Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
Posted by Gail | Filed under Parenting 101
I’m sometimes amused when I watch parents dealing with a child melting down in a store. I was at the supermarket when a little girl screamed her way through the check-out. I’ve never had to deal with a screaming kid in public, so I watch with interest each time I see it to see how parents cope. These parents kept telling her that they had already bought her something, and that was that. She kept it up (they were in front of me in the line, but I switched lines) and I could still hear her bellowing as I left the store.
Alex and I were in Zellers and she decided to pull the kid’s power play. I asked her to stop, she wouldn’t. If I remember correctly, she was about three, maybe four. Anyhoo, I sat her down on the floor and sat in front of her. Then I leaned in very close and said in a low and very firm voice, “Okay, if this is how you’re going to behave when we go out together, then I just won’t take you out. You’ll stay home when I have things to do. I will leave you at home ALL THE TIME. Is that what you want?”
She shook her head from side to side as she tried to control her sobbing. “What are you teaching me when you behave like this?” Her big eyes just looked up at me, brimming with tears. “You’re teaching me that I can’t take you out. Is that what you want me to learn?” She shook her head from side to side.
I pulled her into my lap and gave her a big hug until she regained her composure. Yes, people looked at us, but this wasn’t about what people were thinking, this was about my little girl realizing that she had to make some choices about her behaviour.
A couple of years ago Alex and I were at a friend’s house for dinner. Their little boy wanted apple juice. He went on and on and on and on about the apple juice, whining and crying and throwing himself backward in his mom’s arms. Finally his dad gave in and said, “I’ll just run out and get some juice. I’ll be right back.”
On our way home Alex said to me, “Hey Mom, you’d never have given in on the apple juice.”
“No,” said I. “I would have looked you square in the face and said, ‘If you NEVER want to have apple juice again, this is the way to do it. If you don’t stop yelling for the apple juice, I PROMISE YOU I will NEVER, buy apple juice again. It’s your choice. Stop now, and we’ll get you some tomorrow. Keep it up, and say bye-bye to apple juice for good.”
“Yeah,” said Alex grinning, “and you would have stuck to it.”
“Absolutely,” I said. I never believed in threatening my kids. I always knew that the only way to help them was to be honest and consistent. I followed-through on what I said.
One day when Alex and Malcolm were fighting over a toy (they’re 2 ½ years apart), I took the toy away and said, “Every time you fight over a toy, I’m going to take the toy away.” I put the toy up in a cupboard. Alex whined that it wasn’t fair because she had it first and Malcolm just tried to take it. “I don’t care,” I said. “If you fight over a toy, I’ll take it away. Toys are not for fighting over. And I don’t care who had it first, or who wants it next. Fight and it’s gone.” They only tested the rule one more time, then they never fought over a toy (where I could see) again.
One of the golden rules of parenting is, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”