Our family was at Barnes & Noble yesterday evening. As O. and I were making our way to the checkout we (and the whole store) heard this horrendous, gutteral screaming and crying begin accompanied by such phrases as, “NO! BUT I WANT IT!!! AAAARRRGGGHHH!!!”
As the wailing continued, I’m ashamed to admit that not only was I grateful that this was not my kid pitching a fit of epic proportions, but I also had some of thoughts like, “Gee, take the kid home already.” And, “That parent obviously has no control over that kid!” People around us were obviously having even worse thoughts like, “A swift swat on the bottom is what that kid needs…”
It just so happens that this little boy and his mother ended up in line right behind us and my thoughts changed. The little boy was about O’s age, around 4. He was really, really loud but not truly out-of-control or unregulated. He wasn’t rolling on the floor or kicking or flailing around, he was just really, really LOUD! His mother stood there, holding his hand, stoically staring straight ahead. I felt so sorry for her and could completely relate to this poor woman! O. might not be as loud, but she has thrown a fit or two in HyVee that made me want to abandon my cart (along with all my parenting beliefs regarding spanking, if truth be known!)
Anyway, I turned to this poor woman, smiled and said something like, “Breathe deep, Mom! We’ve all been there!” We had a brief conversation and the long and short of it was that her little guy refused the book she was going to buy him and so she put that book down and headed for the checkouts, causing him to screech like a banshee, pleading for that book.
I was so impressed with this mom in a several ways…
1. First, she sent a strong, strong message of competency to her son by maintaining the boundaries she set around what she was willing to buy. It is so easy to cave and placate them by giving in–much more difficult to meet their need for security and boundaries.
2. Secondly, she was attuned to her child and knew that while he was loud and it sounded terrible, he wasn’t really melting down in what we at Heart of the Matter Seminars call an internal alarm. It was pretty clear that he was hacked off, upset but not truly dysregulated.
3. Third, she was sending another great message of competency and parental authority by sticking it out in line and not allowing the child to control whether or not she bought her book. Now, I think there are certainly times when we need to set purchases down and just leave–in particular, when the child’s mad has crossed over to out of control, dysregulated. But, this didn’t seem to be the case with this kiddo and I think mom was absolutely correct to go ahead and purchase her book.
4. Finally, the entire time she was in line and talking with me, she was holding his hand. A great example of close proximity parenting or “Time In” that we don’t see nearly as often as a parent who allows the child to sink to the floor in a pout or fit and stands over them, lecturing.
Basically, this was a beautiful example of this mom managing her child’s bid for power! A little ironic as we’re having a discussion group on this very topic on Thursday! If you haven’t already, check it out here. I hope you’ll join us!