We have done this to ourselves, I think.
I’m not below bribing my kid for good behavior during a trip out. It has seemed so worth it to promise a small, inexpensive trinket at the end of each shopping trip so that my daughter will behave. If we’re at Target, usually it’s one of those $1-2 “blind bags” she loves so much since she’s seen 1,342,987 of them on YouTube Kids videos. If we’re grocery shopping, it’s usually one of the free cookie samples. It seems so productive! Why, yes, I WOULD like to “pay” a buck or two to prevent my child from whining during an hour long shopping trip. I would like her to stay in the shopping cart and act like a perfect angel. $1? What a bargain! How does it work? We just set the expectation that if she is a good listener and stays in the cart that we will get said item at the end of our trip. If she’s not, we won’t.
This tactic is extremely effective, but it has clear drawbacks. Obviously…
Now, she expects to get a special surprise any time we shop. While this isn’t totally out of the question (see above – we are talking small cheap things), I find it unconscionable that a young child should think they always get something at a store. And I’m probably setting her up (and myself, really) to fail by teaching her that the only reason to listen and behave is to get a reward, measly plastic thing that it may be.
One weekend, my husband and I were feeling super eager to get out of the house and decided to take a quick trip to look around Dicks Sporting Goods and Home Goods. We weren’t really looking for anything. We just wanted to get out of the house, because living with a newborn and a three year old intensifies cabin fever FOR REAL.
We said no to the $14 dinky plastic ball at Dicks, then casually (not so stealthily) passed by the toy aisle in Home Goods. As we were walking out the door, G slowly came to the realization that we had *gasp* not bought anything for her! She started breathing heavily, then crying, and when that didn’t make us stop and turn around, proceeded to yank on my husband’s arm and scream. I was pushing the stroller with the baby so I put the brakes on, got down to her level and tried to talk through it with her. Logic does not work on 3-year-olds, by the way. She didn’t care that she has a bunch of toys at home or that we can look at the toys “next time”. After another minute of crying, we give up and hubby picks up the crying and flailing child and walks back towards the car. At this point, a well-meaning bystander gives the classic pity eyes and says “I remember those days. It goes by so fast. Mine is 13 now.”. I knew she meant well, but in that moment I was not in the mood to think about cherishing the moment. It reminded me of an article I read recently, “How Babies Are Just Like Cake”.
Anywho, hubby is power walking across the parking lot with G over his shoulder kicking and screaming, while I struggle to keep up with the stroller behind. An older retired-looking couple were halfway into their car when the woman stops, gets out and points hubby and G out to her husband. She starts walking toward them intently, then I suppose begins to realize G is, in fact, his child meanwhile I catch up with the stroller and start loading the boy into the car. We are 99% sure she thought he was a child abductor with the way she was acting. I guess I can’t blame her since G was really putting on a show.
So, I know that this behavior was totally avoidable and that I have set myself up for this kind of reaction since I always get her a little something when we go out. And yet, I still do it. I’m not a perfect parent. I haven’t figured out the best way to set expectations, discipline my child, what have you. Maybe I don’t have enough patience or I’m not thinking about the long-term. And honestly right now I really don’t care. I’m sure there is someone out there who has suggestions or the “perfect method” to get kids to behave. Just google”toddler tantrum” and you will find a long list of books, blog articles, etc. proclaiming they have the secret to “cure toddler tantrums instantly” or that they have the “best way to prevent tantrums”. Some of them do work for some kids. Some of them work for my kid, just not every time. Right now, I’m ok with what we’ve got going on.
We all do what we can as parents.
Here’s a picture to remind us all that even the Duchess doesn’t have it all figured out: