Friday, October 17, 2008

Parenting on Aisle #3

I was in my neighborhood United Nations Wal-mart a couple of weeks ago. I was quietly stalking a family that I identified as Ethiopian. I'm sure that they were and more than that I am almost certain they were from Tigray. They were speaking in their language that did not sound like Amharic but I waited for just one word that I could recognize so that I could start a conversation with them.

And then it happened...

I heard a scream like a child was being killed a few aisle's over. It broke my concentration and I lost sight of the family. I continued to walk the scream got louder until I could finally hear a child saying, "But, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy can't I have a toy noooooooow?"

People were fleeing the aisles and looking back like the sky was falling. He was still screaming. "I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant it! I meeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan it! You are being meaaaaaaaaaaan to me!"
I turned the corner to hear a mother saying, "Don't act that way. If you do I'm not going to listen. You can yell by yourself." And then she does the duck around the other aisle and leaves this 4 or 5 year old sitting in the cart straining over the bar.

What.........? You are kidding right. I hung around because I just had to see this nonsense. This little tactic did not work and he only screamed louder. She comes back to the cart and calmly explains why they can't get a toy. She tells him that she is disappointed in his behavior.

He screams, "I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaant you to get me a toy now!" She calmly says, "no, we're not getting any toys." He says, "Well, I want you to know that it's not going to make me very happy." I laughed out loud, that was priceless and instantly brought to mind my mother's one liner that included the words scratch and glad in the same sentence. This mother says, "Well, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings."

Okay, I was about two seconds from minding somebody else's business so I quickly moved to a different area of the store where I witnessed something else. There was a little Latin girl at the end of the aisle trying to point at something, eager to get her mothers attention. The mother said something firmly and sternly in Spanish and did the single finger point to the ground -- the universal "right here, right now" finger point that mother's do.

The little girl stopped mid-sentence and walked quickly to her mother's side. After she did what her mother instructed, the mother grabbed her by the hand and walked over to where the girl had been standing and then in Spanish said what I know had to be, "Now (that you did what I told you to do), show me..." I could still hear the other little boy screaming.

I won't tell you that my child will never scream in a store but I can absolutely guarantee you that it won't go down like it did in Aisle #3.


Anonymous said...

Every parent's nightmare. What would I do "IF"? Mine have never gotten in the YELLING game. They ask but when I say no, I usually get, OK or 'maybe for my birthday' or from Sawyer (with Down Syndrome)I might get 'why not'. But they are good about it and I figure if they don't ask about it later, it wasn't that important. I've always sworn I'd walk out of the store and leave everything in the buggy if they did it. I use the finger snap and the Pat SUmmit stare to get my point across. WOrks pretty well.

Now if I could only keep them from fighting with each other, I'd be set.


VALARIE said...

Jan there are two brothers that like to come over. They are five and 8. I tell them at the first instance of disagreement I will put them on different floors of my house that I have nicknamed floors Peace AND Quiet. I've not had to separate them yet.

In the store thing, I would absolutely have grabbed him up and walked out of the store. My first reaction would have been the firm, NO. Actually before we leave home we will have that conversation. Second, the mother stare and the first shrill scream I would have removed him from the cart walked out the store and place him in the car and had a firm conversation. If I believed it was resolved to my satisfaction I might go back in. If not it would be straight home and would happen every time until it was understood. This isn't the, what I think I would do, I've done it.

I will not allow a child to scream and yell at me and I will not allow my child to be disruptive in a public place. His behavior was outrageous but watching her clued me in as to why his behavior was so outrageous. This was well beyond a little tantrum it went on and on and on.

kristine said...

We've all been in that position. I have with Quinn on three occasions although he was younger. at just under two he saw some balloons in the grocery and he wanted one! My mild mannered son had a complete breakdown. I was completely taken aback. But I knew if I changed my plan and didn't do my shopping he would know that he had control. And so he screamed and I calmly (on the outside) did my shopping. I really believe boys are different than girls. They have a lower frustration threshhold and they have the energy to keep crying much longer - not out of spite but because their emotions just last longer. Some people were appalled others shot sympathetic glances. In line he was still screaming and a lady said "oh honey what's wrong?" to him thinking I was being mean but when I said, well we don't buy balloons when we are grocery shopping she immediatly came to my side and said 'oh that's right you can't have a balloon when you go shopping."

Another time when he was three we were going to a toy store for a gift for him and he misunderstood and again had just a complete emotional breakdown. In that case we left because we were only there for him. we sat outside and he cried for a while.

Not much since then - he knows what will work and what won't. I will say though that when he is on his Asthma meds he cries out of simple frustration A LOT. Also, when we are traveling. So I never judge other parents one way or another. If that child has ADHD or RAd or even asthma so much can affect thier behavior. Also if the parents are going through anything that can too. A 4 or 5 year old boy is closer is like a 3 year old girl (typically) in being able to handle his emotions. I talk to Quinn a lot when he's upset. I don't point and tell him to get over here or anything like that. I wasn't raised that way so I don't do it. I like to tell him what we are doing and why. I really believe it's easier down the road. But I do see there are lots and lots of ways to go about it. I think it just adds to the mix.

Funny though Wal-Mart is the social arena for studying families!

I would never have left a 5 year old - especially upset in a cart while I went out of site. I cannot imagine. But we see worse than that all the time.

VALARIE said...

Sorry Kristine, in this case I am going to judge. Left him? She didn't leave this child that was almost as big as me. She ducked her head around the corner like I'm sure she has done 100 times before, he knew it and didn't call out for her to come back. He knew it was a GAME and they were both playing it.

As parents we have a responsibility to teach our children how to behave in public settings. The dead give away in this situation was when he did the lean back defiance and said, "It won't make me happy." That to me says that he is being talked to more about HIS feelings than his actions and what is appropriate. Maybe I can't adequately give you the scene in words but this get was simply having a spoiled fit.

A two year old is not a five year old. At some point we have to stop making excuses for bad behavior and take some responsibility.

This really upsets me because my black children will never be given this type of pass. Let my children start performing this way in the middle of a store with a lot of white people and see how fast they will call for security.

The child that I've picked up and left the store with used to have tantrums like this and the school system was ALARMED and wanted to know how he was being treated at home. He did not leave with me but was here quite a bit. After a couple of instances, I NEVER had a problem with him acting out in my home or in public. He was an absolute and complete joy to be around.

I am going to be so bold as to say this kid did not have emotional issues. He was a spoiled brat and his mother knew it and tolerated the behavior in her home. I did not tolerate when he was here and did not get that behavior from him.

The Six of Us said...

Absolutely! When we began to grow our family I was determined that I would take all four to stores. It works quite well as long as they know whose boss. And trust me...they are MUCH happier at the end of the trip.

Anonymous said...

I've found as an older mom, I have very little in common with a lot of younger moms in the discipline area. I discipline in a more 'old fashioned' way. (although compared to my parents, I'm sure I'm very lenient) As they get older and 'test the waters' more, I've found that EACH time I go into public, I have to explain the rules and consequences. this week, I had to take all 4 to the eye doctor. (no baby sitter) I explained that if all were good (sitting in the room the WHOLE time we were in the room, no getting up and running around, no interupting, etc) we'd go to McD's play place. If not, the ones who were bad had to sit at the table while the others played. I had no problems with any of my children. Now, some call it a bribe. I call it survival. 4 to 1 odds scared me. Not always do they get bribes. I EXPECT them to act properly. (with or without rewards or punishment, plain and simple) If they don't, they suffer the consequences. They know the consequences will be enforced. They also know, when in doubt on how to act, look to Mom and Dad for a model. They also know if they say "Will I get anything for being good" is a sure way to get NOTHING.

I suspect the mother in question had read one too many "How to be a parent books" and used no common sense in the practical application.

As for how I look upon folks whose kids are out of control, I don't judge by color. I think I usually say something like, "That child needs a good spanking" ANother thing I say, "Oh God, please don't let my child get to be friends with this kid"


beth said...

I had to reply because I have 5 kids. 4 I can bring anywhere and expect obedience. But, then God gave me Matt. He's special needs and, oh boy, how different. Now I can NEVER judge another parent or child. I will take him out if he shouts, but he does that dead weight drop thing and then I'm practically hoisting and dragging. I have to be 100 times more consistent in disciplining and still he isn't always in control. But, I agree, too many mothers want to reason with their kids these days. - beth

Ali said...

Oh Beth, I hear you! Each of my kids has a different personality, but I get dirty looks because of my middle one. He has lots of issues, but when we go to the store it's the sensory stuff that causes problems. He gets shrieking fits if he has crumbs on him or if we passed the lobster tank without stopping to look. He is not spoiled, but he is particular about routines, expectations, etc. And you do not know how bad it feels until you have some old biddy glare at you in the dairy aisle because your son is screaming. I cannot stand passive, lenient parents, but I judge a lot less than I did before I had kids.

Angela said...

Hey Valerie,

As I was reading your post, my first thought was the little boy's ill behavior has been unknowingly reinforced by someone giving in to him as a measure to shut his mouth.

Limits are normally set during terrible 2's and 3's. I'm not saying it will never happen, but by the age of 4 we should be preparing our children for activities beyond our home, even if we home school. Even though our children are cute in our eyes, we have to remember we are responsible for preparing them for the world. That behavior won't be tolerated in a school setting, camp, or play group.

My son begged for items in stores. However, it was never an outburt or down and out tantrum. I guess I was lucky. However, I would often reward him for his good behavior. It wasn't always materially, sometimes it was praise. However, if I promised him something, I kept my word.

If we saw another child behaving badly in public, I would tell him I'm sooo proud that he's a big boy and well behaved and etc. I could see the pride welling in him. He thought he was the best kid in the world.

I'm sure that little boy doesn't feel good about his outburst and the fact no one has set limits for him.

Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bennett said...

Sorry that was me that made a mistake and deleted my the entire long post I just summary. As a little girl I could never fall out, show out, throw a tantrum in public, b/c I knew when I got to the car or got home I was getting my a#$ beat. That is one thing in our parents never had to worry a/b, we were always on our best behavior in public. I just don't get it when parents allow their children to negioate the word NO, hell, NO means NO......and thats the bottom line. I think there was one time I questioned my mommy,outside of her favorite line, "b/c I said so" you know for certain I never asked why mommy again. I know parents don't want their children to fear them. but we never feared our parrents we respected them, and knew what they expected of us in public and behind closed doors,

so I just can't get w/all the talk a/b feelings and learning that no does not really mean no when a child is told no

That child would have gotten a long motherly stare down from me if I was in that store and

there has been a time when I have spoken out of turn to a child in a public place about his behaviour, I mean it was only b/c the mom was in tears b/c her son would not get in the I watched the breakdown, fallout in the store, the slow walk to the car w/arms folded, and the refusual to get in the car.........and gave her the silent look as to say let me help you out here, I looked at that little boy and talked low with a firm voice, opened the car door and pointed for him to get in the car, he cried, but he got her ass in that car. and after that I walked away I could not take it anymore after watcing a full 30 mins of it in the store. Mom thanked me and I simply gave her a hug and said you are the mom not your son who looks to be every bit of 4!!!!

Tami said...

I am with you Valarie. Baby I may have a few breakdown in a store, but she will never show her A$# like it happened in aisle 3. My mother had me when she was 20 so I don't always buy the age thing...I do believe it is a cultural thing. Yes, I said it. Latinos and people of color in general are stricter with their children. My mother could just look at me and I would straighten up. I remember once when I showed out in a store, I was, man oh man, when we got in that car my mother beat me until she got tired. I never showed out again. LOL I must have had a memory lapse and forgot who my mother was, silly me...boy, I paid for that one.

graceling said...

My mom did the single mom thing for a while with 3 of us. I don't ever remember any of us acting out in public... and if we were even close to thinking about maybe being slightly out of line- well, then we got "The Look."

And in the (rare) instance where we pushed it- that's when we got the promise of a spanking. And she never, ever forgot to give it to us (made all the worse by knowing it was coming during the whole outing!)

I've only spanked Abigail about 3 times, and I've never spanked Anna (although a smack on the hand has been used a time or 2, and I have spent quite a bit of time physically restraining Anna who does like to hit her Momma!) but if I felt the situation called for it, I admit I would spank either of them in a heartbeat.

I really think there is something to "spare the rod and spoil the child." I think it is good to use appropraite and effective alternatives whenever necessary, but every child I know who is well-behaved, regardless of racial, cultural, or religious background- well, they've been spanked.

I think there are a lot of people (of all races and cultures) who buy into this whole "talk everything out" crap that is flouted in psychology and the media. There are times when talking is appropriate. And then there are times when immediate action is necessary.

VALARIE said...

Grace this made me smile. It really is all in our own upbringing I think. I guess I just hang out with a rough crowd. I may have one permissive parent in my large group of parenting friends. The others do not tolerate talking back or disrespect of any kind.

Someone was saying to me the other day that when I get my children home that I have to be careful because everyone around them will encourage me to be more lenient because of their backgrounds. Not, my friends. They are all very firm disciplinarians.

Just as they know I will correct their children, they know that they will also be able to correct mine. I am comforting in knowing that my children will be in the homes of people that share my same philosophy.

Rebecca and Andrew said...

Ha ha...I'm so glad I'm not the only mother who will knowingly go towards a screaming/tantrum throwing kid in a super market! It's kinda like a bad accident, hard not to look.
My first two children were fairly 'easy' and learned well that NO means NO. I wonder how the next two will be??? Wish me luck! =)

haze said...

As the 2nd youngest of 9 kids, I knew not to cause a scene in public. Didn't even cross my mind as an option. I plan (hope) to make sure my kid grows up the same way.

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]