We were enjoying a wonderful afternoon at the swimming pool.
The sun was shining, a slight breeze was blowing, not a cloud in the sky. A perfect summer day.
Then she arrived.
Cute as a button, this 5- or 6-year-old little girl, accompanied by her mother, bounced over to a chair.
She happily sat down and took off her sandals and shirt, anticipating that first jump into the water.
Then it started.
"I don't want sun block," she told her mother.
Mom said she had to put some on.
"It's yucky, and I don't want to wear it," the child informed her parent in a loud voice.
Mom, trying to whisper to not make a scene, followed up the protest with the warning that they would have to go home if she didn't put on the sun block.
Idle threat No. 1.
Little cutie-pie knew how to combat Mom's warning.
She got louder.
"No!" she began yelling. "I don't want to wear sun block!"
Mom, completely mortified, gave in. "All right," she whispered in an angry tone. "But you won't get anything at the concession stand."
Idle threat No. 2.
Cutie-pie filed that threat away in her mind. She would negotiate it later.
With the sun block episode over, the two continued to get ready to swim.
What happened next: Act Two began moments later with water wings.
Apparently cutie-pie didn't want to wear those, either.
Again, after a fuss, Mom gave in.
One of my children leaned over to me and whispered, "That little girl doesn't listen very well."
(You know it's bad when a child notices!)
I responded, "Why should she? She knows she can get a better deal if she barters."
This mother might think she is being nice. What she is really doing is creating a monster.
That child knew her mother's fear was that she would create a scene. So, to get what she wanted, she did just that.
Perhaps Mom thinks cutie-pie will outgrow these tantrums.
She'll outgrow them all right. Water wings will grow into car keys and curfews.
If Mom has lost control now, when her daughter is 5, what will happen when she is 16?
Parenting is not about being nice or making children happy. It is about raising responsible, respectable human beings.
That can't be accomplished if you're looking to win a popularity contest.
I can't begin to count how many times my children have informed me that I am mean.
I shrug my shoulders and respond, "That's my job."
Not for wimps: Parenthood is not for wimps.
For the sake of my day in the sun, I wish there were no wimpy parents.
There is no way to enjoy time spent with a child who is allowed to negotiate.
This mother did not enjoy her afternoon. I don't think cutie-pie did either. Negotiating takes away from swim time.
I got the feeling that this 5-year-old was so used to bartering to get her way that she bartered for things she didn't particularly care about. It was simply a habit.
It may seem harmless to give in to small, simple requests, but it sets a dangerous precedent.
Discipline is not negotiable.
Children need to know that what you say is what you mean.
Parenting is difficult enough. Why make it more difficult by allowing your authority to be questioned over every decision?
Let your "yes" mean "yes" and your "no" mean "no."
And don't discipline with idle threats. State the punishment for the action and follow through.
We left the pool that afternoon a bit earlier than we had planned because of a "cutie-pie headache."
There she sat, on a beach towel (which she had also negotiated off her mother) eating a piece of pizza, fresh from the concession stand.