Monday, December 8, 2008

Easy Outs on Hard Days

Last week I had an interaction with a mother ushering her children away from church quickly.  It was a tough moment for her, and I made it worse by offering to pack up some cookies & crafts for the kids to enjoy later.  Absolutely not.  And I understood completely.  I knew circumstances well.  When my boys are bad, I quickly pack them up (so they won't be rewarded for bad behavior or ruin someone else's time).  But if my mother is there, she often coos over them offering stickers and sweets to smooth tantrums, behavior in my own childhood which, by the way, would have resulted in serious spankings (but these are 'innocent' grandchildren).  The thought of rewarding my children for such disruption infuriates me, so I should have known better when interacting with this mother.

Oh, how I would long to shove a cookie into my child's mouth to pacify him in his worst moments, and that would be the easy out.  Parenting well on hard days requires more.  And this "more" often involves jeopardizing our own fun, peace, and reputation.  However, the long-term benefits are invaluable.  I have to be committed to this longer process.  

I had my moment this morning when meeting a different fellow church mom & pal for a playdate at Java Mama's.  We were late because Amos fell before we left, which launched a meltdown.  He perked up when we arrived and had a wonderful time.  Eli, on the other hand, turned into a little tornado of furry, greed, volume, and rage.  Despite the sizable play area with stairs, slides, books, toys, and video, he just could not play nice or share.  He even shoved aside children younger than him to go down the slide.  Unfortunately, Jeremy had the keys to the car and was down the street.  So, the normal reprimands followed.  Time-outs, longer time-outs, conversations, removal from play area, had to sit with the adults.  The spiral began.  He saw a cupcake, I said no - flip out.  He wanted to play, I said no, he was receiving a bad consequence for bad behavior - flip out.  And on.  It never got better.  

At one point, in a separate play room, a woman with her grandchild offered Eli a ride on the "rollercoaster" car ride.  I said, no thank you, he is not allowed on it (this after Eli had refused to share with other children & thrown a fit).  She insisted and offered Eli a ride, "Wouldn't you like a turn?"  Umm yah, but he is not ALLOWED another turn.  Would he have stopped crying and screaming to be given another turn?  Sure.  Would it have made my experience easier and less embarrassing?  Sure.  Would it have produced a child who learns the consequences of his actions?  No way.  Would it have taught him that he can behave like a terror and still get his way, especially in public?  Yup.  

So, I move on.  I know he's just a little guy and I know our long weekend probably contributed to his poor behavior, but that still doesn't mean it is okay.  The times when I have been called out for sin or received negative consequences for my poor actions (strained relationships or whatever) are the times that served as catalysts for lasting change.  It's never fun at the time, but the discipline does contribute to lasting change and heart renovation.  I want that for myself and I want that for my children.  So though I may do this poorly at times, I will still strive to avoid easy outs on hard days.  


juldik said...

Kim, I applaud you for your actions. Your are 100 percent correct in your dealings with Eli. He will thank you when he is grown.

Elizabeth said...

Nice job, Kim! I am TOTALLY with you on this. Kids are so smart and as soon as you reward them for bad behavior....the flood gates open. I have seen it with many friends. It's not fun to be the "mean parent" but Julie is right...there will come a day when he will thank you. It's too bad that the parental reward is delayed.