Parents run their families. Mostly. Well, at least parents make their families function. Well, at the very least, some parents do the best they can and avoid conflict and uproar. They make smooths.
Look at Lucy. Lucy likes smooth. She was shopping at a post-holiday sale when five-year-old Mitch grabbed a toy off the shelf and announced, “I want this.” Mom said, “No,” and Mitch’s demands got louder. Mom said, “Be nice,” several times and then, in exasperation and a voice that could be heard in the next aisle, she threatened, “I’m going home and take away all the toys you got for Christmas unless you put that thing down! Now will you put it down?” Mitch’s “N0! I won’t!” carried six aisles away. Mom turned and walked away, making smooths. Mitch followed her to the checkout counter, added the toy to her purchases, and Lucy paid for it. Mom got smooths and Mitch got the toy. Do you think he got to keep his Christmas toys too?
Poor Mitch. He is learning to get what he wants by bullying. Poor Lucy. She just wanted smooths. Don’t we all? Who wants to subject other shoppers to a tantrum? Sometimes it’s hard to be the parent and run the family. Sometimes it’s hard to face down a demanding kid when you are alone.
Julie also likes smooths, but she was lucky. She and her sister Georgette were choosing a gift for a mutual friend. Four-year-old Katlin spotted a pink car – just right for her new doll. She held the car up to her mom, but mom was talking with Georgette. A store employee chatted with Katlin, “You really want that car? Little mama buy it for you?” As they approached the checkout counter, Katlin handed the car to her mother who put it in the shopping basket. Georgette was surprised. “You said just before we left that you had cleaned Katlin’s room this morning and she has way too much stuff. Why buy more?”
Julie paused, “Because she wants it?”
Georgette grinned, “Not good enough.”
Julie’s expression was tentative. “Because I want to make her happy?”
“Will more stuff make her happy?” Georgette asked with a tilt of her head.
Julie’s expression shifted from consternation to recognition. “I suppose not. Julie wanted to make smooths.
“Because she’ll cry?”
Georgette grinned, “Knowing her, I’ll guarantee it!”
Julie handed the car to the clerk and said, “We’re not taking this.” Katlin let out a howl. The clerk who had been talking with Katlin gave her a resigned look and said, “Little mama didn’t buy.” Julie and Georgette burst into laughter. They ignored the girl’s cries and moved toward the car. Now when something comes up that either of them wants but won’t be getting, they giggle and say, “Little mama didn’t buy!”
Julie says that if you know it will be hard to say no to a child’s demands, take someone with you for support, and remember, sometimes “Little mama doesn’t buy.”
Many participants in our Overindulgence Research Study reported that as children they got “all the toys they wanted.” Sounds good to some of us, but those people were not happy about it because they often didn’t learn how to take care of things, and many of them reported still having trouble with delayed gratification. Sometimes, as children, they needed a little mama who didn’t buy.
There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).
All photos from MorgueFile free photo.