Featured Picture Book
BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE by Michael B. Kaplan
(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)
Betty Bunny is a handful. She is so in love with chocolate cake that she vows, “I am going to marry chocolate cake!” She tries every way she can think of to get as much chocolate cake as she wants. After a noisy, angry tantrum because she couldn’t eat just chocolate cake for dinner, her mother sends her straight to bed. Mom does, however, give Betty Bunny a second chance to be patient. She saves her a piece of cake in the fridge for the next night. But, Betty Bunny just can’t leave the cake behind in the fridge while she goes to school. She finds a way to have it with her all day. But, by dinnertime it is no good. It’s just a big chocolate mess. Mom saves her yet another piece of cake for the next night, hoping she will be patient this time. Betty Bunny remembers not to do what she did the day before, but patient she is not. Instead, still unable to wait, she cleverly, but disobediently, comes up with yet a second sly way to remove the cake from the fridge and have it with her every step of the way to school.
Sneaky Can Lead to Cleverness
Don’t you want to think of your child as clever, innovative, inventive, and smart?
Well, here’s the interesting thing about that. All the characteristics we want our children to develop have an upside and a downside. The seeds for the upsides (being clever, innovative, inventive, and smart) start with a walk through the downside of being sneaking, getting-around-the-rules, manipulating, and disobeying.
The problem children have getting to the upside is this. When they are very young, they take what you say to be exactly what you say. If you say, they can’t “stand” on the couch, that is different to them than “jumping” on the couch. If you say they can’t walk across the street to Alphonso’s house, they don’t see a problem riding their tricycle across to Alphonso’s – just like Betty Bunny from BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE saw no problem taking the cake from the fridge a second time – as long as she didn’t repeat the first day’s mistake.
I remember taking Darling Daughter to meet a family friend whose name was Mrs. Green. I kept telling her ahead of time that we would be going to see Mrs. Green – wanting her to be prepared for meeting another adult. She told me when she was older that she fully expected to meet a lady with green skin.
Children’s brains are working overtime to figure things out. They are searching for how they can get their needs (or wants) met – even if those needs are unsafe or unreasonable by adult standards. For example, they are all the time trying to figure out what the limits are – what they can and cannot do or can or cannot have. If they can’t do or have one thing, what can they do or have instead?
When you put a childrens’ determination to get what they want together with their taking everything you say as exactly what you say (nothing more and nothing less), it is easy to get the downside – sneaky, getting-around-the-rules, manipulation, and disobedience. The good news is that consequences for the downside behaviors – delivered by parents – can guide them to the upside. Children can learn that the downside behaviors don’t really work. Then, they can start trying upside behavior to see how that works. The next thing you know, they have become clever, innovative, inventive, and smart kids.
Parent reactions to sneaky behavior
It is up to adults to avoid reacting to the downsides in ways that stop children from continuing to figure out how to get to the upsides. When we see the downsides, we can correct and teach without making the child feel like a failure. It is up to adults to avoid reacting to these dark sides in ways that will stop children from continuing to figure out how to reach the the upside.
Yes, they are trying different ways of getting what they want – some good and some not-so-good. Yes, they are learning through trial and error – finding what works best. Yes, they are tripping up and making missteps, but adults can show them how to move forward in the right direction.
Yes, parents need to deal with downside behaviors so children learn what behaviors are not going to work. But, parents can also stay calm and under control by remembering that this not-so-good behavior is training their children’s brains to find clever, innovative, inventive, and smart ways to get their needs met. So, that sneaky little five-year-old is going to eventually learn that sneaking doesn’t payoff.
To be continued …
Check back on September 15th for parenting thoughts about teaching children to learn to wait – something Betty Bunny was having a hard time with in our featured picture book, BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE.
GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson
SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke
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