You know when you're in a public place and you hear a preschooler screaming and crying? This kid is throwing a mega tantrum and mom is doing all she can to keep from losing her cool. I’ve seen a few moms lose it in a store and when that happens I feel less sorry for the mom I guess and more sorry for the kid. I’ve also seen moms give the kid whatever they want just to stop the wailing. The problem with this is, kids aren’t stupid, they learn really quickly that “embarrass mom will equal getting your way”. I generally try to find a happy medium between the two extremes of yanking my hair out and conceding in defeat. My kids have learned early on that no means no and if they want to press the issue, they probably won’t care for the consequences later on. Of course, this doesn’t mean they don’t test from time to time to see if no still means no.
Today was a test day, but first a little background. Once our kids learned to walk, we equipped them with a tiny back pack so they can carry their own diapering stuff. No, we don’t load it down, it’s simple, it’s compact and usually they love feeling like such a big kid. When we go to the beach, they have mesh backpacks they haul out there with their sand toys and towels. If they are old enough to walk with that load on their back, they carry their own stuff. We started this early, so they just expect it. They even have their own suite cases when we travel. The same is true when they go to preschool. They must carry their own stuff. Occasionally I will lend a hand, but most often they carry it themselves because I’m pushing a stroller or carrying other things and because it’s theirs.
Apparently A(3) has seen the other moms carrying the other kids’ things out to the parking lot after school. Today she decides she doesn’t want to carry her nap mat. She tries to give it to me and I tell her “no, sweetie, you need to carry it.” (it has a handle and is very light) The screaming begins….and I mean serious screaming. I’m thinking, “who is this kid?” I keep walking coolly trying my best to pretend that it isn’t bothering me. We’re getting stares from everyone who passes. It’s no short walk back out to the parking lot and half-way she’s still screaming her head off and is now adding “MOMMA!” to the mix. I stop and address her, “Ann, you don’t want to carry your things?” She whines and shakes her head. “Ok then, why don’t you just leave them right here and maybe someone else will enjoy them.” She screams “NO!” So, I tell her that she has no choice but to carry them then, and off we go again.
This child screamed like she was being kidnapped all the way out to the vehicle. It was a long and humiliating walk as I had just been told, by her teacher, not ten minutes prior, what wonderful kids I had. The older kids start loading in. I knelt down in front of her (she's still screaming), “You’ve got a few choices to make, Ann. You may continue screaming and stay here till you stop OR you can straighten up right now, put your things in and get into your seat.”
“I’ll stop,” she sniffed without hesitation.
“Ok, here’s your next choice. You can carry your things and be a big girl about it from now on OR you can behave like this again and not come back to preschool anymore.”
“I’ll be a big girl.”
Once she was all buckled into her seat I asked her if she had something she needed to tell us. She apologized. We forgave her of course with hugs and kisses.
For those wondering, I wouldn’t have left her in the parking lot. No, she wasn’t getting in until she settled herself but I wasn’t going to drive off without her or anything. The thing is she knows I mean what I say. She tested me today. It would have been so easy to carry the mat for her but what battle would I be facing the next time? I’ve noticed that if you give in, the next time they’ll cry twice as long and more dramatic if they have to.
The last time she pulled something like this was several months ago. We have a rule that you can’t have dessert if you don’t finish your dinner. We don’t force them to eat but they aren’t getting sweets if they can’t eat the good stuff. We decided one night to go for ice cream after dinner. We told Ann this during the meal and she was excited but refused to eat. I reminded her that she wouldn’t get any ice cream but she still didn’t eat. She screamed the entire time in the car when the rest of us were having ice cream and she wasn’t. I felt terrible for her but we didn’t cave. You know, the next time, she finished her dinner before everyone else and of course….got dessert.
Today it was my kid screaming in public. Tomorrow it might be yours. Enjoy these days while we have them. One day the issues will be bigger than not wanting to carry a nap mat. May the Lord give us wisdom and strength.