Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Kitten Theory of Parenting

I am a mad scientist and all of life is my petri dish, beaker, and lab. I used to be horribly afraid of making even the slightest error. I thought if I could be absolutely perfect in every way, I would be safe from harm and criticism. Perfection and striving for it are a straight jacket and I put that jacket on myself and then waited for life to get better. And it didn't.

I am not sure how I got from the straight jacket to the mad scientist. I can say it took a lot of inner work, a ton of support from my husband and friends and a recognition that life is uncertain and unpredictable. Recently, I have seen the mad scientist in me busting out all over the place. I hear myself saying things like, "Let's just try it." Or "What can we learn from this no matter how it turns out." Or even, "What is the worst that can happen." Some of the time I don't recognize myself and it stops me in my tracks and then I remember that I am a mad scientist in my own life experiment and I see Dr. Horrible in my mind and I giggle, cause I find myself really funny sometimes, and keep on going.

About a year ago I was at the veterinarian with our two cats. There was an article on the wall about kittens and kitten behavior. One particular line of the article struck me. The gist of it was that kittens fight to know their own limits, know how strong they are, and that this behavior helps them to be better cats. It helps them to be a cat who knows when to stop or in other words knows where the line between playing and hurting is and then can learn not to cross it.

I remember coming home and sharing this idea with my husband and because humans are animals, whether we want to accept that or not, inquiring whether or not this might apply to kids. And then I forgot about it completely, because I get distracted by shiny objects, oh and digital ones too.

The girls have been getting to a point where they were fighting about everything all the time. John and I were getting in the middle because we thought it was our job. We have modeled problem solving, walking away, and other ways of handling differences. We have sent them to their rooms, asked them to sit for a minute and think about it and other strategies. Nothing really seemed to be helping.

Last night we talked about what our next strategy was going to be. I call this strategy The Kitten Theory of Parenting. We know our kids really well. We knew that Mina, although only 5, would not back down from Ari. We knew that if it came to blows Ari would run, quickly. We knew that they both had safe spaces to go to and we knew we would be here if it went bad fast.

This morning the girls got up and started to fight. John and I remained radically silent, offering no options, opinions, or judgements. When Ari asked me for my input I observed that each of us has to manage the only thing we can manage, our own behavior and got in the shower.

By the time I was out of the shower they were playing together. John and I are a little dumbfounded and we know that The Kitten Theory of Parenting might have just worked by fluke this time. But the mad scientist in me is pleased that once again we saw life for what it is, a grand experiment, and gave it a try.

(Bwahahahahaha, I will clean you my nemesis. You will rue the day we met.)


  1. When I met my Beloved I already had my 2 older kids. One of the reasons he lists for falling in love with me was the way I reacted to the kids arguments. One or the other would try to drag me in with 'he did' or 'she did' & would say, "That is so sad." in my most sad voice then walk away. It worked, most of the time...