Have you ever read the book "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"? It was written by the mother of small children. The title comes from one of the instructions she gave her children when she left them in the care of a babysitter.

Among the other warnings that mother issued were: "Don't try to flush the cat down the toilet," "Don't use my lipstick to color the pattern in the wallpaper," and "Don't place a phone call to Calcutta, India."

Why did this mother feel the need to warn her children about such unusual things? Because they had previously DONE these things, that's why. This mother obviously has her hands full with some very creative (or destructive, depending on your point of view) children.

Of course, there are many children who don't need to be told obvious rules like those. But, it is quite apparent that more and more children need to have clearly defined limits for their behavior.

Many parents send their children off to school and say, "Be good." What does that mean to the child? Perhaps the parent should say, "Don't jam up the school's toilet with paper." Or, "Don't spear the fish in the science lab." Or, "Don't take drugs, drink alcohol, or fall asleep in class."

Kids really do these things in school. What makes them think that it is okay? Do they think that their parents will support them and make up excuses for this behavior? Some parents are so intent on making their children look innocent that they will attempt to defend them - no matter what.

Allowing your child to experience the consequences of his behavior is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give. A responsible, mature parent will guide a child through early life with close supervision. But, a wise parent will have the flexibility to allow the child some choices and alternatives even at an early age.

Instead of slapping, yelling, or preaching, a wise parent allows the child to experience the reason for certain rules and regulations. Now, I don't mean that you should stick a toddler's hand on a hot iron to teach him not to touch it. But, I don't think it would harm him if you placed his hand on the clothing being ironed so that he can feel the warmth and fathom the danger.

Running and falling and bruising oneself happens at any age. We all learn best from our own experiences and we all develop responsibility when we are forced to accept the consequences of our own choices.

The easiest way to prevent a child from becoming a responsible adult is to do TOO MUCH for him. Parents who constantly fight their child's battles or who unquestionably "stick up for" their child regardless of the facts are guilty of planting seeds of irresponsibility.

Often we hear "He made me do it," or "It wasn't my fault." Most children who say those words have been trained to try and place the blame for their behavior on someone or something else.

When you give children rules and regulations to live by and then enforce the consequences of breaking those rules, you are laying a firm foundation for a healthy adult.

"Please don't eat the daisies" may seem like a stupid rule, but each parent needs to design and enforce rules that are important to their family. A child who follows the rules at home will usually also follow the rules out in the rest of the world.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.