Your Reaction Counts

Every parent wants to think their child is perfect, and I’m no exception. However, there is a large gap at times between what we want and what the reality is.

Recently our little 4-year-old has been misbehaving in stores. She will be fine at first, somehow convincing her dad that she should be free to walk beside him instead of sitting in a cart.Within moments of being freed she is running up and down aisles, grabbing at things, tripping up shoppers and causing general mayhem.

I will not comment on how often he falls for this, but suffice it to say, it’s been plenty. And recently she’s taken her mayhem up a notch, acting out from her seat, reaching to grab anything close to her, demanding treats, demanding to be released, or that a certain parent push her, wanting to know (quite loudly) why the store is so stinky (we were in an Asian market) or (just as loudly) speculating on whether “that one with the really big tummy is the mommy or the daughter of the other one with the really big bottom.”

Yes, she said that and yes, they heard her. I was so embarrassed I couldn’t look at them, but the DH said at least one of them was staring knives at us.

We finished with the Asian supermarket and DH said, “I just want to make one more stop.” He pulled into a parking lot and left the car running. “I’ll just be a moment.”

Emily began to holler and cry. She wanted to go with him (undoubtedly she felt the need for more mayhem) and we both said no as he exited the van and walked quickly away.

“Why didn’t Daddy take me with him?” she asked, seemingly both outraged and offended at being left behind.

“Why do you think he left you behind?” I responded.

“Well…I don’t know.”

“Perhaps it is because of your behavior in stores recently,” I suggested, “think back to how you have been acting.”

There was a long pause. “I like Daddy better than you, Mama.”

Ouch. “I don’t care who you like better, I care about your actions and behavior. Now tell me, how do you think your behavior has been today?”

Another long silence.

“I grabbed stuff off of the shelves. And I yelled at you and Daddy.”

“Yes you did.”

“But I want to go in with Daddy! I’ll be good, I will…please?”

“I’m sorry Emily, but when you act like that, it takes a lot more than a promise to be good. You have to change your behavior for a while, and then you can go back and we will try again.”

We talked back and forth a bit more, and there were tears and kicking of seats. When my DH returned, Emily said sadly to him, “I wanted to go with you, Daddy.”

As if he had been listening to our conversation all along he said, “I would have liked to take you, but your behavior has not been the best today. I hope that will change so you can go with me next time.”

Sometimes our kids can really put us through the wringer. They are capable of embarrassing us and making us angrier than is healthy (for us or them!). It is important, therefore, to step back and proverbially count to ten, before reacting.

Emily had received plenty of verbal warnings from us, including the tried but true, “You know better than that!” She was attempting to gain our attention through inappropriate means, and also to control her surroundings, again through inappropriate means, by grabbing at items and issuing demands for food, freedom, et cetera.

The exclusion from an activity truly bothered her. She is very attached to both of us, and loves to go with us into new places. That said, she is not always willing to behave when there. So our reaction must be a calm yet firm denial of freedom (or choice) until her behavior changes.

And as for the ladies with the large tummies and bottoms…well, that just needs to be included in my list of “when we are out we do not…”

So far that list includes:

  • You will not pick your nose
  • You will not talk about your farts
  • You will not comment loudly on how a place smells
  • You will not discuss other people’s body size or appearance

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones we typically review before leaving the van. What are some of yours?


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    kloppenmum said,

    We only have two: remember your manners, and while you can think what you like, keep those thoughts in your head.
    …and aren’t Power Tantrums fun?

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