When my brother-in-law (B-I-L) was a child, he was in some dicey situation when his mother said to him, “B-I-L, I want you to BEHAVE!” He responded, “I’m BEING have!” I think that response is just hilarious! But his mother’s words told him clearly that he had crossed the line.
I read something in the Huffington Post today that set my teeth on edge. It was by a mother who took her 3-year-old to a bookstore, expecting him to act a certain way when she was not supervising him. When he did the inevitable, she blamed herself for not being a “good listener.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-simon/mommy-wasnt-a-good-listener-today_b_2719302.html
This is what really got to me:
But, I also wonder if some of my methods have backfired. We haven’t raised our voices at Max (until now). We haven’t set strict limits (until now). We believe that a child’s behavior is a reflection of their environment, and that they are too young to have great self-regulation of their emotions. Kids act out when they’re hungry, or tired, or scared or feel like no one is listening to them.
I have a problem with this part: “We haven’t set strict limits (until now),” the “now” being the bookstore adventure, when, after he deliberately put his hand under the bathroom faucet in order to spray water all over, and ran around the aisles after she told him not to, she carried him screaming out of the store. Uh, that wasn’t exactly setting limits, lady.
My question is: WHY? Why haven’t you set strict limits? I truly believe kids WANT limits. They’re begging for limits. They want a nice clear line of demarcation between what is okay to do and what is not. You’re not doing your kid a favor if you deprive him of this nice clear line, because then HE has to figure it out, and JEEZ – he’s only three years old! He can’t make those decisions himself. Maybe he can decide between having his milk in the red cup or the blue cup, but he can’t regulate his own behavior.
And look, the poster SAID that in her paragraph above. She knew he was too young, and he was probably hungry AND tired AND scared AND felt like no one was listening to him. Who takes a 3-year-old into a bookstore and expects to browse books in peace while said 3-year-old amuses himself quietly? Of course he felt no one was listening to him, because no one was!
This mom then explains that she’s 7 months pregnant, and speaks of “the baby that I am growing in my belly… a baby that will create even more chaos in Max’s life, and change the dynamic of our family forever.” Excuse me? It’s a little late for remorse now, honey (plus “the baby that I am growing in my belly” is just a little too twee for me). I do understand why she has mixed emotions at this juncture — she feels she is being disloyal to Max by bringing another attention-stealer into the scenario, and she feels that she is sending a message to him that he is not perfect enough, so she had to create a spare. We all felt that way at one time or another while gestating #2.
Max will be fine. Most of us survived the arrival of siblings and are better people for it (my opinion only – feel free to disagree). All Max DOES know right now is that Mom is extremely tense and conflicted, and he definitely senses THAT. She’s different, and he’s scared. See Mom’s words above for what being scared does to a kid.
As for the spraying of water around the bathroom by putting his palm under the faucet, I am certain Max has done this before. He didn’t invent it in the bookstore bathroom. He should have been stopped the very first time he did it. Yes, we want our kids to be curious and perform scientific experiments, but there is a time and a place. Max can spray water all over the yard but he can’t do it in a bathroom. That’s the deal! Non-negotiable. He’ll be grateful for these rules, I promise you.
He, and all little kids, really WANT to be stopped. They fear their own power and don’t know if they can rein it in, so they look to us, the parents, to help them learn what is okay behavior and what is not.
We are meeting their needs when we say, “That is unacceptable.” Not angrily, if possible (I’m not too good at that part), but as a reminder of prior discussions in which “unacceptable” and “acceptable” were explained, with examples. My mother used to hiss at us, “Stop that! We’re in a PUBLIC PLACE!” That was her magic phrase. I had already been taught that I was supposed to behave differently in a “public place” than I did at home. She reminded me with those words. “Oh yes,” my little brain said, “I can pick my nose at home, but not here. Now I remember.”
So I want to ask the HuffPost mom to, in her words, “use your listening ears” (oh give me a break!): if you really want to avoid creating “more chaos in Max’s life,” then teach that “perfect” little boy some rules. And stop going to the f*cking bookstore with a three year old, unless you intend to be with him every minute. It’s really not fair to him, because YOU haven’t yet taught him the secret to “being have.”