Parents Pick your Battles!
I witnessed a heart-breaking scene at the shops yesterday: a young girl – probably 4 years old – (and clearly of high spirits as I first spotted her hiding from her parents and running off to escape their attention!) was being persuaded by her Dad to put her coat on before going outside. The little girl was fixed in her mind that she did not want to wear the coat. It was cold, probably freezing, so her father was trying to tell her calmly and kindly that she really needed it. However, she continued to resist and her will was obviously stronger than his. Eventually he was to be seen dragging her out of the shop, shouting at her along the way and continuing to shout on the doorstep about how silly she was being, how naughty and how cold she would become.
It was so horrid to hear this small child being screamed at. One of the shop assitants turned to me and exclaimed: ‘All that shouting! If he’s like this out in public, what on earth is he like at home?’ I replied that I felt like passing on the benefit of some parenting advice but didn’t dare as he’d probably shout just as loud at me. And then all of a sudden I was aware of a woman hurrying past us with a buggy who turned out to be the mother! Later, I spotted both parents on the street putting the coat on the little girl so I wonder what she thought of our exchange!
These situations often make us think of what we’d like to have said, or wish we’d said, and the one key piece of advice I’d have liked to pass on to those parents and to others, is ‘Pick your Battles’……because nothing is really worth expending so very much energy on building up a fit of temper and rage so that you shout at a four-year-old.
After all, what would have been the worst-case scenario, had Dad reacted more calmly and simply said ‘OK….have your own way’. The child would have got cold pretty quickly, and, knowing most kids, would soon have demanded the coat for herself. Problem solved.
But as happens so often in families, Dad probably got carried away with his lack of control. Obviously with a new baby in the family, there had probably been behaviour issues already. Possibly the little girl had been acting up for weeks and testing her parents’ patience. But most children do once a second small being suddenly arrives in a family. And the best way to manage that is to offer as much extra attention as possible so that no one feels left out, overlooked or superceded. Shouting isn’t going to do that; it’s going to drive an even greater rift between parents and toddler and heaven help this family when the little girl grows into a teenager. Shouting is learned behaviour and she’s having a wonderful lesson! So they can expect a lot of answering back and rage from her in later years.
If this Dad had only been advised to pick his battles, he’d have realised this one wasn’t worth fighting over. Children need to learn the consequences of their actions; she would have learned that being stubborn can lead to being cold. Good lesson, easily learned.