Do You Ask Your Child or Tell Your Child?

I’ve got two kids and a shopping addiction, so I spend a lot of time in children’s clothing stores. The other day I was in such a store trying to grab a few new shirts for my son while the family waited in the car. I was moving as quickly as possible and trying not to interact with anyone.

That being said, I couldn’t help but notice little Lillith. Lillith was an adorable, 4-ish-year-old who was shopping with her mother. But as cute as Lillith was, it could not hide the fact that she was the spawn of the Devil. She was single-handedly destroying the store while Mommy browsed casually (on the phone, of course!!). Every now and again Mommy would say, “Lillith?  Sweetie? Where are you?” Lillith would stand on a table used to display shorts and say sweetly, “I’m right here, Mommy.” Mommy would reply, “Oh, Okay.  Be careful up there, Lillith.  You don’t want to get hurt.  Maybe you should get down?  Thank you so much, sweetie pie.”

Okay, where do I begin with all the problems I have with this conversation? Let me start by explaining how it would go if MY kid was standing on the table display in the middle of a store:  ”Are you insane? Get down this instant. What is wrong with you?  Legos/Puppy (he’s stuffed, not real, relax, PETA people)/whatever the favorite toy is these days are off-limits for a week. You know better than that.” I’m not going to go so far as to say my kid would NEVER behave that way, because I’m a realist and my kids can do some crazy stuff.

But seriously, what is the deal with ASKING our children to behave???  “Maybe you should get down?” What is wrong with you, lady? She’s four. There’s no room for negotiating here.

I’m all for giving my kids choices to make them feel like they’re in control of something, blah, blah, blah, but this is not the time. “Maybe” should be reserved for times like: “Do you want to wear a dress today or MAYBE a skirt?”

I’m around kids and their parents a lot. So I get to see this crap ALL. THE. TIME. It’s ridiculous. You go to a park and you hear, “Ambrose, are you ready to go?”

“NO!”

Mom looks whipped, “Ambrose, please?  Mommy is tired and we need to get sister down for a nap.”

“NO!”  Ambrose continues running around like a madman, throwing mulch and screeching like a hyena.

“OK, how about five more minutes?”

“NO!”

Mom is at a loss. “Ten more minutes?”

“Is that more than five?”

Mom looks around to see if anyone else has seen how precocious Ambrose is, “Yes, pumpkin, it sure is.”

“Hmmph.” And the little dictator runs off victorious.

I’m all for questioning kids’ actions: “Why did you do that? What were you thinking?” That sort of thing. But, these little people are always looking for an out. Why would you ever ask:  ”What should we have for dinner?” (McDonald’s.) “Do you want to do your homework?” (No way.) “Why don’t you go take a bath?” (Because I hate getting wet.) “Would you like to go to school?” (Are you kidding me?  Of course not!)

The second your kid hears your voice go up, he knows there’s room for finagling — and why wouldn’t he try?

How would YOU answer? Can you imagine your boss asking you, “Hey Jen, do you want to work today?”  (Not really.) “How ’bout you work late tonight and get that project done for me so I can have it in the morning?”  (How ’bout you shove your project.)

I don’t know if it’s guilt or fatigue that makes these parents behave this way, but either way, it just annoys the hell out of me. There are so many different parenting strategies out there, and I don’t know which one this falls into, but people, put down the damn books and use common sense!

Your kid SHOULD NOT be standing on a store display.

You SHOULD NOT be asking your child to stop assaulting other children on the playground.

It’s not going to wreck Lillith’s delicate psyche if you tell her to knock it off and stop acting like a monkey instead of a human being. She can still grow up to be a contributing member of society even if you think you might have crushed her little spirit.

In fact, I would argue, Lillith will be a BETTER member of society if she learns now to walk on a floor and respect people’s personal space. Plus, if you don’t stop this little monster now, imagine what Lillith will be like when she’s 15. What will you do then?  ”Lillith, how about you stop smoking pot?”  (Screw you, Mom.) “Lillith, the school called and said you haven’t been to school in a week. Would you like to go school today?”  (No. Give me some money, I need more pot.) “OK, here you go. Have a super day, sweetie. Love you lots.”  (Bite me.)

Be sure to read my daily rants at People I Want to Punch in the Throat where you’re sure to laugh and/or might be offended (it’s where you can find my R-rated rants).

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Read more of Jen at PIWTPITT Evil Birthday Clown Now Available for Your Party and Open Letter to Silly Celebrity Moms and Are You Raising Free Range Kids?

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