As a public service to first-time moms, like my daughter Nicole, here’s a primer explaining the various stages of childhood:
STATIONARY: During the first six months, your baby can’t move very far under its own power. So if you’re looking for your baby, always check the place where you last saw them.
HORIZONTAL: As the child grows, they begin to move about horizontally. Now if you set the baby down, it might be gone when you get back. But unless the child is wearing corduroy pants, they won’t be able to travel more than a block or so.
VERTICAL: After about a year, the child gets tired of life at ground level and learns how to stand on their own two feet. Vertical children are prone to mishaps. They will make sudden returns to the horizontal stage, which will often result in an “owie.”
VERBAL: The child next enters the verbal stage. Their entire vocabulary consists of demands and refusals. When they’re not demanding a treat, they’re refusing to sit in their car seat. Parents may be tempted to call for police backup but even cops will not risk injury by having contact with a 2-year-old. By the way, whenever you say, “No,” their automatic response will be, “Why?” Get used to it.
SCHOOL: Your child will reach a stage when they will stop demanding and refusing at home and will instead chatter away in a classroom. Remember, if your child isn’t home, chances are they’re at school. Try to learn their schedule.
SOCIAL: At school, your child is bound to meet other children and sooner or later bring some of them home. Hide your valuables and breakables before they come over. And never allow a child into your house if they’re carrying their own hammer, or felt-tip marker.
SULLEN: After years of being happy and carefree, your child may become sullen. The warning signs are a pouty expression and constant complaints about being bored. Do not have any unnecessary contact with the sullen child and don’t offer solutions to their boredom. Have them do household chores until they take their sullenness outside.
DEFIANT: After years of being passive during their sullen stage, the child will return to the verbal stage and begin to exert their will. Demands and refusals will fly faster than leaves on a windy day. Parents should avoid physical confrontations during this stage. Especially if their child is more vertical than they are. For example, do not try to force them to go to their room. Even SWAT teams have suffered unacceptable losses trying to get children to go to their room.
Instead of confrontation, parents should try reason and compromise. For example, “Yes, you can have a drum set, as long as you make a living at it.” Or, “I don’t mind if you get your tongue pierced, as long as you never again open your mouth in my presence.”
With these kind of firm guidelines, there will be mutual respect between parent and child.
And, if there’s not, you can always hide the car keys.
This column initially ran in 2005.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.