Even though the boy has yet to turn two, we are well within the tantrum phase. Thankfully, they are mostly when we are at home, but they are becoming more and more frequent in public. (Can you say yikes?!)
Don’t get me wrong. He is a wonderful kid who is really pretty well behaved, but…we have our moments.
It’s interesting, though, because I’m finding that I have two options when we’re out (or really anywhere):
1) I can give him what he’s begging/whining/screaming/crying for, or
2) I can hold my ground and cause his begging/whining/screaming/crying to be worse than if I gave in.
This topic has been weighing on me for a while (since it’s become more of a problem), and I decided I’d blog about my struggle when I recently read this post from When You Rise.
In the last few months, I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to use the very thing that he’s crying for as a reward to encourage him to stop crying. I’ll give you an example. He’s got a real thing for fruit snacks (which he’s only had 3 or 4 times before anyway, but he is sure about what he likes!) and he will ask and beg incessantly until he buys himself a visit to time-out. Then, his crying will escalate over the next 20 minutes until I find myself wanting to bribe him with, “If you stop crying, you can have some fruit snacks!”
You see the problem, though? Wanting to eat fruit snacks is not the worst thing, but giving him some when I’ve already said no tells his little mind that if he acts out long enough or loud enough, then he can control me. And underneath that, it says that I care more about my comfort (having quiet) or my reputation (not having strangers stare at us in the grocery store) than about his obedience and his well being.
That may seem extreme, but I think it’s totally true. It’s hard work to be a caring parent. In those tedious, frustrating moments, I try to remind myself that I’m investing in the person he’s becoming. It’s not about the quick fixes to save face. Besides, I believe that time invested will make life easier at some point down the road, too. He’s so impressionable right now.
I’m reminded of another blog post I’ve read that convicts me of my tendencies to place too much importance on the things that don’t really matter (like keeping him from making messes) and not enough importance on the things that really matter (like pretending not to notice when he’s disobeying so that I can finish cooking dinner).
It’s all about perspective–but, like I said, it’s extremely difficult in the moment. I don’t want to feel judged from strangers or other moms we’re out with. And I certainly don’t want people to feel bothered by my son’s outbursts (you know we’ve all been that person). I’ve actually been working on some ideas to prevent the public tantrums when possible, but my goal is not to lose perspective of what’s really important when I get into those situations.
The whole topic says a lot about human nature. It’s completely natural for Liam to want what he wants, when he wants it. It’s natural that I don’t want people to think I’m a bad mother who makes her child cry. That stuff has to be worked out of us.
And that’s just what God is doing through Jonathan and me. We’re helping to set his little heart on the straight path to patience and selflessness. Though sometimes, it’s a long and bumpy road!