Kid stuff // Some child-rearing ideas that actually worked

I think my beard is sufficiently white to qualify me to offer some random suggestions for parents/grandparents of little people.

A tactic that helped one of our children, when he was very young, to internalize the chiddush that our moods aren’t ourselves involved a chair and a new name.

The chair was a plush recliner, not something you’d find in a jail cell. But misbehavior, my wife decreed, could still land you there.

Once, after “Binyamin Chaim,” as I’ll call him, acted up, he was sentenced, so to speak, “to the chair.” I explained to his mother, in front of him, that “Chinyamin Bayim” had temporarily taken over our beloved son, and it was thus the imposter who was being confined to the recliner.

The look on the five-year-old’s face was unforgettable, showing him processing the idea that it had been an imposter, an escaped “side” of him, who had misbehaved, and that he could, if he wanted, kick the bum out and reassume control. Sure enough, after a few minutes, when asked if he was Binyamin Chaim again, he answered affirmatively and was granted freedom.

I can’t say that there was never a need to conjure “Chinyamin Bayim” again, but doing so, I think, often made things resolve themselves more quickly.

Another successful tactic: After a visit from a beautiful but lively clan of einiklach one Shabbos, we surveyed the living room, which doubles as a playroom in our home, and marveled at how there was scarcely an inch of it that didn’t host a toy or book. This birthed an idea.

Informing the young visitors on Motzaei Shabbos that I wanted to record a video of the fastest mess-cleanup in history, I proceeded to film them. On camera, they got right to work, darting around the room like squirrels, filling the toy holders and putting books back on shelves as I added a running description, sportscaster-style: “Ruchie seems to have found something under the table!” “It’s far from clear whether Yankele or Chanie will reach the stuffed animal first!” “Tziporah just snagged a game piece!…”

At the end, which came strikingly fast, when the floor was entirely clear, I asked the team to gather and take a bow, which, duly recorded, they proudly did.

Another play-by-play video, less hectic, that I prepared took place in a lab where I was undergoing a blood test. Knowing that one of my grandsons was terrified of being punctured, I asked the technician if he minded my filming him, my arm, and the needle going in and collecting a vial of what runs through my veins.

The guy was game, and so, running the camera, I introduced him, turned the lens on his preparation of the needle, and then narrated the assault on my arm. “Zaidy Goes to the Phlebotomist” may not be a blockbuster, but the intended audience did watch it several times. He’s still an anti-blood-tester, but maybe a little less so. Well, you win some…

I don’t drink much alcohol, but, over the course of two Shabbosos, I generally finish a bottle of dry red. At some point, I decided to keep the corks, thinking they might come in handy one day. And they did. I used a marker to give a few of them funny faces of various sorts, and I gifted them to four-year-old “Avromi,” telling him that they were “Mr. Corkys” and could float in the bath!

Not long thereafter, the boy’s parents, our daughter and son-in-law, sent us a post-bathtime video short in which Avromi, eyes wide as only a four-year-old’s can be, confided that “It ACTUALLY worked!” Some vocabulary for a little kid, no?

He’s a little older now, but he still cherishes a large collection of Mr. Corkys (and some coffee jar lid-boats that they can occupy and from which they can fall overboard). Hey, waste not, want not.

A final idea, a timely one too. Tell the young’uns that you really need some Sefiras HaOmer charts and reminders to place around the house, and ask them if they might be able to find time to create some nice, colorful ones.

The kids’ parents won’t miss a day of sefirah. And they’ll gain some peaceful, quiet time.

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