My Daughter Saved Mr. Potato Head
I don’t mean to brag or anything, but my daughter did save Mr. Potato Head. It happened when she was about 3-years-old and we went to the “dollar-theatre” to see Toy Story 2. In one scene, Mr. Potato Head and the other toys faced the dilemma of crossing a highway without being seen. With great stealth, they hid under traffic cones (a brilliant idea that left them with no way to see anything but the inside of the cone) and scuttled across the street. Mr. Potato Head, having short stubby legs, was the slowest to cross. Before he could push his cone clear across the street, a truck with a large concrete pipe strapped onto its bed, jackknifed. The straps holding the pipe in place broke and the pipe began to roll. It rolled right off the bed of the truck and straight for Mr. Potato Head. Unaware of the danger rolling his way, Mr. Potato Head nonchalantly pushed his cone into the street. To his friends (and to the audience) it looked as though Mr. Potato Head’s time had come; surely smashed potato was on the dinner menu. But, my daughter, exhibiting a sudden surge of energy and great courage, jumped to her feet, grabbed the seat in front of her and yelled, “Go, Mr. Potato Head…Go!” With this energetic encouragement from my 3-year-old daughter, Mr. Potato Head glided across the street and out of the pathway of the rolling pipe, never realizing his near dinner experience.
People around us giggled…so did I. At the same time, I took pride in my daughter’s concern for Mr. Potato Head and her energetic effort to help Mr. Potato Head, even if he is just a cartoon. Ah…but that is the interesting part to me. At 3-years-old, my daughter did not realize that Mr. Potato Head was merely a cartoon…an imaginary spud. She did not really know the difference between “real” and “not real.” To her they were all real. Children at different ages have different levels of knowledge and, as a result, different struggles. In preschool, they do not understand the world of real verses unreal. They cannot sit still for as long as their middle-school-age cousin. In elementary school, children still have a limited attention span. Girls have cooties and guys are gross. Children, tweens, and teens will all forget to do their chores or do their best to “get out of them” so they can run off with friends or watch TV or “anything but chores.” Teens may become moody and even argumentative. They will push for independence and, in so doing, push the limits of our rules and patience. But to effectively parent our children, we need to know and accept their developmental limitations. To help our children mature, we have to realize they are not little adults. They are infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kids, tweens, and teens. They do not know as much as their adult parents. They have not matured in their thinking or understanding. They are overwhelmed by things that do not overwhelm more experienced adults. Effective parents will “walk a day” in their shoes, see the world through their children’s eyes, and have empathy. In compassion, we will remember that our children are still learning. In empathy and compassion, we will discipline…but we will discipline in love. We will explain the rules in a way that our children can understand, at their developmental level of understanding. We honor our children by taking their developmental level into consideration when we establish expectations, rules, and consequences. So, take the time to study your child’s developmental level. To learn more about your child’s current developmental level and the expectations of that level, check out: