Jun 21

Wiggle Room


It’s a known fact that a 6 year old boy cannot sit still.  This is based on a highly scientific study involving one child that I know really well.  We’ll call this boy “my son” to protect his identity.  As I watched my son throughout this study I noticed that he did not respond well to direct requests for behavioral compliance, like sitting quietly at the dinner table.  And when engaged in play, my son would need his name yelled in order for him to stop what he was doing and pay attention. In this particular study, I noticed a heavy release of catecholamines into my body as my vocal volume per request increased. Allow me to restate this in laymen’s terms:  When my son doesn’t listen to me, it really pisses me off!

In order to not suffer through a long summer of agitation and frustration at the hands of my fidgety, non compliant, children, I have decided to change my approach.  Here’s what I’m doing:

Wiggle Room

This is how a fidgeter reads.

Knowing that my 6 year old is unable to sit still, I am going to give him wiggle room.  Let’s say we have a play date over for dinner.  I ask them to sit at the table to eat their food and NOT yell.  This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.  You’d be surprised.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  What happens, within minutes, are boys getting out of their chairs and doing god knows what.  Sometimes it’s farts, sometimes it’s yelling, sometimes it’s hide and seek under the dinner table.  One of my least favorites is “Hey look at my weener!” Whatever it is, it is NOT sitting at the table eating their food.

Because I don’t want to spend the entire dinner yelling at kids to do what is impossible, I give the wiggle room.  The request is to sit in the chair and eat dinner peacefully.  The wiggle room is fidgeting, raised voices, and perhaps getting out of the chair for a few seconds…it’s not set in stone.  The point is that I don’t jump on them at the first sign of failure.

If they go outside the bubble of wiggle room, then I politely remind them of the initial request: sit and eat peacefully.  And I remind myself that even

The fidgeting comedy duo "Stoney and the Clown."

though they are now sitting down peacefully again, it will not last.  And then when he doesn’t listen, I repeat the frist steps.  And then I speak louder to get his attention.  And then when he doesn’t listen, I speak even louder and then again even louder until finally I yell and he hops to attention.  Then I have to explain to them that I’m not mad at them, but I had to raise my voice to get their attention.  And then I politely explain to them that I’m not mad at them all the time, and it’s not THEM, it’s their BEHAAAAAAAVIOR that sucks.  And then I try to explain how the word “sucks” wasn’t the best word to use in this case, and I make them take a pledge to never repeat it because it sounds ugly when a 6 year old uses it. And then I check my blood pressure because I think I’m having a heart attack and I just assume that checking blood pressure is how you determine that kind of thing.  I’m probably wrong and it’s just stress from non-listening fidgeters.  Then I drink a beer…or two.

So that’s wiggle room.  I’m still hashing out the details.  It’s not an exact science, people!

You guys have any bright ideas?  How do you handle the impossibility of getting your 6 year old to sit still and have, um, let’s call them “manners”?

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