I realize that, not actually having a child yet, I am not really in a position to judge the mothers I see in passing, at a restaurant or at the mall. I do it anyway. From things that I have seen in the last few weeks, I have made myself these five promises:
1. I will never spank my children in public.
I realize I might recieve some flak from my readers when I say that I firmly believe in spanking. It's something that Meng and I have discussed at length and we have rather strict rules that we plan to follow. "Never spank a child out of anger," "Once spanking stops working, find a new consequence,*" and, "Do not spank a child in a public place."
There are some very specific reasons for this third rule. First of all, spanking a child in public can humiliate the child, causing psychological pain in addition to the sting of a spanking. Humiliation should never be a punishment. Also, and this is what I'd love to tell the woman I saw at Meijer last week, it makes you look like a tactless and ignorant person, and everyone around you sees you as the woman who got angry and spanked her child in the canned goods section.
2. I will actually count to three when I start counting.
Another thing that is important is that a child knows that you mean what you say you mean. When I was a kid, I never let my parents get to three because I knew that it would go over poorly for me if I did. This must mean that at some point (though I do not remember it) my parents counted all the way to three before I changed my attitude/obeyed, and I was punished for not following instructions.
On Tuesday I watched as a woman yelled at her son in a restaurant to sit back down at the table. She watched him as he threw down a napkin on the floor and ordered him to pick it up. When the little boy didn't, she started to count. My back was to them, so I heard "1..." There was silence. I thought the kid had picked up the napkin. I was wrong. "2..." Another silence. I stole a glance almost 30 seconds later, only to see that the mother had picked up the napkin and (of course) spanked her son... without ever reaching three.
It was a double mistake, actually. Not only did she fulfill her own order before counting three, but the spanking was ineffective.
3. I will not bargain with my children.
I'm not referring to a reward system, "If you will do this chore that is not usually assigned to you, I will give you extra allowance." That's great. I condone that. Reward away. But don't reward poor behavior. A child is misbehaving in the check-out lane. "If you settle down and be quiet, you can go on the pony ride." No. Don't do that.
I guess to me the whole approach is wrong. What should be said, before the trip to the store begins is, "If you behave while we're at the store, you can go on the pony ride." If you say this and follow through, you're rewarding good behavior. But trying to coerce your child into behaving by offering a reward they do not deserve is an automatic fail. Especially if the child does not behave when you offer the bargain and you still let them ride the pony."
4. I will follow through with warnings.
This one kind of goes a long with the last two. How often do you hear a mother in the store telling her child what will happen if they don't stop misbehaving? "If you don't stop I'm going to take you out to the car and spank you." An hour later, you see the pair, child still wailing or whatever, mother still threatening. And please, don't give them a cookie at this point. They don't deserve it.
5. I will not give my child a sippy cup of soda.
This is actually just the front statement for an entire list of things I have seen other parents do, but the one that always comes to mind first is soda in the sippy cup.**
I see it with unfortunate frequency. In fact, last week I saw a woman giving pop to her infant by holding it in the straw and doling it out in drops. Where is the logic here? This was topped only by the young (quite skinny) mother I saw only moments later, who unwrapped an entire Three Musketeers bar and handed it to her (chunky-monkey) daughter. The kid barely had teeth to chew it!
I think that this is something most seen in America. I read an article in American Baby over the weekend that said over a third of children eat no vegetables besides french fries. This is horrifying! Give the toddler green beans! Carrots! Cucumber! One of my favorite foods when I was small was lima beans!
My comforting thought is that my daughter will never have the chance to be a poor eater. I am proud to say that it has been months since I've touched a french fry. Besides, the way Meng in all his Chinese-ness loves his veggies (some of which I don't even like), this baby (like me) will have to either learn to like mushrooms and asparagus, or starve.
*Meaning, when the child is old enough to rationalize whether or not the crime is worth the punishment, a new punishment should be found. Many resort to spanking harder, longer, etc. This is not acceptable to me. When a child is old enough that spanking is ineffective, discipline should come in the form of the loss of privileges or something similar.
**Incidentally, when I was little I had these hard plastic sippy cups with snap-on lids. The cups came in various sizes and the lids fit them all. It was easy for me to transition between a sippy cup and a normal cup using these because 1) they were my own special grown-up cups and 2) if drinking without a lid was going poorly for me, all Mom had to do was reach in the drawer and snap on a lid for me. These days, all I can find are the cups with lids that screw on. Does anyone know where you can get the snap-on ones? Or are they a thing of the past? I can only find the disposable kind.