They say it takes a village to raise a kid — and while that might be true — it takes only two people to decide HOW that child should be raised.
The other day my three-year-old and I are waiting in the check-out line at a grocery store. It just so happened to be one of those days where my son is full of some serious “Toddler ‘Tude” with me and pretty much everyone and everything he comes into contact with.
For better or for worse, my parenting style has generally been to completely ignore his tantrums because I know he’s just looking for attention.
If he crosses the line, Mean Mama Bear comes out to pointedly tell him if he doesn’t cut the crap we’re leaving, and there will be punishment. (The good news is, he usually takes me seriously, so I haven’t had to figure out what exactly that punishment is yet).
The point is, I don’t take attitude from anyone, let alone a kid that weighs 30 pounds and stands 2 feet off the ground.
Anyway, my toddler is having a tantrum because he wants the cashier to give him some crayons and paper (a treat they sometimes do with little kids at certain grocery chains). The woman goes to get him these items and I stop her.
Me: “Uh-uh. I really appreciate it, but he won’t be getting ANYTHING when he behaves like that.”
The Cashier: “It’s ok! He can have them. I really don’t mind.”
Me: “No, it’s NOT ok. He’s acting like a spoiled brat and he doesn’t deserve your gift. Thank you again, though.”
She looked confused and slightly annoyed, and part of me wanted to sit her down and gently explain why what she did was an issue – something that I wish I could explain to EVERYONE my son and I come into contact with, but I simply don’t have the time. So, I’m going to explain it here and hope it resonates with most – whether they have kids or not.
Simply put, I’m trying to raise my kid not to expect things just because he asks for them. I’m trying the teach him that acting out, crying, screaming, and having tantrums is a guaranteed way to ensure you definitely aren’t getting whatever it is you’re demanding. I’m trying to teach him that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior results in the exact opposite.
The reason kids become adults who are spoiled, privileged, and inconsiderate is because neither their parents nor society took the time to explain to them that nobody OWES them anything, particularly if their actions or words are demanding, disparaging, or rude.
Yes, giving in to your kid’s tantrums (particularly when you’re in public) is significantly easier and less stressful in the short term. But in the long-term, it will prove to be a straight-up nightmare.
So, my public service announcement to all of society is this: please don’t go against a parent’s wishes. I realize it might be awkward for you and you’re just trying to be nice and do the right thing. But you’re not. When a parent point-blank says their child cannot do something or have something, there is probably a legitimate reason for it. When you say things like “it’s ok” or “I don’t mind”, what you’re REALLY doing is contradicting a parent’s authority and that, in turn, sends a confusing message to the child. If you find yourselves inadvertently being interjected in these awkward interactions, just graciously smile at the kid and say, “I think your mom (or dad) knows what’s best.”
I swear, 95% of parents will appreciate you for doing this. It reinforces their decision and authority and often alleviates further conflict between the child and parent.