Once again I see a mom pick up the cookie her child throws on the ground and give him another one.
I can almost predict the next scene.
Yep, it happens exactly like a pre-orchestrated, brilliant plan. The toddler takes one bite of the cookie, gives out a fake, wincing cry and waits for the next cookie.
What does the mom do? She leans over, picks up the cookie, tosses it in the trash and hands her crying toddler a new cookie—anything to keep the tears away.
My two toddlers immediately pick up on this attitude, and if I am not careful they catch this contagious behavior. In fact, a few seconds later I see my four-year-old throwing down a drink producing bogus tears. I seize this teaching opportunity to help Mary-Lynn as well as the other moms observing my reaction.
“Mary-Lynn, you do not throw that on the ground. Pick it up.”
“Pick it up.” I repeat and she picks it up. She knows this mom will not let her get away with fits and tantrums.
“Thank you, Mary-Lynn. Now, look at mommy.”
Those beautiful, brown eyes peer into mine.
“You are not allowed to scream and throw a fit. If you want something, ask politely. Say please and thank-you. Remember, you never get what you scream or cry for.”
She nods and remembers the rules. Within minutes she is back to the little girl I trained her to be–content, happy and obedient.
Meanwhile, the other moms are racing after their little ones, treating them like miniature kings and queens. Baby screams, mommy jumps. Toddler kicks and falls on the ground, mommy comes to the rescue. These little ones have learned how to manipulate their parents to get exactly what they want–every time they want it.
However, the outcomes and effects of the two different parenting styles are ironic. I look at my munchkin and she is all smiles—the royal kings and queens? They are all tears and screams.
I realize some moms are only imitating their parents and other moms. They really think if they displease their child they are a bad parent. I understand this thought process, as I can be quite a mushy pushover. But, when I lean on God’s understanding and not my own, I learn a lesson.
Many times I have wanted to do just the same as these other moms. In fact, with my first child, I did pamper and jump at his every little whimper. I had convinced myself that if my baby was crying, I was not being a good mother. Do you know what I created? I created a demanding, self-centered child.
It didn’t take long for someone to point out that I should not let him pull my glasses off my face or cry incessantly. I had to learn that it is o.k. to say “no” to my child when he asks for something or exhibits ill behavior.
In fact, when I began searching God’s word for help on this parenting journey, God graciously guided me.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go…”
After pondering this verse, it was clear to me that throwing tantrums, fits and being self-centered is not the way my child should go. I had been given this little life to mold and shape for the Lord’s glory. How can I do that if I am letting him have everything he so desires?
I am a sucker for chubby, little hands and soft cheeks. Tears that flow out of big brown eyes softens my heart. But leaning to my own understanding gets me no where. I must trust in God’s wisdom.
Even though it was difficult, I began telling my oldest son “no” when he grabbed my glasses. I began disciplining him for throwing tantrums. I also did not allow him to cry incessantly when he was feeling less than happy. This wasn’t always a popular parenting technique, but I knew it was what my son needed. It took training, patience and complete trust in God that it was OK to say “no” to that tiny human being that had stolen my heart and affection.
The first bit of evidence that I had finally improved in my parenting skills was when we took a trip to the grocery store.
My son eyed the candy bars and shouted, “I want! I want! Please mommy, I want!”
Yes, he did say please, but no I couldn’t afford a candy bar on that day.
“No, son…not today.”
I expected alligator tears and pouting.
That’s not what I got.
“O.k. mommy.” was his polite response.
I returned his submission with a kiss and hug. That attitude made me want to throw the whole box of candy bars into the cart!
This attitude is now seen in all six of my kids. No, I do not think that some kids are just “hard cases”. In fact, I have some strong-willed children that it took quite a while to tame and teach that when mommy and daddy say no, it really means no.
Parents have an amazing opportunity facing them everyday–an opportunity to train their kids in the way they should go. You are shaping your child’s character today, whether you are trying to or not.
If you are giving them whatsoever they desire every time, then you are teaching them that they can always have what they want, when they want it. You are also teaching them through your actions that if they whine, cause a scene or throw a tantrum that they can get what they want. Then, those same kids grow up and blow up when someone cuts them off in traffic. Those same kids grow up and complain about how slow the cashier is at the grocery store. Those same kids grow up and no one wants to be around them because they are a really big, self-centered baby that never grew up and is now living in an adult body and in an adult world.
Do you want that for your kids?
No is a part of life. The sooner your kids learn that, the better.
Practice saying “no” to your child today. I LOVE saying “yes”, but sometimes “no” is best.
The next time your child grabs your phone, take it out of his hands and say, “No, you do not take mommy’s phone without permission.”
Will your little one pout or whine? For sure, if this is the first time you have taken the phone away. But that is ok. Your child has to learn not to take other people’s possessions. When your child screams for french fries at dinner, give him veggies. Will he explode in anger? At first he will, but stay in control and discipline him for his outburst. Over time, and not much time at all, your little one will learn what is acceptable behavior. Why? Because you learned how to “just say no”.