A few months ago, Jet and I were enjoying one of our weekly trips to Toys-R-Us on “Toy Day” (which is usually on a Thursday). He’d picked out his toy for the week and was trying his best to carry the big package down the isle to the checkout stand. Each trip to Toy-R-Us brings it’s own unique set of toy parameters, and this particular visit had this guideline: “Jetzen, you can get any toy you’d like as long as you can carry it all by yourself to the front of the store, and it needs to be fully assembled.” (I didn’t have the time or energy to put anything together.)
Being a “bigger-is-better-sort-of-guy”, Jet had managed to find the largest toy that met the criteria. So, as he struggled to lug his big box down the long isles (dropping it several times and stating loudly that “this is a weawly heavy toy, Mommy”), I smiled politely at the other shoppers as they shot disapproving glances my way.
We finally made it to the long check-out line and waited our turn as Jet continued to hold his big prize; the occasional grunt slipping out of his tiny mouth. About half-way through our wait, Jet dropped his box just as the box of Rolo Chewy Caramels candy bars caught his eye. “Hey Mommy, what are theeeeese?”
“Those are called ‘Rolos’, Jet. They’re a chocolately-caramel candy treat.”
“I want to try them.” Of course he did. At the ripe young age of 3, he’s already a chocolate-lover.
“You’re thinking that they look yummy and you’d like to see what they taste like?” I’m already seeing that this is probably going to go sour, and fast.
“Yeah, I want to taste them! They look YUMMY!”
“I’d like to have some, too, sweetie. But I’m remembering that today is not ‘Treat-Day’. Remember, today is ‘Toy-Day’ and we came here to get a toy.” The line must have started moving at warp speed because it’s already our turn to check out. I kneel down so that he and I are at eye-level. “It doesn’t work to have those today, but we can make a plan to have them on ‘Treat-Day’ if you’d like.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” (yes, it was as loud as it looks) “I WANT THEM TODAY!!!”
The checker, along with everyone else, is not moving, but staring — waiting to see what happens next. I can feel them placing silent wagers on me with more votes going to: “She’s gonna cave and get him the candy.” Still kneeling, I hand my credit card to the checker and say “We’re not buying these, just the toy, thanks.” The checker takes my card, still unsure as Jet wails even louder, with a death-grip on the candy bar.
“Mommy, please, please, please can I have it?! I WANT it!!! Pleeeeeeeease!”
“Jet, I’m going to take the candy bar out of your hand now because it’s time for us to leave. I’m worried that your outside voice is too loud in the store so we can keep talking about this outside, okay?” At this point, I pry the candy bar (ever-so-gently) out of his little hand and put it back in the box to the sound of his bleating and begging and sobbing… As I try to guide him out of the store, he lays down on the floor and refuses to move. I pause to take a deep breath before I pick him up (still screaming) and carry him outside.
We sit right outside the door, on the ground, just out of the path of the front doors. He is SO sad. Tears falling down his face. So very sad. I just sit with him as he cries, feeling like the best Mom in the world for not loosing it under all the pressure. It’s hard, after all, to have EVERYONE in Toys-R-Us staring at you, right? But I did it. I didn’t snap. I was the perfect example of how I’d like him to be able to control his actions some day with his child, should he choose to have one, of course. I was certain that all the people in line were very impressed with my parenting skills… She’s so patient… Wow, she didn’t even get upset… Did you see how respectful she was to him even though they were in public… (I’m a Pices, so a lot of what happens in life happens in my head :-). So, you can imagine my surprise when a lady walks up to us — she’d been behind us in the line — and says: “I’m so sorry he put you through that. I have a son who would do that stuff to me all the time and I was at my wit’s end. I found a book called ‘The Well-Behaved Child’ and it’s made a big difference. You should really check it out.”
I was dumbfounded. Was she really suggesting that I was the one with the problem? Did I look like I was having a problem? I felt like it should have been obvious that Jetzen was clearly the one having the big problem. “I’m sorry,” I replied, trying to muster up as much thankfulness for her concern as I could under the circumstances, “but I guess I don’t understand what you’re saying to me.”
Now she looked confused. “I telling you about a book that will help you control your son so he won’t mis-behave.”
“Oh, I see. Well, Jetzen is just really sad because he wanted to try a Rolo. But it’s not our ‘Treat-Day’ so it didn’t work to have it today. We’re both just sitting here feeling sad about that. You know, kind-of mourning the fact that we couldn’t get it today. I don’t consider feeling sad about something to be mis-behaving. Since he’s 3, he does have a hard time controlling his emotions, but I’m confident that he’ll learn how to do that by watching me do the same. Thank you so much for your concern, though.” It was her turn to be dumbfounded. She walked away without another word.
Jet calmed down after about 15 minutes of feeling sad with “Mommy, can we go home and play with my toy, now?”
“Of course we can, Love-bug! Can I carry your big box to the car for you?”
“Well, it’s weawly heavy so okay. Maybe you can carry me, too.”
I carried Jet and his big toy to the car. On the drive home, I said: “Hey Jet, can I talk to you about something important to me?”
“Remember the big problem you had while we were in Toys-R-Us? About the Rolo candy treat?”
“Yes, I weawly wanted them.”
“I remember that it sure sounded like you really, really wanted them.”
“Well, I wanted to let you know that it didn’t really work for me when you were screaming about getting the Rolos after I reminded you that it wasn’t Treat-Day. I felt really uncomfortable when you were yelling with your outside voice and laying on the floor because we were at the front of the line and other people were waiting for us to pay for our things. I was wondering if the people in line behind us were feeling frustrated by all the yelling and because we were taking such a long time in the line.”
“I’m wondering if it will help you, next time we come to Toys-R-Us, if we talk about treats before we go into the store. We can talk about if it’s okay to get a treat or not. Would that be helpful to you?”
“Yes, because I forgot it wasn’t a treat day and I was just really in the mood for a treat.”
“Yeah, I know it can be hard when you see something that looks really yummy and you can’t have it. That has happened to me before, too, and I was sad.”
“Yeah, I was sad because I wanted it.”
“It’s okay to be sad about it, but we just need to move outside the store if you need yell, and we need to move out of the line so that other people can check out, okay? I just wanted to let you know that I didn’t really like the way it made me feel when it happened today. It kind of made me not want to go to Toys-R-Us again.”
“Okay. I can hear that, Mommy.”
“Okay, sweetie. Thanks for listening.”
I never bought the book the lady recommended. I didn’t need to – I knew exactly the type of book it was by the title (good titles do that), which isn’t in line with my parenting style. But, before writing this I thought it would be a good idea to give it a quick once-over, just to make sure. I didn’t have to look long to confirm my suspicions about just how “wrong for me” this book is. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Children misbehave because they are bad, and the sooner parents understand and accept this, the better for them and the better also for their children. The incontrovertible badness of children is why it takes most of two decades to fully socialize them. Their badness is the reason for this book.
Exorcising a child’s demons requires punishment. The operative principle is simple: when a child does something bad, the child should feel bad about it. Unfortunately, when a child does bad things, they do not feel bad on their own. Therefore, when they do bad things, children need other people, adults, to help them feel bad. That requires punishment.
Wow. It was worse than I had imagined it could be. Um… okay, dude. That’s all I got, really. To respond to just those two paragraphs would be another blog entry in and of itself! Suffice it to say…
It’s been three months, which is roughly 12 “Toy-Days”, since the Rolo-episode. It hasn’t happened again, and there was no discipline involved – just a lot of love on both ends. :o)