Is this the name of a real show, or am I making it up? If it is a real show, I obviously haven't seen it, but think I want to audition... to be the nanny, not the parent in need of help. Sometimes I just want an avenue to give a little parenting advice without looking like a know-it-all mom bully. Because I really do understand that people can have tough kids, or a child is having a bad day, or any number of reasons why children misbehave in public... that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about when parents make really obvious parenting mistakes that would be so easy to fix if they were aware of them and that in the long run will make everyone's life that much more pleasant.
Today, J. and I stopped to get a cup of coffee to share on our way to our big date of grocery shopping. While we were in the store, a mother pushing a stroller and a young boy (who wasn't in the stroller) walked in. They stood in line, where the little boy (like all small children) started to touch things in the open case. The mother kept telling him not to (over and over -- he obviously wasn't paying attention to her), threatening him with dire consequences (which I could tell she had no intention of carrying out), and then proceeded to get him something from the case. Hmmm... what did small child learn? Well, first no need to listen to Mom, she just makes a lot of noise. Second, if I keep at it, I may just get what I want after all.
What would I have suggested to this mother? First, before you enter a store with a small child, review the rules so the child knows what is expected. Second, use the stroller that you are pushing to contain the child. Especially if you are not sure the child will be able to behave as expected. A child unable to reach the things he shouldn't touch doesn't get in trouble. Third, do not get in the habit of making noise and continually repeating yourself. It just trains your child to ignore you. Fourth, be prepared to carry out the threats you are making. If you say, "I'm not buying you anything," don't then proceed to buy something. If you say, "If you touch the things in the case again, we won't go to the park," you must be willing to leave the store immediately if the child does it again. Yes, it means you miss out on ordering your coffee. But, sometimes parenting involves sacrifice. In the long run, short-term sacrifice will make for a far more pleasant life. (I can still remember whisking M. home when she was less than two because she refused to stop throwing sand. Yes, I missed out on visiting with my friends, but M. also had a new respect for what I said as a result.) Really, effective parenting involves thoughtfulness. Thinking about what you say and do before you do or say it. Once words are spoken, you can't take them back.
I'm looking forward to the day when I'm a cute little old lady who can say what she thinks. I will go around saying things such as, "Your words are like rain on a tin roof: Making a lot of noise that no one pays attention to and yielding no fruit."
My honorary "daughter" P18 has updated her blog about her first month in Uganda. Go here to check out how she is doing and see some of the cute, cute children she gets to love and care for.