He’s Driving Me Nuts!

“Noooo!”

This cry reverberates daily from my own lips and is directed at some endeavor of my wily nineteen-month-old. It’s not so much that he’s devious, I’ve discovered, though he is strong-willed. But much of the craziness is simply from his uncanny ability to get into stuff, beyond the normal one-and-a-half-year-old insatiable curiosity.

Like my kitchen cabinets. Which, yes, are fitted with safety guards that he carefully dismantles to get into my appliance cupboard. He sets each purposefully out on the floor (I have long since stowed the blades somewhere else) and puts the top on the popcorn popper and the blender on its stand. He assembles the food processor there on the hardwood. Now, woe to the mother who enters to fill a sippy cup without gazing at the floor! But at least I’ve learned to anticipate the appliance assortment.

His ingenuity expands elsewhere with whatever he puts his pudgy little hands to — like a powdered drink mix that I’d set on the counter. I made the mistake of using the restroom, which was about the time when he dragged the stepstool over to the counter, bit a hole in the package, dumped it into his mouth and all over his round little belly, and then added a little frosty twinkle around the house, furniture included.

He unscrews the bottles or tubes he finds — what fun would that be without squeezing them? — climbs onto the table to get whatever he’d like (including markers, crayons, half-filled cups, or abandoned snacks), shimmies up onto counter-height barstools to mess with the laptop or fishbowl, and wanders into the shower to dump on his pants whatever container might have gathered water.

My mom jokes about him needing his own security regiment. You might wonder where I’m at when he’s wreaking this havoc; often, I’m cleaning up his previous mess or simply in another room when he stealthily upends the entire container of beads his sister had been stringing. I do discipline him for these little forays so that we don’t experience round two. But I’ve also had to pick my battles because a) I don’t want to crush his spirit, b) I was wisely counseled that there’s a difference between disobedience and childish behavior — and to discipline accordingly — and c) I’m sensing there’s some creativity that drives my son, and I want to encourage that when it’s appropriate. Someone once told me that one of the key principles from Dr. Dobson’s book Bringing Up Boys was to instill our little men with a sense of “I can” — the ability to creatively and confidently accomplish. It’s changed the way I parent.

But as you know, I’ve been noodling on exactly why God wired my sweet boy to long to play with the buttons on the printer or unload the salad dressing as fast as he can while I’m pulling the casserole out of the fridge for dinner. And I’ve been praying that God will give him wisdom as strong as his appetite for adventure!

The other day at his well-child checkup, I was relaying some of his escapades to the doctor. “It sounds like he’s very mechanical,” she observed. “He’ll probably be great at taking things apart and putting them back together.”

Amazing that the woman can hear about this for one minute and pull everything together into a precise “aha!” for me. And you know what? It’s helped tremendously as I’ve watched him focus on how a drawer works, pry open a DVD case, or attempt to use the toilet brush on his own (sigh). I look for chances to show him how I make coffee, pull him up to the counter for the ultimate delight of blending a smoothie, or just talk about how something works. For Christmas, he was given some toys that are just perfect for stacking and figuring out. Seeing the way he’s made as a tremendous potential and something to be encouraged — rather than as a pain in the neck, which still is at times — makes a big difference in how I encourage him, treat him, and even feel about him.

I should go. I hear the pitter-patter of little feet unloading my Tupperware.

Read More:

A Strong-Willed Child … My First Attempts

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12 thoughts on “He’s Driving Me Nuts!

  1. I have these days ALL the time! I love how you've changed your attitude to looking at the positives in his actions and are playing to his strengths. I need to remember to do more of that. 🙂

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  2. My daughter is 19 months old as well and I could have written this article, she does the same exact things that your son does! There is no stool to high, no cabinet to daunting, she will find a way to get to it if she wants it. Thanks for reminding me when I get frustrated cleaning up after her that she was fearfully and wonderfully made by the hands of God and it is good.

    By the way, this line was absolutely hysterical! "Now, woe to the mother who enters to fill a sippy cup and without gazing at the floor. But at least I’ve learned to anticipate the appliance assortment."

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  3. I'm still kicking myself because he found a way to stick money into our van's now-disabled CD player. If only I could think as fast as he did! Maybe some day he'll be mechanical enough to fix my car…

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    • My daughter has already figured out how to turn the computer off and on. Last night she did something to the Google toolbar and I can no longer find it, I think she has already out smarted me on computer technology….

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      • Oh, man, my little guy turns off the computer, too. I've learned to save everything because of the fascination of that big blue button! So funny on your toolbar; another one of my kids messed mine up and it took me months to fix it!

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  4. This is great—and encouraging! My little one is quite active, too. Only instead of placing the appliances nicely on the floor, he turned our blender jar into little glass smithereens on the hard tile. During play group at my house yesterday, he opened the door to a bedroom and turned on the stereo and was found in there enjoying the music with one of his friends :-).

    I like your reminder to discipline when he's truly being disobedient rather than just curious. And your reminder to encourage his creative spirit. I often try to keep in mind that maybe he'll be an engineer like his dad and all that climbing on the table is actually preparation for something amazing some day :-).

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    • Seriously, I lost one blender already the exact same way! That's too funny, Alison! Got a plastic one second time around. When my mom figured out I got a new blender, she immediately knew who the culprit was. 🙂

      I keep hoping my little guy will have his dad's mechanical engineering brain, too…I figure God must have a great purpose for really smart, godly young adults about 17 years from now. As long as I can keep him from hurting himself for that long.

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      • Oh my word, recently replaced our glass blender with plastic for the very same reason! The blender makers must love our exploring 1-year-olds!!

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  5. Thank you so much for this post! As I was reading, I thought that you were talking about my son! And thank you for the words of encouragement! It is very well said that there is a difference in disobedience and childhood curiosity. I appreciate you through your words, to help me focus on not breaking that intriguing little spirit, but to encourage him. It is so challenging to raise a strong willed child, but also such a joy!

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    • I hear you on that, Jenna. Sometimes I wonder if I let him explore and try too much; it's so hard to know in the moment (until it's too late!). Mine requires a number of prayers for wisdom on any given day. 🙂 🙂 Thanks for the reminder of the joy we have with these strong-willed kiddos.

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  6. As others have said, I too could have written this post. Oh my. My 18 month is C-R-A-Z-Y and loving and curious and the list goes on and on.

    I usally find him on the table, in the cupboard, refrigerator, in the bathroom-anywhere he's not suppposed to me. His nineteen month old sister is usually in tow.

    Thank you for posting this. I was seriously starting to think I was the only one. 🙂

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