Have you ever read the introduction to the nursery manual, “Behold Your Little Ones?” It’s seriously a manual on how to handle toddlers, especially these lines

The room should be clean, cheerful, and inviting.

I love to tidy, and I give my children the gift of space. I don’t buy them every toy they want, and not every item that enters our house stays forever. When explaining to them why, I have them imagine if we kept everything that we ever got. Our house would be so full! It would be full to the ceiling! There would be no place to play! You would have to carry your favorite things around with you everywhere, because if you set them down you would never find them! We would never be able to find each other!

Toys should be clean, safe, and in good condition.

If a toy is broken, repair it immediately or throw it away. What is it like to live somewhere everything you own is broken?

Many nursery-age children are not emotionally or socially ready to share toys and other playthings. Do not force them to share if they don’t want to.

In our house, you don’t have to share. If you have something, you are allowed to keep it until you are done. If you want something someone else has, you have three options:

  1. Ask to share
  2. Offer a Tempting Toy
  3. Wait until they are done

If they take a toy, then I say, “Your hands told me you want to live in a house where we take things.” And then I take it from them. Sometimes I ask, “Do you want to live in a house where we take things?” And I have a really serious look on my face, as if I am about to follow them around the rest of the day taking things from them. Sometimes they give it back on their own.

This is the same procedure I follow if they hit. “Do you want to live in a house where we bonk each other on the head?” And I approach threateningly, just as my mom “went to get the wooden spoon” which terrified me as a child. It took me more than a decade to realize that I never actually got spanked with it. But there were loud footsteps and drawers opening. Ha ha, Mom. Good one.

And then when they say they don’t want to live in a house like that (who does?) they say the magic words (I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt you, Will you forgive me?)

Use the scriptures as you teach the children.

The scriptures are beautiful and powerful and should always be a part of children’s lives, not just starting at when they can fully understand them. Otherwise, I still wouldn’t be allowed to read them.

If some of them do not want to sit, do not force them, but encourage them with a variety of activities.

We never force our kids to pray- but they always end up praying (maybe not during a tantrum). We verbally say how we like to pray, we explain why we pray, we praise them for praying, we address specific issues in the way of praying, and we are creative.

The other day it was close. Heidi did not want to pray. She was sad because for Family Home Evening, we were acting out a story from the Friend, but I was struck by a weird and sudden stomachache and didn’t have the energy to keep Peter in the game. So we quit on her and she was sad and mad. She ended up whispering to Monkey what to pray and he (I) was saying the words. Does that count?

If they flat out refused, we would let them alone (and then later pile on the encouragement). It doesn’t make sense to force them to do any gospel activity, but as a parent you have a lot of tools in your toolkit, at least when they are in preschool.

At first they may sing only a word or two, and the younger children might not sing at all, but they can still learn and have fun listening to you sing. They may also enjoy doing simple actions that go along with the songs. Eventually they will learn the words and begin to sing with you, especially if you repeat the songs.

In parenting, success is in the example. You are doing stuff all by yourself for a while. The example of a parent is so strong. When an adult says something is good to do, and then does it, it is obviously something kids are more likely to repeat. An adult only has one life, and what they choose to spend it on speaks extremely loudly. Children are the only people who spend enough down time with an adult to see what they truly spend their life on.

Forcing children to comply is not the solution to behavior problems. Remember that it is important for every child to have a loving, enjoyable experience in the nursery class.

This is also true in Primary. Surprise! Children are not always required to attend, and if their experience is not loving and enjoyable, they will not drag their parents to church to be forced into doing boring things they can’t understand with people who don’t like them.

Problem: A child clings to you and demands your constant attention. Solution: Young children need warmth and attention. Talking to and interacting with the child in a loving manner will usually satisfy him or her. Then encourage the child to become involved in the nursery activities.

I am bad at this. I hypothesize this works unless the child is hungry and you are the person who usually gives them food, except you are currently preparing it and so there’s no food to give, and if you stop preparing it to show love and try to get them interested in an activity, they will never let you get back to not paying attention to them (read: making their dinner for them to solve their actual problem). I guess I can try getting them interested in an activity at the kitchen table. Thanks for listening.

In other news, I got all my children to happily eat peas tonight. You just cook a really bad meal, and then offer peas from the freezer as a side.