Have you ever heard your mother or father insist with one of those scolding voices to share what is yours, what you treasure and thought of as your very own? It’s usually toys or food - not the latest upper respiratory going around.
Please! Never! Ever! Tell - never mind demand - that your children must share anything but the news or other ideas - you know, something they tend to do on their own, particularly if another kid has got into trouble. Children are sometimes better at gossip* than grown-ups.
We teach by example. Making a child do anything most certainly can work, but what’s the aftermath? Resentment, feeling belittled, even frightened. Some of us have the sure conviction that if you baby the baby, you don’t have to baby the teenager. Does it always work? Does anything always work?
This sharing thing is easy for me (for items properly shared - not a husband) but it wasn’t because I was carefully taught. I had to carefully learn the pleasures of sharing. Hot resentment was immediate when my mother gave my scooter to Cousin Elaine without a by-your-leave. She explained - all reason - that since I now had a bike for what did I need a scooter? However, had she asked me, I would not have hesitated: “Oh sure, Mother, give it to Elaine.”
One Saturday, expected company arrived at lunchtime and they were given my food. As a mother, I would have given them my food. Much later and in my own home, there would have been plenty of food for visitors and their relatives, but that’s another story.
Instead of listing all the mistakes my mother made - having herself been raised with a different set of rules - let me suggest the easiest way to toilet-train a child who is at least walking.
Please, oh-please! do not make the poor kid defecate by inserting anything up his rectum. Yes, there are sweet little suppositories to train the bowel to dump on demand and at a certain time every day. But that’s another story. Presupposing the house is fairly warm, let the lad or lassie run about naked down below. Have ready his or her own potty chair set nicely where the child has easy access to it. The flush toilet can come later and most often when the child indicates interest in using it if only to make it flush. Caution: Some children get upset if they see what they pooped disappearing, afraid that part of them is gone forever. I’m serious. Take it easy and be sensitive to your child’s attitudes. Be enthusiastic whenever a child does something he might feel good about.
That does not mean crayon or paint on walls, although one of my greatest memories was the wallpaper having been removed from my bedroom and told I could draw with crayons to my heart’s content. When it was time for new paper, the wax from the crayons then had to be carefully removed with a lot of other grease: Elbow grease.
One more caution: Do not treat others as you would be treated. I have found that to be absolutely absurd. For instance: The masochist says, “Step on me.” The sadist says, “No!”
The things you like may not meet be met with your child’s enthusiasm. One of my sons didn’t like spaghetti or waffles, a daughter shuddered over peas or lima beans. Never force any kind of food on anyone. I don’t recall who hated pickled beets, but I do remember who loved 3-bean salad and hated green beans as a dinner vegetable - and when he took a wife, she loved green beans as a dinner vegetable but hated 3-bean salad.
Give family space. The world will not end if a baby eliminates in the wrong place at the wrong time or sucks his thumb. Please! Thumb-sucking does not create bad teeth any more than a breast or bottle nipple does - and a thumb is always attached, never falls in the dirt.
Above all, try not to show contempt at their mistakes.
“Hey!” I hear you cry, “Were you such a perfect mother?”
Of course not. That said, I’ve watched those same children just mentioned caring for their children with commendable ease, the result of which is happy children. You may point out that, after all, I don’t live with them. True! However, they present themselves to me with maturity and ease - happy persons.
*Gossip: From Old English godsibb (a godparent) and, probably, from the Dutch Gottsibb - to share news with one’s siblings/family. Whatever the case, both idea are benign and have noting or little to do with the mean telling of tales.