The other day I witnessed quite the battle at the grocery store. I wanted to offer some assistance but thought it was best not to get between a three-year-old and his mother. Besides the preschooler seemed to have matters well in hand.
The young mom looked tired, stressed out and at a loss as to how to deal with her curly-haired little tyke who was throwing a huge tantrum because he demanded some candy. This, obviously, was not his first foray into battle and he had a distinct advantage – a public venue with an attentive audience and a parent who was eager to avoid further embarrassment.
I’m no expert when it comes to dealing with young children (maybe that’s why I spent most of my teaching career working with high school students), but I really wanted to give this frazzled mom some pointers. A long time ago someone gave me great advice which still applies to this day.
Basically it went something like this – if you must drag your potentially-rebellious child along when shopping, make a decision before you enter the store. Your decision will be based on how you are feeling that day. If you are worn out and lack the energy for mortal combat, when your child asks for something (within reason) just say “yes”. Some candy before a meal once in a while is not the end of the world.
But if you are feeling strong enough for a fight, then dig in your heels, say “no” (in a loving but firm voice) and mean it. When little Johnny starts whining about why he can’t get what he wants, you can always use your mommy whisper and hoarsely croak in his ear, “Look! I am your mother!” (My deepest apologies to all the Star War fans out there.)
However, that being said, it might be a good idea to practice the second option at home a few times so your child gets the gist of how things work and who is in charge. At least at home you can send your toddler to his room or swat his cute little bottom.
But there is one thing you must never do, no matter how dire the situation. After several minutes of listening to your child whine, beg, cajole, threaten, cry, kick or scream – you must never, ever capitulate. You might do this because you don’t want anyone to think you are the parent who has lost control – which, by the way, if you give in – you are and all will be lost!
Think about it. Your child now realizes that if he or she bugs you long enough and wears you down, victory will be his or hers. And it will only get worse as your child grows older.
So, young parents, take charge and don’t worry about what others may think. Most of us have been there and are rooting for you. And for the ones who do judge, well let me just say that they are either childless or hypocrites. Just remember to choose wisely and may the force be with you!