Posts Tagged ‘childrearing’

Childhood Tenacity Can Cause Parental Insanity

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Tenacity was something my mother tried to drill into my head throughout my childhood. She used to say things like ‘you can do anything you want to do if you just try hard enough’ (nice thought but not necessarily true). Another one of her favorites was the one about the drop of water that just wouldn’t stop dripping until it made it’s impression in the rock. I don’t need to use those phrases to teach our little one tenacity. Grandpa and I are doing our teaching in a little different (not exactly better) way. We teach her in the way we respond to requests she makes.

She dearly loves riding her bike but she’s only 6-years-old so she’s not allowed to do it without supervision. The rest of the neighborhood children range in age from 5 to 10 years old and are allowed outside without an adult present. It annoys her that Grandma and Grandpa are old fuddy-duddies who insist on safety. We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood so the kids have to ride bikes in the street. It’s not a busy street. We live in a nice quiet neighborhood but we do get our fair share of traffic. Someone has to be outside with them to yell ‘car!’ every time one goes by since the kids don’t seem to feel the need to get to the side of the road unless they hear that warning. So how does this involve teaching her tenacity? Let me explain how the bike riding discussion usually goes.

Normally the little one will go to Grandpa first. Mostly because Grandpa will say “no” to the first request. The second request will come about two minutes later and Grandpa will say, “give me a few minutes.” The third request will come less than five minutes later and Grandpa will say again (less patiently), “Just give me a few minutes.” The fourth or fifth or sixth request will follow closely on the heals of the previous request until Grandpa gives up with a sigh and says, “All right. We’ll go.” Grandpa has taught her persistence in the face of failure. I wouldn’t recommend this way of teaching. Now she understands that all she has to do is keep asking and asking and asking and asking until finally he gets sick of hearing it and gives it to her whether it’s good for her or not.

If she comes to Grandma, the conversation is a little different.

Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:      No
Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:     I said no
Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:    What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?
Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:    How many times to I have to say ‘no’?
Little One: Can I ride my bike?

At this point I will usually lose my temper. This involves either (1) sending her to her room; or (2) me shouting “Fine! Ride your bike! Do whatever you want just stop bugging me!”

My response is really no better than Grandpa’s. You see, children are gamblers at heart so they will continue inserting quarters in the parental slot machine until they get the pay-off they desire. If they never get the pay-off they desire, they will finally learn to accept the rules and live by them. But if they get the pay-off they want even one time out of ten, that’s good enough for them. They’ll be back for more next time! We have taught her tenacity but at the expense of our sanity.

There is a saying that if you can’t be an example, be a warning. I’m being a warning. Parents, decide what is important and stick to your guns when dealing with your children. Let your ‘yay be yay and your nay nay’. Doing so will bring harmony to your home. Not doing so will cause you to need therapy. Trust me on this!

Everyone Has Nicer Things Than Me!

Friday, January 6th, 2012

The little one had a meltdown today. Her friend down the street got a new bike for Christmas. She doesn’t have a new bike. The neighbor boy got a new bike for Christmas, too. Why didn’t she have a new bike? Everyone has nicer things than she does. Just ask her. She was sobbing and telling us how terrible her life was because she didn’t get a new bike for Christmas. The doll that talks, the roller blades, the doll highchair, the new COMPUTER, the numerous other items under that tree pale in comparison to the new bike her friend has. At first, I sent her to her room until she could tell me ten things she had that she was proud of. She just couldn’t find anything that could compare with the new bikes.

So I decided it was time for her to learn a hard lesson. There will always be someone who has something nicer than you have. I pointed out that other people have bigger houses than we do. Other people we know have nicer cars. Grandpa got in the act and complained that other people had nicer computers than he does. Other people have bigger aquariums than he has. Her response? “It’s not fair!” My answer? “Life is not fair!” It was time for her to recognize that, while there may be others who have more, there are many others who have less. She has her own room done up in pink and white just like she likes it. Many children don’t even have a room at all. Our car works just fine and helps us give rides to those who don’t have cars at all. Whenever she complains of being hungry, we tell her to go in the cupboard and get a snack. Many children don’t have cupboards or snacks at all. I could see that these were concepts that were simply outside her ability to understand. If they didn’t have a room, they should just get a bigger house. Their parents should just go buy a car and go to the grocery store. I tried another tactic.

I explained that we can’t always have what we want the minute we want it. I pointed out that I had wanted a breakfast nook table for our kitchen for a long time. I didn’t have the money right away to get what I wanted so I had to wait until I saved enough money to get it. That she understood. Sometimes you have to wait and save up your money. The tears stopped. Unfortunately, not because she was embracing the lesson but because all this talk about saving money reminded her that she hadn’t gotten her allowance yet. Whenever she gets her allowance, she gets to go to the store and spend it. This time was no different. She had to go shopping. She is content in the knowledge that we will do the saving for the bike while she does the spending of her allowance for other things. Someday I will have to explain that she is the one who has to work for what she wants and that it is her money that she has to save to get it. Preferably before she goes to occupy Wall Street with the rest of the dreamers who think they should have the good life without working for it.