Discipline as Play

by Amber Strocel on August 28, 2009

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Like many families with small children we have come to possess rather a lot of sidewalk chalk. You buy some for the kids and a grandparent buys some for the kids and then a friend thinks your kids would like chalk, and pretty soon you have tons. And the chalk is so huge it just lasts forever and ever and ever.

Using her foot as a paintbrush
Hannah ‘painting’ with her foot on the garage door

Sidewalk chalk has a way of getting everywhere. My own child’s ‘finger friends‘ love to use chalk on the side of the house, in particular. And that stuff doesn’t wash away, since the overhang prevents water from ever coming into contact with it. So the side of my house has been decorated for like 2 years because in spite of my plans to clean it I just never get around to it.

Hannah and her art
Hannah posing with her art work

Recently, the finger friends struck again. I was in the back yard and I noticed some letters on the side of our house. They said ‘HAN’, and then whoever was writing it ran out of room. So I asked my daughter HANnah about it, and she blamed her one-year-old brother. I pointed out that it was her name. She said, “Oh yes, it was the finger friends. They’re so sneaky!” I was frustrated, because I have spent the last 2 years discussing the appropriate use of sidewalk chalk. I decided that Hannah should wash it off. In fact, she should wash off every decoration she’d added to our house, ever. Because I didn’t want to, and maybe that would make her think first next time. Hmph.

This is a tree
Hannah’s favourite part, a ‘tree’

I got Hannah a bucket of soapy water and a cloth and showed her how to wring it out so it wouldn’t drip everywhere. But really quickly Hannah discovered that if she let the cloth drip and splash over the side of the house it made wet shapes on the wall. She did all her cleaning and then proceeded to wash most of the garage door. Only she referred to it as making art, and it became one big game. She used the wash cloth, her hands, and her feet. She deliberately spilled soapy water on the pavement so that she could tramp through it. I had to ask her to stop cleaning because her baby brother got into the bucket of water and she was soaking wet.

Making art on the garage
Planning her next move

I think Hannah enjoyed cleaning the chalk mess more than she enjoyed making it. And you know what? That’s fine. The point wasn’t to make her miserable. The point was that we clean up our own messes. And she did. I felt satisfied, and so did she. That’s really all I could possibly ask for.

Catch up with more of Amber’s parenting adventures Strocel.com.

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Amber Strocel (31 Posts)

Amber is a hippie mama to two, a writer, a dreamer, a student, an erstwhile engineer and a lover of chocolate. She lives in suburban Vancouver with her family and one very cranky tabby cat. Keep up with her on her blog at Strocel.com.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tina August 28, 2009 at 7:32 pm

More times than not, as parents, what we think the outcome will be is not at all what we were hoping for. All we can really hope for is to make positive lasting impressions on our children that eventually lead them to become great adults.

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Karen vanWisse August 28, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Your daughter trying to blame the writing on her brother reminds me of one of my favorite kids songs “My brother did it” by Jason Roberts were he says that he wrote on the wall and “signed my sister’s name” Most of the songs on that album (Meltdown) are very good

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