Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Training them up is not for wimps

A few weeks ago, I was at Target all by myself. Yes, be jealous. I went to Target alone, and was thoroughly enjoying my solo stroll until I heard a high-pitched scream. I dropped the v-neck I was looking at and spun around to see a four year old pushing things off the nearest shelf he could reach from the his seat in the shopping cart.

I heard his mom say, “We don’t do that, Jeffrey.” But at the next shelf, Jeffrey swung his arm out and knocked off several shirts. Again, his mom said, “We don’t do that, Jeffrey.” And she proceeded to say that over and over, while Jeffrey left a sea of crumpled shirts and sweaters in his scream-filled wake.

The mom seemed well-versed in the conversation between herself and her ill-mannered offspring. 

I thought about saying something to the mom. Something like, “If you keep pushing him between the shelves, he’s going to keep knocking stuff off. Because you are not doing anything about his behavior. You are simply giving him information and a four year old can’t digest that kind of information without some sort of consequence.” Or, maybe, “Actually, Jeffrey does do that and you need to teach him why not to.” Or, to bottom line it for her, I thought I could say, “Honey, that boy needs a spanking about ten minutes ago.”

But I didn’t say anything; I just wheeled my cart away from the screeching and moved on to the shoes. I’m not Super Nanny and that mom certainly didn’t ask my opinion. But I wish she had. Because if that’s her MO in handing her son’s disobedience, she better buckle up - lots more is on the way.

So let’s pretend she asked. Here’s what I would have said:
Just telling him, “No,” isn’t enough. You need to get in the habit of explaining why. We don’t knock the clothes off the shelf because that makes more work for the employees. We don’t screech in public because it is upsetting to those around us. We don’t do either of those things because we want value others more highly than ourselves. And your son needs to get in the habit of submitting to the authorities placed above him, which means obeying Mommy when she tells him not to do something. Understanding how to submit to his earthly authorities will help him learn to submit to his heavenly Father.

And if he continues to disobey, end the shopping trip and take him home

The training of children is rarely convenient. But I prefer putting up with the inconvenience of a stunted shopping trip with a preschooler to the sadness of living with a selfish, rude teenager. And that is exactly what that mom’s headed for she doesn’t nip Jeffrey’s bad behavior in the bud by telling him the truth about obedience and giving him the opportunity to practice it.