I'm going to come right out and say that I let my daughter watch TV. Regularly. It saves my sanity on a daily basis. I have been known to put my foot down when it comes to certain shows though, like ones where the characters talk like babies, or if there are characters who bully, or shows that don't teach us anything by the time the end credits are rolling. And believe it or not, there are a lot of them out there.
One of Hallie's favorite shows is Curious George, which I love. The more I watch this show, the more mental notes I find myself taking. The parenting advice in that show is subtle and certainly unsolicited, but it is solid gold. I don't know how I feel comparing my three-year old daughter to a monkey (although most days she insists she is one), but there are noticeable similarities. I actually feel kind of foolish writing this, but here are a few lessons I've learned while observing interactions between The Man in the Yellow Hat and his lovable monkey, George.
1. Be Patient. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that just because Hallie understands a lot of things, that doesn't mean she understands everything. It takes time for her to get from one activity to the next, from the front door to her car seat, from downstairs to upstairs, because there is so much to take in and figure out. George is the same way. There is always something to distract him, but TMITYH (you got that, right?) always shows patience and understanding as he waits...and waits...and waits.
2. Don't Raise Your Voice. George gets into trouble. It's what he does. He's a monkey living in a man's world. Unfortunately, our children are young, innocent, curious kids living in a fast-paced, high-stress world as well. So whenever I feel the urge to yell at Hallie for getting into the same kind of mischief that any other kid would get into I ask myself, "How would TMITYH handle this?" Seriously. Call me crazy, but I've seen enough episodes to know he wouldn't freak out. He'd be gentle and calm and he'd talk it through, which leads me to...
3. Take Advantage of Teachable Moments. When George does something wrong, TMITYH makes sure to explain why it was wrong and what can be done to make it right. He takes the things that George doesn't yet understand and turns them into teachable moments so that George will understand them. Does that mean he will do it perfect the next time? No, but the seed has been planted. And that's the least I can do with Hallie. I want her to know things and think about things and comprehend them. It might take a few tries, but it's also surprising what information a three-year old brain can absorb the first time around.
4. Let Them Make Mistakes. Sometimes when I watch this show I think, "None of this would have happened if TMITYH just kept an eye on George. At all times. He's a monkey for crying out loud!" But that's not how we live our lives, is it? There are days when we just have to let our children go about their own little world, which oftentimes lead to them learning a lesson the hard way. Spill your drink once or twice (or ten times) and hopefully you'll learn to be more attentive at the dinner table. (If my husband is reading this, he's sure to be laughing hysterically because, even at 28 years old, I still spill my drink at least once a week during dinner.) Nevertheless, the idea is the same. Let them fall, let them mess up, let them lose a game and it will teach them to be more brave, more careful, and more dedicated to make it right.
5. Anyone Can Be a Friend. I am always pleasantly surprised at how many friends George and TMITYH have wherever they go. Age, gender, ethnicity, or background don't matter: a friend is a friend is a friend. And within those friendships are endless opportunities to teach, learn, share, grow, and sometimes be downright silly. That kind of relationship is something I really want Hallie to experience in her life.
6. Explore the World Together. This one is my favorite. TMITYH and George split their time between the big city and the wide open country, but no matter where they are the find something new and exciting to do and learn. Always looking for a new adventure, George uses his curiosity and amazing monkey energy to go, go, go until he has explored a new part of his world and shared it with TMITYH, who is always, always excited to embrace it and experience those simple, joyful moments together.
So there you have it. Lessons learned from a monkey and a man who wears a whole lotta yellow. I guess this is what happens when you are a stay at home mom for this long...