I was driving down the street and saw a scene that felt very familiar. A woman was walking down the sidewalk pushing a baby in a stroller. About 10 feet behind her was her screaming child, of, I’d guess about 4 years of age, flat out on the ground, fists and feet pounding. She looked back at him wearily, said something, then turned away to continue on with the stroller. I just knew what was going on – the kid was having a fit over something and mom had already tried reasoning with him to come with her. Since that hadn’t worked, she went to the old “Well, I’m leaving. Bye!”
My teenage daughter was in the car with me. I said “Hmmph, I remember those days.” She asked what I was talking about (how easily they forget what they put us through as wee ones!) I recounted a few of the more dramatic episodes of her and her siblings throwing themselves to the ground at the zoo, the grocery store, the mall, the lobby of a nice hotel, etc. all in utter despair! And each time, despite my fears that something might happen to them or that someone would think I was just a horrible mother for “abandoning” my child, I would say “I’m leaving!” or “You’d better be with me by the time I reach the door” or my favorite, “Fine, I hope you find your way home cuz that’s where I’m headed.” Actually, I’m kind of surprised that last one didn’t get me in trouble with the authorities, especially because it was usually followed by “…you little S*%#” under my breath. Still, it worked. Every time. Pretty much.
My teen daughter was shocked that a parent would walk away from their child who was in full-on tantrum mode. I tried to explain (feeling like I was giving away state secrets to the once-enemy), that if you give in to a child having a fit and give them attention (even bad attention), you are rewarding and cementing that behavior.
“Isn’t that kind of manipulating your child since you really have no intention of actually leaving them?” my daughter asked. “Oh, honey, parenting is full of manipulation because kids are all about manipulation! A child can be in hysterics, seeming to not hear a word you are saying over their screams and you can say ‘do you want to come have a snack?’ and low and behold, they compose themselves and eke out a sniffly ‘yes.'” It’s the game we play in the parent/kid world, I explained to her, knowing full well that I was really giving her advice and insight for her future as a parent.
How did she receive this advice and insight? “Well, that’s all just dumb.”
I can’t say I disagree with her.