Control of a Child’s Possessions – A Lesson in Parental Willpower


My 19-month-old has recently found a new passion – coloring. We got her a big box of crayons and coloring books for the living room, and this amazing bathtub painting set, and now coloring and colors have taken on new meaning for her.  She can sit with coloring books until both parents are ready to pass out with exhaustion, and can sit in the bathtub with her paints until her baby butt looks like a giant prune.

The challenge, however, has been with respect to making sure to leave all of these dangerous implements in her hands primarily, and under her control.  I now know from experience, and from study of the brilliant Successfully Raising Children course, that the surest way to turn my sweet little daughter into “Mackenzie the Destructor” is to try to take away her ability to control possessions that we give to her.  L. Ron Hubbard’s article entitled Living with Children in the above course’s materials says it succinctly:

When you give a child something, it’s his.  It’s not still yours.  Clothes, toys, quarters, what he has been given must remain under his exclusive control.  So he tears up his shirt, wrecks his bed, breaks his fire engine.  It’s none of your business.  How would you like to have somebody give you a Christmas present and then tell you, day after day thereafter, what you are to do with it and even punish you if you failed to care for it the way the donor thinks?  You’d wreck that donor and ruin that present.  You know you would.  – LRH

This then manifests itself with things like: I give my daughter a few crayons.  She gets excited pointing out the blue, orange and red ones.  In her excitement, she grabs onto a few of the crayons and with her mighty strength, snaps them all in half.   I fight back the urge to tell her “No” and take the crayons away, and instead just point out that the crayons are broken now.  She sees this, and for a spell, tries to act like she meant to do it, and that half-crayons are more usable and ergonomic than clumsy longer ones.  But then she tires of that ruse, and no more crayons have been busted since.

Similar episodes have taken place with the coloring books themselves, the bathtime paints, etc as I’ve had to fight back urges to keep the coloring books intact, keep the pages from being ripped, keep the paints from being poured down the drain, and on and on.

imageBut as a result, we have had hours of fun, with no ugly appearances of “Mackenzie the Destructor” – something that’s been welcome for me, seeing as I commonly have my absolutely scrumptious little 2-month-old son to watch as well.  As such, I welcome my daughter’s growing ability to keep herself well-occupied by herself for long stretches.

The result has also been more and more of a proud little toddler, wanting to show mommy & daddy her latest creations, followed by hugs and declarations of “I love mommy!” and “I love daddy!” — a part of parenting I’m sure has melted the hearts of parents for generations.

From that same article:

The sweetness and love of a child is preserved only so long as he can exert his own self-determinism.  You interrupt that and, to a degree, you interrupt his life.  – LRH

From my observation, that couldn’t be any more true.

7 thoughts on “Control of a Child’s Possessions – A Lesson in Parental Willpower

  1. You set such a good example as a parent, Tad. I’ve recommended some of my friends come to your site before. I know I’ll be on here reading EVERY article when I decide to have children. Thanks so much for your awesome blog.

    1. Thanks Jason. It’s just too easy to watch it work well with my kids, and too painful to watch it in inaction when I see parents rip things away from their kids, tell them they can’t get their shoes dirty, etc, etc.

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