4

My kid discovered and started enjoying pranking. For example, he will ring the doorbell and then hide in the bushes, or pour water in our mailbox.

He really enjoys this and I find it impossible to be angry when I see him jumping up and down and laughing out loud. We have explained that he should not do this to other people and when it is too much I tell him it is too much and he should quit. He then quits. An example is when he and 2 friends turned on the garden hose and played inside the house.

But I'm wondering if I'm not now failing to take advantage of an educational situation where I could teach him about choices, consequences and responsibilities. Specifically:

  • When I respond mildly, am I forcing the kids to up their game just to find the boundary?
  • Will this backfire with the neighbors kids disrespecting us because their parents are stricter?
  • My child is pretty assertive, but in this case he is showing some submissiveness towards the older neighbor child (she is 8) who is the brains behind many pranks. I want to be sure he knows when to stand his ground and I have explained that even when 3 of them do something he is still responsible for his own actions.
  • Will this backfire with our kid starting to disrespect us?
6

One of my happiest moments with my (slightly older but similar age) kids was the first time watching Home Alone. After that movie was over, they spent hours playing pranks and setting traps all around the house. It was great fun and then they learned the lesson of ‘if you build it you must clean it up,’ and also had a few times where I pointed out that it was too far over the line to possibly impale someone.

It sounds to me that you and your child are finding the right balance. Pranks at that age are fun, and a way to explore limits without severe consequences. If he is stopping when he’s told it’s too much, then he’s learning the right lesson.

Do talk to him about being careful to not go along with others when they go too far. Perhaps watch a movie where pranks do go too far, and use that as something to point to when having those conversations. And have conversations about how to tell if it’s not appropriate for someone.

But for the most part at this age this is how they learn to find the safe and unsafe areas - by doing silly things that don’t have serious consequences.

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