Teaching young kids how the world works is quite an experience, but sometimes it happens that they teach us something, too. This was the case as I babysat one young toddler and observed how his parents taught him the rules of life as well.

Going to touch an outlet? Well, of course the reaction would be "no!" and it would be that way every time. That's how kids learn to avoid some things. They get a reaction, usually a yes or a no, and after repetition they pick up that they simply can't (or shouldn't) do certain things. But one thing I noticed almost right away was that the answers this child got from his parents were not limited to "yes" and "no." There was also an option of, "all done."

Playing with a purse? Well, that was fine, but if he began to take it apart, empty it, stretch it, etc. it became "all done." The object would be taken away with those words, but that did not mean he could never use it again. No more in the moment, but it was not a strict "no touching allowed." This might sound confusing at first, but children are remarkably bright, and yes, soon the toddler knew the difference. "All done" might mean you could finish later; "no" meant something was not allowed. And there was certainly a place for both!

I think often in life we try to limit things to a yes or no. We're either going to do something or not. Something is good for us or not. But truly, even the best things only remain good in moderation! There often comes a time in life for everything to be set aside, at least for a moment, and be "all done" for the time being.

As I watched this young child learn the difference himself, I wondered how much I could gain from this as well. Might there be things all throughout life that we can learn are good for a time, but not always? Like going to take a break from studying to watch a show… but only for a short while. Enjoying a pan of brownies with my sister… but not the whole thing (in one evening, at least).

If a young toddler can learn the difference, I think grown-ups should, too!