Recently, I spoke to a moms’ group and we talked about what we should never say to our children. Some statements are obvious and we’d never dream of saying such damaging things. Some we know we shouldn’t, but at the worst of times they slip out (or sometimes, ehm, scream out), and afterwards, when we’ve peeled ourselves off the ceiling, we kick ourselves around the block a few times for doing exactly what we promised ourselves we’d never do. Other times, we use certain devices to “motivate” our cherished cherubs to do what we need them to do, and we feel so incredibly clever, we just know we need to blog to the world about it.
Well, it turns out, moms I spoke to were doing the very thing—without even realizing it—that came in the “never dream of” category. Some moms at our gathering hung their heads in embarrassment, some threw their hands over their dropped jaws, and some just start laughing nervously, hysterically, that they’d said it nearly every day and had had no idea. No idea.
“But it works so well!” “How else do I get them in the car!?”
What am I talking about? Here’s a scenario. You’re leaving some place and Little Lolly and Tiny Tommy don’t want to go. You aren’t about to make a scene like you’ve seen other moms humiliated by. And you don’t need to. YOU have the tools to succeed! Yee Haw!
Here it comes, wait for it, wait for it…
“Mommy is leaving now. I hope you’ll come with me.” Boom! They come running. Problem solved.
Now doesn’t that sound good? You’re giving choices, providing independent thinking. You’re even giving the message that you want them to come along—“I hope you’ll come.”
But wait. What other message, insidiously damaging, is within this statement?
Sadly, with this enormously successful technique, you’re telling Little Lolly and Tiny Tommy that you’re willing to leave them. That the one person above all others who is supposed to keep them safe, who will always be there for them in their fragile world which they haven’t quite figured out yet, has just said to them, basically, I’m leaving—with or without you. (Of course, there may be days you actually mean that. That’s a whole different issue we can cover another day. But right now, you think, sometimes Little Lolly might benefit from a few nights away from home to really start better appreciating all you do for her, day in, day out, all night, EVERY STINKIN’ DIFFICULT, KILLER 29-HOUR DAY OF THE ENTIRE STUPID YEAR…! Whoa. Time out. For you that is. :) Regroup. Take a deep breath. Eat some chocolate.
Four year olds can’t really stay over night at Walmart. Sorry.)
Okay, so I take your one effective method of mobilizing the troops and dump it right in the dust bin. How am I supposed to get anywhere, without a horrible scene? you ask. Here is an alternative.
Consequences for their actions. Use this chance to teach them that small or huge, there will always be some kind of consequence for what they do (like Eating All Their Easter/Halloween Candy In One Day—one or two lessons come out of that: unlike your sister, you have no more candy the rest of the week, and/or you barf it all up and well that’s just a gross mess. Or like refusing to wear a coat when it’s four below out, well then, you get cold. Or if you refuse to eat your lunch, hunger will make supper taste all that much better—after a very long afternoon. You get the idea). Instead of telling them you’re willing to abandon them (not in so many words of course), wouldn’t it be nicer to say something like, “We’re leaving at 10:00. You can go in your pajamas or you can go dressed in the clothes you go put on right now. Your choice.” Or “We are leaving Grandma’s now. You can either walk to the car on your own and enjoy your [[[INSERT CHERISHED PLANNED ACTIVITY HERE]]] later, or I will pick you up and place you in your car seat and you won’t get to [[[INSERT SAME SAID CHERISHED PLANNED ACTIVITY HERE]]] today. And that would be so sad, wouldn’t it?” And you can even make a sad face here, even if they aren’t looking at you because their nose is pressed into the carpet while they shriek like their leg is being cut off. Sometimes a funny face can get them laughing. Or at least Grandma, who is watching nearby just itching to cut in and show you how it should be done. She sees your silly sad face, she thinks, well, it’s just silly. She finally drops her stern face, chuckles, then you feel silly, and you laugh, then pretty soon, Tiny Tommy peeks out from the carpet to see Mommy and Grandma aren’t watching him anymore but have walked over to the kitchen and are sharing some jokes and donuts together and if Tiny Tommy doesn’t pull it together really quick, he might just miss out on some fun and donuts too (as long as he’s finished tossing all this Easter/Halloween candy.)
And of course, I know, there will be times it won’t work. Raising children has a lot of, shall we say, gray areas. Rules are sometimes just kind of guidelines, suggestions, ideas, pie-in-the-sky?—okay, sometimes a desperate blind shot in the dark to try any single gosh dern thing to get them off the Walmart tile and into the car and out of the parking lot before someone calls the police because clearly that “mother has to be cutting her kid’s leg off or something…!”
What do they know anyway?
So Moms, here's my final word on the subject.
Good luck. :) Ehm. I know.
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