about this in the past) - but what I do know is my son, and I feel that I'm reasonably qualified to assess his capabilities and work on that "one step ahead" happy spot where he's just challenged enough to learn something, but not too challenged that he gets frustrated.

I feel like he's ready for these words because he seems to be responding well in other situations.  For example, I open the dishwasher to put away the dishes, and put my hand on the silverware basket, and David goes over to the silverware drawer and opens it.  I say, "Good helping, David!"  Words like helping, sitting, playing, standing, even watching.  I feel that he is at a level where if he hasn't already, he can start to associate meaning with these words.

This "problem" could be one of two things - a "disciplinary" problem or an "educational unit," shall we say, not so much a "problem" but a "next step in development."  I am choosing to look at it as the second, because the second is just so much more fun.  (Among other pleasant adjectives.)
So today, after a pause, trying to decide:  am I going to get mad, or am I going to take advantage of this situation to teach my son safety and language, both?

David is climbing like a little monkey on the bench, laughing, bumping his head, crying, falling off, climbing on it again.

I'm annoyed, but I'm gonna choose to look past it.  

So I pick him up and put him to a standing position on the bench.  "Standing on the bench," I say to him, not happily, but not angry either.  I say it very clearly.  I shake my head.  "No, no, David."

Then I give a tiny amused smile - but not too big - and I stand up myself, lifting him to be standing on the table.  "Standing on the table," I say to him again, slowly and clearly, and then I shake my head: "No, no David."  (I know, maybe it's questionable that I did that.  Giving him ideas and everything.  But I wanted to teach "on" and "bench" and "table.")

Then I put him on the floor, and I say in a VERY EXCITED VOICE, "Standing on the floor!  Yeeeaaaaah!  David is standing on the floor!  Good job David!"

Then I look him squarely in the eye and say, still excited, "The floor is for standing!"  (This book series significantly affected the language I am using with David, and he loves the bright pictures.  I highly recommend it!)

And less excited, patting the bench:  "The bench is NOT for standing.  The bench is for SITTING."

He's happy because I'm playing with him.  Then I let him go to see what he'll do.  The sneaky monkey climbs up on the bench, laughing, starting on his knees and then inching up to standing, the little stinker.

"Dangerous," I say, eyeing him, wondering if my ideas are helpful at all.  "Standing on the bench is DANGEROUS, David."  He keeps playing, doing what I'm asking him not to do - standing on the bench, then I physically make him sit down and repeat the phrases, then he stands again, and more reptition.  

Finally he gets amused by something on the floor so I go and try to clean up the counter on other side of the kitchen.  Then I look back to the little stinker.  

Climbing like a freakin monkey on that bench.

Time to go all-in on my methodology choice here.

Me:  I'm stone-faced, emotionless, quiet.  I keep reinforcing those words.  "Be careful, David.  Dangerous.  The bench is not for standing.  The bench is for sitting.  Standing on the bench is dangerous."  I tried very hard to show little emotion.  I emphasized the words I was trying to teach him, but I didn't move over there to physically remove him from the bench.

And he got down.  Feet on the floor.

Me:  SOOOOOO excited.  Waving hands around happily.  "Yaaaaay!  The floor is for standing!  Standing on the floor is good.  [Maybe I should use the word safe?]  Mama likes it when David stands on the floor," and so on.

David was super happy and intent to watch me and smile at me when I was so excited.  And then, he climbed on the bench again.  But ... he didn't stand up.  I kept on with the stone-faced, emotionless mantra, "Be careful.  Dangerous.  The bench is not for standing.  The bench is for sitting," and he kept slipping back to the floor, when I repeated the excited routine.  He did this maybe three or four times - climbing on the bench and then getting back down to the floor - and I kept up my emotionless-then-excited-when-he-got-off routine.  The result?  Not once did he stand on the bench.

Now, I'm not saying I solved the problem.  But ... it was fun trying to solve it by turning it into an educational game.  I definitely want to work on David's reasoning skills and use words to convince him of the value of paying attention to mama, who watches out for his safety and best interests.  

I do suspect, and know that plenty of people would disagree with me on this, but I suspect it anyway - that while David is getting close to being able to fully understand that he is doing something "wrong", that he's not fully there yet.  I don't believe that he's consciously disobeying me.  He's playing a game.  My goal is as long as I sense that it's more game than outright disobedience, I want to react to the game and teach him the things he knows through healthy play.

A nice side effect?  I didn't get mad or anxious which I often do in situations like this.  I had fun too!  So much better for my spirit than yelling or smacking him for his insistence on climbing up on that bench over and over again!  Woo hoo!


  1. How great. I wish I would have thought of that with Benjamin. You are such a good teacher.

  2. This is brilliant, Molly. If I ever have kids, I'll have to remember that one.