why we should stop telling our kids what to do–what to try instead and a few words about toilet paper

From down the hall I can hear the sound.
Whump. Whump. WhumpWhumpWhumpWhumpWhump.
The roll of toilet paper rapidly spinning as she yanks yards of it for a single wipe.
She’s nine. And a half.
I don’t know how long we’ve been having this discussion, but it feels like forever. It doesn’t seem to me to be complicated: measure four squares, tear, fold, wipe. Or use three, or even five. Heck—be wild and crazy—tear a square part way through.

And yet yank and wad is her preferred methodology. During the preschool years at least we saw some benefit—keeping the school stocked and supplied with tubes for art projects of every kind. But now? I worry about the long-term effects on our septic system. I’m kidding. Mostly.Every time we talk about it, she nods her head and agrees to change. At least temporarily. Until the next trip to the bathroom.And every time I hear the whump whump whump, I yell. Only her name. A three syllable shorthand for the entire conversation we’ve had countless times.

Countless. Times.

Hellllloooo? Emily? Anyone home? Obviously the tête-à-têtes were completely ineffective. What was it that Einstein said? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So I finally stopped. Because, duh. The over and over again wasn’t working.

After all these years I tried something different, instead:


She got a smiley reminder. I got her humorous response “Get it, Mom? I folded the paper!”I only had to write it once. Einstein. I should have thought of him sooner.

For weeks no one has heard whump whump whump or its accompanying “Ele-a-nor!” Maybe, we’ll never hear it again. That is my hope. It’s a project-in-process. My fingers are crossed. It’s working so far. I’ll keep you posted.


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When it feels like they never listen, stop. Try telling them in a different way. Write it. Draw it. Sing it. Act it. Find a way that works. For both of you. Then tell me about it.

We each have a story. I’d love to hear yours.

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