The Secret to “Being Have”

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.”

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.”




4 thoughts on “The Secret to “Being Have”

  1. I can see both sides of this. While I totally 100% agree that children really need some clear limits, I have been the overtired super pregnant mom of a toddler who throws himself on the floor in a store (for us it was Target, haha). Nothing scares the public like an 8 month pregnant mom holding a case of diapers under one arm and a red-faced two year old under the other! 🙂 The whole time I was pregnant I worried I had forever ruined my firstborn’s life by having a second child…and I continued to worry about this for awhile after he was born! Now I’m certain I’ve ruined their lives equally, hahaha…But yes- I have verbatim used the phrase “non-negotiable” hundreds…and hundreds…of times here. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that I don’t go to in public with overtired kids unless I absolutely HAVE to…for everyone’s sanity!!


  2. I went and read the original post, and many of the comments people left, some of which echoed your concerns. Eh, my take on it is that this mom is kind of where I am right now on this parenting journey … it is just tough raising a toddler, being pregnant (or in my case having a baby), and each day is a new lesson and a new challenge. She’s just figuring it out as she goes along. I did laugh a bit at her attempt to waddle around pregnant in a bookstore, with a husband with a broken wrist and a 3-year-old who seems to be acting perfectly normally for his age. But I was laughing in sympathy, not so much at her. I can relate – what seems like a great idea can quickly turn into a nightmare. But at the end of the day, I actually think she’s overanalyzing and should just give herself a break. Tomorrow will be a better day. As for your take on it, I actually didn’t read that far into it. She’s a blogger, so it could be that she embellished a little for dramatic effect (and I have been known to do the same). But even if she meant everything she said, I don’t see it as irresponsible. She’s just figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I bet she *has* set limits at home, and she just isn’t calling it that. My hat is off to anyone, all of us, who survives the toddler/preschooler years. It is just. freaking. hard! ❤


  3. Wow you are clearly very upset with this woman. In the spirit of CTWM’s being a non-judgemental space, I think that we can’t really know someone elses situation just by reading an article they wrote. We don’t know what’s really going on in their lives, we don’t know that much about this particular moms situation and even if we did, she’s the one in control of her own life. It doesn’t really help anyone for us to get upset about the way other people are raising their children.


    1. I’m not upset with the woman. I am upset with the nature of her article/post and what I consider to be an irresponsible parenting style for anyone to adopt. I meant to use the article and her situation as starting point — an illustration of parents who don’t set limits and what the results can be. I wasn’t directing my comments at her in particular, although I can see why you may have thought I was, since I used her child’s name. I meant “Max” to represent all 3-year-olds who need to have their parents provide them with reasonable limits.

      I also think anyone who blogs in such a public setting tacitly agrees to open up her life for judgment and commentary of any kind. There was a commenter who was offended by a recent CTWM post on divorce, and made that very clear. I believe that’s the risk we take when we offer up ourselves and our views to everyone on the internet.

      I am sorry if I offended anyone by expressing my opinion.


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