What do you mean, I have to be responsible?
What happens during that quarter of an hour?
- The 6-year-old cheerfully complies with all rules and promptly goes back in, without making a fuss, when his time's up.
- The 6-year-old tosses rocks from the yard to the street, despite being told many times to not do so. He chalks it up to creative differences in landscape architecture preferences- the rocks would look better in the road.
- The 6-year-old climbs atop his mother's car. He at first denies this, but the footprints give him away. No wonder he'd asked her moments earlier if he could wash the car.
- The 6-year-old scampers across the street even though he'd been told to stay in the yard. The neighbor's landscaping must have needed work as well.
- 2, 3 and 4, but not 1.
If your answer is No. 5 you are correct, which means you win the opportunity to skulk over Big Guy for a week while he learns that he can't act like a little hoodlum just because Mom isn't breathing down his neck.
Methinks this will be a challenging lesson for Big Guy, who doesn't so much test barriers as he plows right through them at 100 mph. He wants independence - begs for it daily now that he's serving his week-long sentence under my thumb - but he doesn't have the impulse control to handle it.
And while his offenses that day could be written off as childish foolishness, there also are underlying themes of not respecting safety rules, other people's property and the community. He understands them in theory - don't tear up people's stuff and keep the neighborhood nice - but he can't execute then under real-world conditions.
It's not a question of chronological maturity. There are several other 6-year-olds on our street who are able to play in their front yards without destroying things. It's a trickier issue of emotional maturity, and heaven knows when that will show up.
So we'll keep testing - I think we'll start with five minutes the next time - and starting over until he can handle it.
I'm hoping that's sometime before he leaves for college.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.