We’ve all watched it unfold. You’re at a restaurant and a young (hopefully?) child starts to “act out”. The whining starts and soon escalates to the point where the parent starts to respond. Except instead of laying down the law of the land, they decide (cue the ominous music)…the bargaining method.
“It would be really helpful to Mommy if you wouldn’t act that way in a restaurant.” (because we all know that is gonna make him see the light)
“Please come and sit over here until you can behave.” (child, ignoring parent, walks away in the opposite direction. Parent goes back to talking with another adult…so THAT kid just learned an incredibly important how-to-make-your-parent-look-like-an-idiot skill.) Way to make it happen with sub par parenting!
I’ve seen these scenarios play out time and time again, and the parents seem clueless.
It wasn’t going to happen with my kids…
One of the first times I knew that I had to raise my kids differently was when my oldest was five years old.
I took Brendan to a birthday party. He was SO excited! We had recently moved to Maine and making new friends was a little harder than we thought it would be. The kids at the party were his classmates from kindergarten and there was a PONY! He took a couple rides around the yard on the pony and played with the other kids.
Pretty soon, it was time for cake. It was a good day.
The host put out a tablecloth on the kitchen floor and all the kids sat Indian style (you could say that back then…) around the tablecloth in a circle. There were about 15 kids and the volume was starting to get intense. I was standing on the outskirts of the room, keeping an eye on Brendan. He was trying to talk to a couple of the kids near him in the circle. They weren’t listening….not even a little. He tried a couple more times. He turned to the kid on his other side. Same problem.
The kids were yelling over each other and paying zero attention to what anyone else was saying. He looked around the room until he found me. He was unsure what to do and so was I.
I just smiled and shrugged and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry, buddy.” He smiled and shrugged back.
That was an eye opening afternoon for me. Up until that point, I assumed it was a common parenting strategy for parents to teach their young kids to listen when other people spoke…even other kids. I was mistaken.
I (also wrongly) assumed that other kids were told how rude it was to ignore anyone…EVER. (I guess I was the poster child for the age-old “you know what happens when you a-s-s-u-m-e joke)
My kids went to preschool back then(before homeschooling) and I used to watch the kids ignore their siblings and even their parents. I felt like I was living on an island. All the other parents would just shake their heads as if the kids were in charge and there was nothing to be done about it!
A Mom would call to her child on the playground and he wouldn’t answer…but he would smile ever so slightly. Really, Mom? We all know he heard you…
One child would speak to another child as they played, and the second one would act as if he heard nothing. REALLY?
A Dad would kneel down and say something to his own child only to be ignored by his own preschooler. Even turning away from his father!
There was no way that this was going to happen in my house! I made a plan. The plan had consequences.
At this point, I had three kids and the training was well underway. They used respectful “inside voices” and looked up when someone spoke to them. They still needed reminding every day, but that was part of my job description… and I did my job every day.
They were taught from the beginning that listening to others was important and that if they showed that respect, it would be shown back toward them.
That day at the birthday party, Brendan learned that was not necessarily the case outside his house. It was confusing to him.
We talked about it. About how he felt when he wasn’t listened to and that if he did that to someone else, then they would feel bad, too.
I watched my boy try to be a good friend, and it was not reciprocated. I’ll never forget that day.