Respect and Propriety

Watching my 2 ½ year old play with her plastic tea set, an acquaintance quipped: “When my daughter was 18 months old she was playing with a glass and crystal tea set. It taught her to take care of things and she never broke them!”

The lady was proud, to be sure; if not dishonest. I was a wee bit irked, but I just smiled.

My little girl tried so hard not to spill the water in her cups and tea pot. She concentrated deeply and then gingerly served me. My smile broadened. She was learning so many lessons:

·         Carefulness

·         Sharing

·         Fine motor refinement

·         Concentration

·         Eye-hand coordination

·         Pouring

·         Measuring

·         And… tidiness.

My apologies, but I was none too concerned about whether or not my 2 ½ year old learned how to care for fragile and costly items; but in fact, she was learning this skill. She was in the beginning stages of this learning process.

To give a young child breakable toys is to set them up to learn lessons of destruction and carelessness. 1  In our home, there are toys and play things. Then, there are items that are not toys; that are not to be played with. My daughter needs to learn that there is a “yes” and a “no”; there is wrong and a right. These are just as important as learning good versus evil. These are life lessons; they are spiritual lessons.

Just as important, my daughter needs to learn to respect the property of others: Mommy’s crystal is not a toy. I refuse to put all breakables out of children’s reach. It is my job to teach my daughter. If I simply remove all the non-toy items, I have failed in my job and made it more difficult to teach the all-important lessons of respect and propriety.

At first, we used baby-gates to keep our child safe. From time to time, she was allowed to pass through those baby-gates and to play in restricted areas with supervision. Still, the non-toy items were within easy reach.

From infancy, I have reminded her of what is or is not to be handled by her. There is decided firmness in my voice, yet patient kindness. As she grows, the boundaries broaden, but only by slight degrees in an effort to continue the lessons of respect and propriety.

Such simple rules; such difficult rules. Yet, they are important and they will later translate into an understanding of God’s law and His requirements.

© 2011, C. Gillan Byrne

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1 White, E. G. (1954/2002). Care in handling property (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance, (p. 101-102). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.