Angels With Dirty Faces –

In his theory of moral development Kohlberg classifies toddlers as “premoral”. He believes children this age make moral decisions based on self-interest and whether they will get caught or not. Basically, he sees toddlers like bankers at Goldman Sachs. They are naughty and they like it that way.  So, is that premoral or amoral?

It’s been feeling amoral folks. Case in point – I went to hug our little bunny boy the other night and was treated to an eyeball slashing. Instead of hugging me back he poked my in the eye with what can only be described as Freddy Krueger like precision. I actually felt his little razor sharp nail skim my eyeball. When I called the eye doctor the next day the reception told me at least one mommie a week comes in for that issue and last week they had three mommies. I couldn’t find a babysitter at such short notice so I told her I would be bringing my abuser with me. Oh, how she laughed.

You know that scene in the movie Carrie – where that kooky Carrie makes all that cutlery fly around the kitchen? That’s every room in our house right now – except it’s toy cars, a Buzz Light Year doll, a Where The Wild Things Are book (that’s irony), shoes, cups, dishes, eyeglasses, remote controls and almost a real live miniature dachshund.

T’s pre-school uses a model of childrearing that accentuates the positive. So, you don’t say, “Stop running!” instead you say, “Use your quiet feet”. You also ignore it when they (and, I do mean they as in those people) throw things. And, if they do something naughty like hurt someone you don’t ask them to apologize because they probably don’t feel bad (can a sociopath really feel bad?) instead you say something like, “Look at mommie with the slashed eyeball does she look happy?”

I try to use this approach as much as humanly possible or as much as it’s possible for me the human. I get why saying, “You’re such a jerk!” when you just got bit in the face is probably not an inspired response. But, I also think it’s OK to instill a little strictness into the picture. While his school wouldn’t agree I have used time outs. Hey, if the only upshot is 3 minutes where I don’t hear yelling it works for me. I have asked him to apologize even if he didn’t mean it because that miniature dachshund is eleven years old and she squealed like a stuck pig from whatever he did while I was in the other room.

I don’t know if I’m right but if I didn’t impose some restrictions I might feel like the federal government when it comes to Goldman Sachs and the others. Just because the toddler doesn’t know moral yet might be something like Wall Street didn’t really break any laws. I guess I like a little regulation in my parenting, too.

This entry was posted in Adopting, By Notatypicalmom, Parenting by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She is the author of the memoir Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at CNN, Psychology Today online, The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: Email:

6 thoughts on “Angels With Dirty Faces –

  1. Use your quiet feet? Do people actually say that? Children are smart; they have enormous capabilities. If we speak to them like human beings and not like some kind of cutesy stuffed animals they soon develop a rich and fluent vocabulary. One of the most virulent enemies of language is jargon. Jargon lets people turn off their brains and parrot cliches. It’s not good for us and it’s not good for the English language, the language that gave us Shakespeare and Byron and Austen and Joyce.
    Quiet feet? My kids would have thought I’d lost my mind if I said they when they were little. At five, my eldest son told me prunes were vile. His younger brother, age four, accused him of defiling his peanut butter. My daughter, at seven, said she felt resplendent in her matching nightgown and robe.
    There are some beautiful, fascinating, exciting words in our language, words that challenge and delight. We can certainly do better than “use your quiet feet.”

  2. I’m getting nowhere with ‘stop’ and ‘no’ (signing and speaking) while distraction and a single command to do something else instead seems to penetrate maybe a millimeter, and the whole stopping an action (What? But the toilet paper is right here within reach and it tastes *so* good) just seems to be some complex code that a premoral brain is utterly unable to process. Still, I NEED something that will stop her from trying to rip my face off while I’m trying to pay for groceries.

  3. This has just made me laugh out loud as did the comments :) sounds just like my house, Lydia is currently going thru the ‘eye-gouging’ ‘face scratching’ phase. She did her bit for dispelling Downs Syndrome myths and stereotypes on the bus yesterday: A woman asked how old she was, I said three, she said “I used to work with people like that” (tried my best not to take offence at this point) “they are the most loving people you could ever meet”… To which Lydia promptly started slapping my face and trying to gouge my eyes out… Yep, she can be extremely loving (as can her brother makenzie and her best friend david who only have 46 chromosomes) but she can also be a little twat like every1 else!!!

    I sympathise with the pet situation also… Lydia likes to bite our dog! And at 3 years old she knows exactly what she’s doing, and she makes sure your watching first lol

    • Lydia does sound like she knows exactly what she is doing – schooling the lady on the bus for one. I see I am not alone.

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