Oh Christmastime… A time for family, blessings, giving, and watching strangers act like animals at the mall. Oh Christmastime…
For those who know me, know that because of my dislike of shopping, my Christmas purchases are usually completed by October. This year though, I came across a coupon book for my favorite housewares store that featured a BOGO deal on something that I’ve wanted to get for my daughter. So I took the plunge—I went to the mall last week.
All was going well until I stood in the long line-up at the cash registers. As I gazed at the plethora of wonderful kitchen items that were still at an arm’s reach for me as I waited, I was stirred from my state of ogling by a commotion. There stood a high maintenance-looking woman in her mid-thirties towering over a little boy who was throwing a classic tantrum. Primped mom stood berating him and attempting to yank him up off of the floor by one arm. We are all familiar with that visual. But then it got better. She said it. She said the thing that makes my blood boil.
“Billy! You are a bad boy! If you do not stop this behavior right now, we are leaving!”
Did little Billy smarten up and fly right at the utterance of those powerful words? Nope. Billy launched into an even bigger meltdown.
What came next is what usually happens in situations like this, so I was not the least bit surprised. Billy’s mom did not throw him over her shoulder and march him out of the store to make good on her threat—she swatted him on the ass and dragged him further into the store. All the while, rolling her eyes and staring at the onlookers with a look of disgust. Not a look of humiliation at revealing what a wholly crap-ass mother she was; she looked disgusted with Billy.
Maybe if she was a disheveled-looking, flustered mom (who seemed in need of a hug and some well-deserved alone time), I’d be a little more sympathetic; but this woman appeared as though she spent more time in front of the mirror than caring for her child.
Previously, I wrote about my disgust towards verbal spousal bashing, but this one takes the cake for me. Why do parents resort to knee-jerk behavior like this when it could have been solved peacefully—or not been an issue at all—in the first place? Why? Because the majority of folks don’t want to invest the amount of time that it actually takes to raise their children with respect and patience.
My daughter acted out twice in public (not Billy behaviour, just mischievousness):
- In the bath towel section of a department store with me when she was just over a year old;
- In the wrench section at a hardware store with her stepfather when she was three and a half.
Both times were dealt with by leaving the store immediately (without any negative emotion expressed towards her) and returning home. After the hardware store situation, I explained to her that going out was a privilege and her behaviour was disrespectful. At three and a half years-old, she got it.
It was after that day that I adopted a method which I call Offensive Parenting. “Offensive” being the opposite of “defensive” like in football; not “offensive” like dropping the f-bomb. I made the terms and conditions of our outings (or general day-to-day expectations) known in advance. I let my daughter know what the appropriate behavior was upfront. When she faltered, I took the time to calmly sit down and explain why that behavior was not acceptable. I never shouted, I never spanked, I just held her accountable for her behavior and lovingly taught her how to self-correct.
My OP technique was put to the test when my stepsons came into my life. My husband loathed taking them anywhere because they were like wild animals. Bravely, I decided to start a new tradition with them—going to the the public library on the weekends that they were with us. They had never been to a library before, so they were excited when I approached them about it. After getting buckled up in the car, I left it in park, turned around and—gently—told them,
“There are rules for going to the library, and if either of you don’t adhere to them, we will all come home immediately. The rules are:
- inside voices only;
- you may each pick three books for your independent reading and two that you would like me to read to you;
- you will not touch the computers;
- you will not ask to play on the computers—we are there for books, not to play video games;
- when I tell you that it’s time to leave, I will only say it once and expect that I will not hear any arguments.
Do you understand these library rules?”
They excitedly agreed and were angels that day (and each and every time after that). But the secret was that I would ask them to recite the rules to me before I pulled the car out of the driveway. The rules needed to be fresh in their minds. The day that my husband begrudgingly had to take them (as I suffered miserably with a bad head cold), I asked them to recite the rules to him before they left. My husband returned from the outing in a state of awe at how such a simple action could lead to such positive results and, for the first time, he enjoyed being out with his boys. He adopted my OP technique before taking them anywhere after that day. I never heard another complaint.
As for the crap-ass mother at the housewares store, I feel obligated to enlighten her on a few things:
- Billy does not want to go shopping with you;
- Billy will do what it takes for the self-preservation of what he wants;
- Billy will keep acting out as long as your threats remain empty;
- Billy is a child and naturally tests his boundaries (it’s a healthy thing actually);
- Billy knows that you’re a crap-ass mother and wants to express it to the world in the hopes that you’ll be publicly shamed into becoming a better parent.
Okay, maybe Billy doesn’t actually feel the things in the last point…but I’m feeling feisty after reliving that day.
My hope though, is that the crap-ass mother from the store reads this and understands that if she just takes a few moments to be an OP, she can save herself hours of stress and angst.
Parenthood is the noblest profession out there. Why can’t more people take the time to be the best that they can be?