I saw something interesting today, a scene that gets played out probably every second of every day a parent punishing their child telling their child that what they just did is unacceptable, and they scold and firmly enforce a code of conduct so that some day in the future that child may learn from this and become a better person. But as I listened to the mother scold her daughter, I notice the words that the mother used, and this got me thinking about what we say to our children, and what our children actually pick up from us, the adults, when we say these things to them. This particular scene was a classic case of the child pushing all the mother’s buttons causing the mother to pull out all the stops. The case of the child wants and the mother ignores–the Ostrich Effect.
As the child begins to cry then yells at the top of her lungs, the mothers quietly, yet quickly pushes the shopping cart through the isles to the check-out counter hoping that one else is put-off from the noise. The child goes into phase two of her strategy of total domination by dropping one item at a time out from the shopping cart while the mother is busy navigating the through the sea of other customers. The mother yells to her little daughter, “No–no you don’t, you’ll see your dad.” she threatens. The child continues to drop one more item from the cart. “No!” the mother cries out, “I told you–I will leave you behind–you will have to pay for it all.” Then the mother back-tracks to pick up the dropped items.
The little girl is crying now. The mom, hair tattered, her eyes glossy from stress, trying to cope with all that her daughter has mustered, makes it to the check out counter. “I will leave you in the store if you keep that up–stop it–you are not having it—mummy can’t afford it, there’s no more money.” as the mother pleads to her daughter.
I thought to myself, having watched all of this unfold, although the child is probably only two years old, and the mother in her mid twenties, that if each actually knew what they were saying to each other the parenting strategy might change. For example, why threaten your child with such an ultimatum: e.g., I will leave you, I will send you away, etc… I wonder if, instead, the mother picked up her child and hugged her, in stead of repeating the word, “No,” then maybe the child rearing process might go smoother? Hummm, perhaps, the toll of parenting is too great some days, and saying anything that might get you through the day–goes?