Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
New parents will often ask me questions about how to raise children because I have five children, none of whom are (currently) in jail.
Asking me for parenting advice is a bad idea but I understand what it’s like to have many children and not know what you’re doing. The Bible tells us to be fruitful and multiply but after that the Bible kinda’ hangs us out to dry. Well, that’s where I step in, I guess. I decided I’d like to help other parents by offering the beginnings of a database of fracas’ they’ll eventually encounter after they’ve been fruitful.
Most Common Fracases:
“You’re in my spot!”- There’s going to be a spot on the couch that becomes THE most coveted spot by children in the house. And children, once in that spot, will not eat for days and will allow their bladder to expand to the size of Rhode Island before giving up THE SPOT. I once told my child that she was going to have to go to the hospital to have her tonsils removed and she asked whether she could have THE SPOT back when she came home from the hospital.
So when a child comes running to you complaining that they just got up from THEIR SPOT for one teeny tiny second and someone stole THEIR SPOT should a parent start inquiring how long the accused had been in the spot and what were the reasons for the accuser’s departure? You see, I tried that. It doesn’t get you anywhere. There are too many layers to this problem.
It seems to me that for bathroom breaks one shouldn’t lose title to their spot. But if one got up for a snack I believe that implies forfeiture of said spot. But what if they were also retrieving a snack for the person who took the spot? Ah. That’s where things get difficult.
Solution: You take the spot. And the snack(s). And don’t leave until you achieve bedsores.
“Hey, that’s Mine”: I don’t think I’ve gone a day in six years where I haven’t heard “Hey, that’s mine.” This is both common and complicated. It’s a bit tricky because older siblings can essentially lay claim to every toy or every piece of clothing in the house. And we can’t have an official passing down ceremony for every thing so sometimes things just pass on to younger kids. They just do. My eleven year old couldn’t fit a pair of pants past her shin but she got teary eyed when I proposed that the eight year old wear them.
The ten year old hasn’t looked at a Barbie in months but if she sees the three year old with her Barbie it’s like the three year old just reached in and took out her spleen.
Solution - With clothes it’s simple. If it don’t fit it must be handed down the line. But with toys it’s a little more difficult. If older child hasn’t touched aforementioned toy in four months (longer if it’s a seasonal toy) then it may pass on to whichever younger child becomes enamored with it. If there’s still fighting, threaten to give the toy to charity. That’ll quiet them down. The unfortunate side of this is that my children live in constant fear of needy children.
“She’s not Sharing!” - This is the flipside of the “Hey that’s Mine” argument. This just means the one who’s attempting to commandeer the toy got to you first.
Solution - See above solution.
“She wants to watch ??? but I want to watch ???” - I used to hear this all the time but I don’t hear it much anymore since I came up with the solution.
Solution - T.V. goes off and everyone must read for a half an hour. I know I know I shouldn’t make reading a punishment but…well I have no defense. But it gets very quiet after I say this and I’ve come to be very appreciative of quiet.
“I’m the only one cleeeeaaaaning!!!!” - This occurs when you tell a group of children to clean an entire room. I used to tell them all to go upstairs and clean their room and tell them I didn’t care how long it took but they couldn’t come out until it was done. I think my kids spent the entire 2007 in their room and all they did was throw everything they owned into the hamper.
Solution - Cleaning cannot be a communal activity. Each child must be given very specific jobs. The younger the child the more specific the job. My three year old is currently in the “hand that to me” phase. Anything more general than that she loses her concentration and may try to eat whatever it is she should be putting away. Hint -spread the children throughout the house so they can’t see if the other children aren’t cleeeeeeeeaning.
“Why should I make my bed if I’m just going to sleep in it tonight?”
Solution - I actually have no answer to that. It makes no logical sense to make the bed. But my Mom made me do it and now you’re going to do it. It’s like algebra. Don’t think about why you’re doing things, just do them.
“He’s copying me!!!!” - I’m not sure what joy is brought to a child by imitating another child but clearly it brings some inner warmth because I cannot believe how many times one of my children will copy the other even to the point of approaching me and repeating the accusation “She’s copying me!!!!” to me. And telling your child that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” doesn’t help.
Solution - There’s nothing that can be done. Kids are going to copy other kids. You can punish. You can yell. You can scream. As sure as the sun will rise kids are going to copy other kids. It’s kind of funny anyway.
You’re not the Boss of Me.My kids will often say this to each other.
Solution - This one is easily solved. I am the boss of all little people in this house.
It’s My Turn - Every single game ever played by children eventually devolves into an argument over whose turn it is. Every single one.
Solution - Telling kids that the first shall be last and the last shall be first doesn’t go very far. Actually, the more children you have the easier this gets. Children from big families learn fast that it’s not always their turn.
“I’m Telling!” Here’s how it happens. Kids are in the other room, things go quiet for a little bit and then seemingly out of nowhere someone screams “I’m telling!!!” and you hear little footsteps approaching. Now, on the one hand you don’t want to raise a tattle tale. Buuuuuut on the other hand it’s nice having a spy in their camp. Keeps ‘em honest.
Solution - Don’t make the rookie mistake of punishing the child for tattling before you squeeze every last piece of info out of them. Wait until they’re done telling you everything every one of your children and some of your neighbor’s children have done since 2009 and then and only then do you punish them for tattling. And then you also punish the kids who got tattled on.
Note: Don’t send the tattler into the same room as those who’ve been told on. It’s like sentencing a cop to gen-pop. It gets ugly fast.
Well, I hope this helps because that’s pretty much the summation of all my parenting knowledge. If you’d like to add to this growing database of parental “knowledge” please feel free.