Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How NOT to Parent

It seems like I get on kicks with these entries where I'm talking about similar topics in rapid succession. Maybe it's just a case where I become in tune to a certain idea or situation and then begin noticing it everywhere. It's like when you learn a new word and all of a sudden you see and hear it everywhere and you start wondering how often you had heard that same word in the past and just never recognized it.

A couple of posts ago, I talked about the need to speak kind words to children and to help them to feel safe. Today, I saw the opposite situation going on. I was in Target hanging out in the toy section with the kids when I hear this hideous, loud, screeching coming from a few rows over. I had to kind of chuckle a bit and think, "Boy, I've been there a couple of times." It's really embarassing when you're in public with your kids and they have a melt down. You are trying super hard to not come across as abusive, but at the same time trying to let your child know that his behavior is unacceptable. It's a very tricky balance I openly admit.

About a minute later, I hear the same scream coming from the same location and then I hear a voice, much too old to belong to a 2-3 year old demand, "I want that right now mom!" Well, we were done with the isle of toys we were on and so we turned the corner to the next isle. That's when I saw the 4-6 year old boy standing there with a blotchy, red face and fists clinched at his side while his mom knelt beside him telling him, "You'll have to ask for that for a gift. It's $35 and we don't have the money for that."

I've been there too, where your child wants a toy, but you don't think it's worth the money or you simply don't have the money. I don't see anything wrong with explaining to my child that everything we buy has a cost and we don't always have the money to buy everything we want. Besides that, I don't think it's healthy for children to get everything they want. We should all be told no from time to time.

This mother then told her child that he could instead pick out a ball instead of the item he wanted. Done that too! Negotiation is such a key part of parenting. Did you ever realize how many skills being a mom would utilize? Chef, driver, laundress, teacher, friend, manicurist, hair stylist, the list goes on and on.

The boy continues to let out an entirely out of control scream! It would be at that point that I would tell him that he gets absolutely nothing and we are leaving the store. What does his mom do? She continues to try and convince him to get the ball instead of the toy he wants. She even tells him she's leaving (who hasn't done that trick as well?). She does walk away and he just stands there. She walks several rows away and starts looking at other items. Do you know what he does? He screams and screams and screams. I don't know what his name is, but all I could think of was Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

You know, I think all parents should be required to watch that movie because that's where I'm driving at. Poor behavior should never be rewarded. Now, don't think that I'm saying that I'm perfect in this area because I'm not. I compromise and cave in from time to time. But, do you know what that teaches a child? Every time mom or dad won't give me what I want, I'm going to throw a fit until they do. If my first fit doesn't work, I'll throw a bigger fit.

Seriously, it's the biggest turn off to me to see a child throwing a tantrum and to see a parent begging the child to stop and offering rewards for just being quiet. Is there no standard of expectation? Shouldn't the expectation be that the child can be good mannered and from time to time earn a reward? When did we as parents begin to believe that the standard was that our children are going to throw fits or disobey and that we are going to promise them anything they want just to do the basics we would expect them to do?

Honestly, what do you see in this kid's future? I'll tell you what I predict--an out of control kid that becomes a demanding teenager that gets into a lot of trouble because he was never expected to obey his parents. His mom can't figure out what went wrong, she always bought her child everything he ever wanted and showed him so much love even when he misbehaved. What went wrong?

Please remember, I am not saying that I don't fall short of this ideal too. However, my children know that I expect good behavior from them. They know that I am impressed when they are well behaved and disappointed when they are disobedient. I do believe in feeling sympathy for parents who are having bad days, but I absolutely don't believe we should reward fit throwing. Back in my day it would've been a swat on the butt and no apologies to anyone. Now, we seem to be begging our children to be our friends. How 'bout we just watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and remember that naughty children often (not always) come from poor parenting choices.


wackywilsons said...

so tell me...what happened to the mom and the little boy? Did he get the ball or did she cave in for the other gift...

Amen sister, I am all for good behavior, especially in public. I hate having to deal with fussy kids, so I always try to go at good times during the day, and pack snacks!!

Go read my blog about my cycling'll appreciate it.

Brittany and Scott said...

i want the world!! i want the whole world!! love the charlie and the chocolate factory tie in.

thanks for the parenting tips and not to dos, i'll keep them for the future, future

Steph Bowen said...

Would you mind writing a book with all of your parenting advice so that when the baby arrives I will have a clue as to what to do?

Lara said...

Such an excellent post, Audrey!

I have to add that, in my observation, if the parent would only follow through with the threats, the kid wouldn't try throwing fits as much. If she threatened to leave if he wouldn't stop screeching then she should have done just that. Too many times (I admit, I've been guilty too) we make idle threats of things we have no intention of actually doing, which teaches the child nothing.

And the reason why we don't follow through with the threats is because it inconveniences us. If she left the store right then, she would have had to come back to get whatever it was she was there for, but her child would have learned an important lesson which is infinitely more important.

Also, every kid will try to test limits every so often. Bria had a really hard week last week. Finally I told her that every time she talked back or complained or made a face at me or threw a fit she would have to do a job. One day she had to do 43 jobs, I am not even kidding. I was hard pressed to even come up with stuff for her to do, but she has been an absolute angel ever since that day.

Anyway, love the post. Feel sorry for Veruca's brother in Target. And even more sorry for the mom.

JLJ said...

I think that woman did a lot of things right. I've always thought the best thing to do when your kid throws a tantrum is to walk away.

Your story reminds me of one my good friend told me about her mom and her late little sister. They were also in Target and her four year old sister was completely unglued, screaming... throwing a tantrum and her mom totally caved and bought her the big toy she wanted. People looked at them disapprovingly and one woman even tried to give her some advice. What they didn't know was that my friend's little sister was terminally ill with leukemia and that they had just come from one of her chemo treatments. At that point her mom wasn't trying to teach any life lessons, just make her baby who didn't have much time left happy. My point is that you never know where a parent is coming from. All you can do is what's right for you and your children.

Jess said...

Oh my gosh, I'm judgemental! Seriously! My 3 year-old throws a tantrum at WalMart and I'm horrified at what other people are thinking, primarily because I'm one of those people! I've made a concerted effort lately to figure that everyone has their own parenting issues, and I don't have to approve, nor do I have to understand...I just have to get on with it (unless the child is in danger). I hope that woman didn't cave, but I fear I'm like your other friend said: I don't want to be inconvenienced, either, so how many times have I done something like promised a $5 toy we couldn't afford when a $50 toy we couldn't afford was the topic, or crammed food into someone's face to shut them up? Seriously, Aud, like 2 weeks ago I hopped on Amazon and bought 3 parenting books (Nanny 911, Super Nanny, and and 3rd, too) just to teach me how not to be the kind of sappy, spoiling, passive-aggressive parent my mom was to me. (Explains why I turned out this way, doesn't it?) Give me a couple months and I'll let you know if I learned anything. In the meantime, just pray...for me, for the kids, and for me to suddenly learn to speed read!

Bethany said...

I feel stressed reading about that kid. If I am not careful, that mom is me ina few years.

DKAZ said...

The kid's name was August and you can just go ahead and just tell everyone that it was your friend Debbie who you saw giving into her ranting child. I'm just kidding.

It IS hard. I try not to even go to the store with the three of them because I KNOW there will be a melt down of some sort that I will have to give into one of them if not all of them.

I know that having a daughter like mine that if I don't lay down the law now, that she will be an unruly, uncontrollable teenager and into who-knows-what! I have to be really strict with her most of the time. I don't know how my other ones will be.

I have a big problem with women who go clothes/decor shopping and expect their toddlers and four and five year olds to behave like little adults. They aren't and they shouldn't be expected too. It's one thing to take them in a grocery store since it's necessary, but it drives me nuts when I see mothers shopping and screaming at their kids for their behavior.

Dori said...

"Ever hear a rooster crow?" That gets my kids attention every time. It means that if they keep doing the naughty thing they are doing, they get a little tug upward on the hair at the nape of their neck. Call me a child abuser, but it works every time.

rachel said...

I know you through Jen. Thanks for your thoughts. These are some interesting observations. You have very valid points and it makes me really think about what happens when my child(ren) are throwing fits in the store. I often tell them to scream louder and they stop but I guess that's the opposite of teaching them to obey eh? I wonder what the background of the situation was is the mom spending excessive amounts of time away from the son? divorse? working? Often if there is something I am feeling extra guilt for I often fold. . . doesn't make it right just happens sometimes.