I am sure many of you have heard of “Dennis The Menace”. A cartoon comic strip turned into a movie, about a boy who gets himself into all kinds of mischief. Whether Dennis intended to cause trouble or trouble finding its way to Dennis, he continually ends up in the center of a mess.
I gave birth to a menace child, 14 years ago, my daughter Piper. I should have known I had it coming with this child. First of all, she never stopped moving in my belly while I was pregnant, and, of course, she had to wait 7 days past her due date just to be born on the Leap Year! But her life didn’t exactly start off on the path of trouble. It was camouflaged during her first few months of life; she was my angel child. She slept well and she wasn’t ever fussy. She was sweet, and beautiful and when she was awake (which wasn’t very often) , she was very alert. I truly thought I had it made with this child! Boy was I wrong!
My son, Cobi, was born with problems from day 1. He was sick all the time, behind in his development where we later discovered his disabilities. So the first few years with my son were stressful, exhausting and worrisome. When Piper came along, it was pure Motherhood Bliss! She was an easy baby. I honestly believed she was a genius child because, unlike her brother, she was ahead of all of her milestones.
Then the day came, earlier than I anticipated, earlier than I ever imagined. She was 10 months old and on her feet RUNNING! Yep, the child skipped the walking stage. She flew right into full blown Mach speed! It was game time, and this mama thought she had her big girl boots on to handle it, but she was sadly mistaken. Oh yes, I pulled my pants up, straightened my shirt, threw my silky brown hair up into a ponytail and off I went, trying to keep up to the Menace Child!
It was cute and fun… at first. It always is, so wonderful with those milestone achievements. We moms like to celebrate those precious moments. And I did…. I always liked celebrating my children’s accomplishments, but with this child, there was NO time!
From the moment she was on her feet, a tidy house was a thing of the past. Oh, I tried with all my might to keep it tidy, shuffling in behind Piper’s every move, but she must have thought it was all a game because she would go back and mess it up, all over again. Piper’s mission was to destroy the house, every waking minute of the day! And she was really good at it! It was clear from early on, if my daughter set her mind to something, there was no half-way about it, she was going to ACE everything she decided to do.
She soon gained the nickname “Destructo Child”. She had no fear, no hesitation, and no regret! She was fully aware of her surroundings, what she was doing and what she wanted to accomplish, all of this was perfectly clear with Piper.
I needed to be clever, creative and calculated in my every parenting move with this child. The 3 – C’s!!! I loved the challenge, however, I was still in full therapy programming with my older son, Cobi, and his disabilities. So, juggling the two was a coordinated mess, but, you know, somehow I pulled it off. Like I said, the 3 – C’s.
My house was messy, that was something I needed to accept. When she napped, I tidied. I soon discovered ways to keep Piper occupied without her destroying the very thing I was trying to accomplish in the moment. Her brother was a huge help in keeping her busy with ‘kid stuff’, during times when I needed to cook or run down stairs to do the laundry.
She loved exploring what was inside the cupboards. She would get so mad when the baby proof cupboard locks prevented her from entering. But now and then, I would pull a few of the locks off of the cupboard doors and let her have some discovery time. Her favourite was the food storage containers cupboard with all of my plastic ware. She liked to empty the cupboard, then climb inside.
Another wonderful memory, one in which I learned a huge lesson with, was the time Piper discovered Petroleum Jelly! I had a knock at the door. I went and answered it. I stood at the door, chatting with the neighbour lady. Suddenly, the house got quiet. Piper was never quite. She was always rambling on singing or jabbering away about something but the moment she became silent, my heart skipped a beat and I ran to go see her.
There she was, leaning against the ottoman in the living room with an open jar of Petroleum Jelly. Her hand was fully immersed in the jar covered in a big gob of it. Her head was already covered in Petroleum Jelly and she decorated her shirt with it. Her teeth were coated in it, as well. How do I know? As I walked in the room and she made eye contact with me, she smiled the biggest, ‘I’m So Proud Of Myself’ smile I have ever seen from her.
My first instinct was to grab a towel. As I am trying to wipe her clean, my neighbour lady at the door is doubled over in laughter. As much as I was annoyed by it all, I too started laughing. And I soon realized that the towel was achieving nothing. I stripped Piper down, and threw her in the tub.
Her clothes were ruined and it took about a week and a half for the Petroleum Jelly to completely dissolve from her hair. No harm, really. A funny story to share with her future husband one day. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with my daughter. I could ramble on for hours with menacing stories about her.
If you have a child such as this, and trust me, these are the mild stories, then here are a few pointers to help you manage life with your child.
As I mentioned earlier, the 3 – C’s. Clever, Creative and Calculated.
Clever – Anticipate their actions, how they will respond if you intervene and what do you want the outcome to be.
Creative – Always be on your toes, coming up with something your child won’t catch on to this time. Coming up with new ways to guide, direct and teach your child. And maybe even have fun with your child in the meantime.
Calculated – My mother always told me, as a child, that she had eyes in the back of her head. I spent many years as a young child trying to get up close to the back of my mother’s head and see if I could catch a glimpse of the eye she had hidden behind all of her hair. My mother knew ahead of time what I was going to do and was waiting to catch my fall and prevent any real damage. Be one step ahead of your child. Have a basket full of plans to handle each situation. Timing is of the essence.
The Menace Child is one who is determined to accomplish whatever it is they have set in their mind to do. They are intentional in their actions and fully aware of their surroundings. As alert as they are, they are curious most of the time to discover the outcome of an experiment.
If you have a Menace Child, they aren’t a behavioural issue. Understand the difference. You have a very intelligent, insightful, inquisitive child. Your child is most likely bored with his or her surroundings and needs an outlet.
Much like an ADHD child, the Menace Child has tons of energy they need to burn, perhaps not so much physical, but mental. They are eager to explore their surroundings and learn everything they can about it. They need to experience everything first hand, explaining something isn’t good enough. They want to stimulate all of their senses, understand how something works and why it is the way it is.
This highly intelligent Menace Child is simply growing in his or her own environment. Don’t hold them back, help them to explore in a safe and encouraging setting. Offer your Menace Child more challenging toys and objects to explore, perhaps more mechanical in nature. Take them outside to freely roam and discover God’s natural world. As early as the age of 2 years old, engage them in an activity, athletic or musical.
And keep in mind, that the Menace Child has the desire and inner drive to do everything they do to the very best of their ability. There is no half way about anything. If something is of no interest to them, they will pay no attention to it.
At 14 years old today, my daughter is a beautiful singer, strong dancer and incredible actress. She is driven in her craft and is constantly working at it. Honestly, I have learned to sometimes tune out the continual singing that lurks in the background of my home. I swear, I live in a real live musical! I love to hear her sing, don’t get me wrong, but when I need to concentrate on something, I need to tune it out. My point is, this Menace Child of mine is an Honours student, working towards her own personal achievements without ever needing me to push her to. Even at the young of 2 years old, she was taking dance lessons with 4 year olds. She took it very seriously, and was extremely meticulous about what she was learning. And she never hesitated to make sure the other girls were performing the choreography correctly.
All through her childhood, I made a conscious effort to make sure I was NOT inhibiting my daughters development. She wanted to explore something, I worked with it, instead of against it. And when I discovered her passion of dance, it was easy to incorporate it in everything she needed and wanted to do. Trust me, this kept her out of trouble, most of the time.
It is far too easy to shove an electronic devise in front of your child, just to occupy them while you go get something done. I understand that electronics have their time and place, but honestly, let the child explore, take the time to explore with them. Aid in their growth, development and inquisitive nature. Their older self will thank you for it!
Gaining Your Child’s Attention, visit: