Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Halloween highlighted my latest parenting pet peeve. Here's the scenario: Jamie, grasping two pieces of candy already, says, "I wanted Whoppers." I respond, "That was really rude. You can put those back and not have anything." The person whose house it is says, "Oh, no, he's fine. Here you go, have some Whoppers."
I have issue with this on a couple of levels. First, you contradicted me. I'm the parent and the ultimate authority for my child. Please don't tell him something is ok when it isn't. Second, you just taught my child that whining and being rude gets him what he wants. That is not the lesson I wanted to teach.
My initial response to the candy giver was, "no, it isn't ok." But he said, "oh, he's fine" and was already in the process of putting the Whoppers in Jamie's bag. How to handle this? Do I wrestle the Whoppers from his hand? Remove them from the bag and hand them back? Proceed with a big speech about how I'm trying to teach my child a lesson? No matter how I handle it, my credibility in front of my child is diminished and he's learned that rude behavior gets him what he wants if only mom isn't around.
I've encountered this problem frequently. I often make my children apologize when they've made a mess in public, knocked into someone, or been rude in any other way. Most adults respond to the apology with, "That's ok." No, no, no, no! It isn't ok. If it was ok, I wouldn't be making my child apologize. Instilling good manners is a hard job. It is made even harder by people who let kids off the hook. I know they are well-meaning, but as a parent, I need societal support. I need strangers to read my cues and respond accordingly. Emery purposefully spilling my coffee on the floor of the grocery store might be kinda cute when he's two, but it won't be when he's 6 or 16.
I admit, I've never read Hillary Clinton's book, It Takes a Village, but, I agree with the title. It takes everyone in society to support and reinforce social standards. If others act like bad behavior is ok or minimize it, then, despite what I say, my kids are going to think it is ok. "I'm sorry." "That's ok" has become such an automatic response. Stop and think next time someone apologizes. Is it really ok? If not, find a way to accept the apology without accepting the behavior.