Having young children means I have to keep them busy. When I’m keeping them busy, it’s usually at places where there are other parents trying to keep their own kids busy. All those kids and all those parents means I get to see a lot of different personalities and parenting styles. I hate to say it, but most of those parents don’t seem to have a lot of control over their children’s behavior. At home it’s not embarrassing and who knows how they handle it… but in public it’s a different story. They all seem to employ the same techniques… and none of them work the way you’d think they would.
The Technique: Dad is trying to get Billy to be good in line at Disney World. He says, “If you don’t straighten up, we won’t go swimming later!”
The Problem: Billy is six. He lives in the moment. He only knows how he feels right now… and he’s bored. Plus, he knows you’re not going to ruin the entire family’s plans. You’ve threatened before and never followed through.
The Proper Solution: Billy is bored… but that’s no excuse for bad behavior. Billy needs a time out until he can get his attitude straight. Leave the line, sit Billy down and calmly explain to him that Vacation is on hold until he can control his attitude. The moment Billy pulls it together, jump back in line. If Billy freaks because we’re now at the end of the line, explain that’s what happens when you’re not happy with what you have. If Billy freaks again… lather, rinse, repeat.
The Technique: Mindy won’t eat her McDonald’s and won’t sit still. Mom promises that we’ll get ice cream if she’ll eat her nuggets.
The Problem: Mindy is eating McDonald’s. You should never have to be bribed to eat McDonald’s. Mindy has learned that if she’s bad, she gets rewarded so she pulls this just about every time she can. Plus, she’s so focused on ice cream that she can’t possibly focus on finishing lunch. Also, Mom will probably get ice cream later anyway to keep Mindy from pitching a fit… so for Mindy, it’s a win-win.
The Proper Solution: Mindy gets a time limit. If she finishes, great. If she doesn’t she gets to see it go into the trash. If she pitches a fit, it’s nap time when we get home.
The Technique: Little Blake has lost his mind in the shopping cart because Mom walked past the toy aisle on accident and didn’t stop. Mom is embarrassed so she runs back and lets Blake pick out a toy which turns into an ordeal of it’s own.
The Problem: Like Mindy above, Blake has learned that throwing a fit gets results! He’s being rewarded for bad behavior. Plus, he’s young… and kids have a hard time making choices. Some kids enjoy whipping their parents into a frustrated frenzy. If they can’t get positive attention, they’re more than happy with manipulation.
The Proper Solution: Blake needs to be ignored. He doesn’t need a toy every time he sees one. It’ll be embarrassing. People will look at Mom like she’s being abusive… but eventually little Blake will run out of energy and accept his fate. He’ll learn that his temper gets him nothing!
The Technique: It’s time to leave Chic-Fil-A so Mom, knowing how younger sister Starla can be, sends older sister, Lisa into the playplace to get her.
The Problem: Mom is putting Lisa into an unfair position. She’s been charged with a task that is going to frustrate everyone involved. Starla isn’t going to listen. Lisa isn’t going to get the results Mom wanted. Mom’s hoping to avoid drama and she is… but only at the expense of her daughter’s stress level.
The Proper Solution: Before Starla goes to play, Mom tells her how long she’s got… and what will happen when we get home if there is a temper tantrum. When it’s almost time to go, Mom comes in to tell her she’s got 5 minutes left to play then it’s time to go. This gives Starla time to adjust and will help keep outbursts to a minimum. At one minute till Mom comes back to tell Starla to get her shoes on. If she has an outburst, Mom simply follows through with what the promised would happen once they get home. Mom is patient and doesn’t lose her temper. Eventually Starla gives up, puts on the shoes and leaves.
Even great kids lose it. The trick for parent’s is to stop caring how they’re being perceived in public. Do what needs to be done for the betterment of your child. That takes patience and self-control. If you get embarrassed and lost your temper… they’ve won.