Last Saturday was typical. I was in line at the check-out at Wal-Mart.
Ahead of me were two boys, who will be affectionately named Six and Twelve, in estimation of their ages.
Six decides he wants an ice cream sandwich.
Twelve tells him “no.”
Six skirts around Twelve to the ice cream freezer right before the check-out.
Twelve again tells him “no.”
Six gets into the freezer and puts an ice cream bar into the cart.
Twelve retrieves it and puts it back in the freezer.
Six scuffles with Twelve in an attempt to get the prized ice cream bar back. He is unsuccessful.
Six drops to the floor to show that no progress will be made until he gets his ice cream bar.
Twelve tries to pick him off the floor.
Where is Mama? I am wondering.
Six begins frantically kicking Twelve, strategically aiming for Twelve’s manhood.
Twelve tries to grab Six, while trying to avoid getting kicked.
Yay! Mama appears! I am confident that Mama is going to set Six straight!
Twelve tells Mama that Six keeps trying to take an ice cream bar.
Mama says nothing and steps up to the counter.
Six seizes his opportunity. He dashes back to the freezer and gets the ice cream bar.
He walks right up to Mama, and puts the ice cream bar next to her hand.
Mama dutifully places the ice cream bar on top of the other items she is purchasing.
Six is triumphant!
And thus we see that Six has trained his mother well. He probably started his parent training at the age of two, and has gotten increasingly better. If Mama wants a calm visit to Wal-Mart, she knows what to do.
How I Stopped my own Wal-mart Whiner
Jeremiah was about two and a half when he realized that Wal-Mart was for getting things. He saw Mommy getting things at Wal-mart and so he naturally assumed that he should get things too.
On the first couple of trips after he realized the miracle of getting things, he made his wants well-known by trying to grab things off the shelves, just like Mommy did. Mommy kept placing Jeremiah’s hands back in his lap.
By the time the next trip occurred, little Jere realized that simply trying to grab wasn’t working. Mommy needed verbal instruction.
“I want that.”
“Please. I want that.”
The grunting began, along with the pointing of the finger.
Since I didn’t allow grunting as a form of communication, I said nothing.
With no response from Mommy, the wailing began.
The more Mommy ignored the wail, the louder it got.
Poor Jeremiah. He did not realize that he was not my first child. I had played this game before.
Calmly, I retraced my steps, and began putting items back on the shelf.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, just putting everything back.”
“We’re not getting anything?”
“Not this time.”
He was quiet for a moment then said, “Why are you putting everything back?”
“Because you threw a fit.”
“I’ll be good. Please, Mommy.”
“No. It’s too late. You already threw a fit,” I said as I continued slowly walking down the aisles, returning things one by one to their spots.
The crying began anew. “Please! I’ll be good!”
I put the cart back into the stall and carried him to the car, saying nothing. He screamed, arching his back as I tried to keep hold, begging me to go back.
The next time I went to Wal-Mart, I got my purse and put on my lipstick, signifying to Jere that I was going somewhere.
He was frantic when he learned he would not be going. He begged and cried, but I stood firm. I explained that he would have to stay home with big sister Em, because of his past behavior. He promised that he would be good. There were parts of me that wanted to soften--that wanted to say he could come. Had I done so, I might still be dealing with tantrums. I knew then, that my decision was critical.
“No. You have to stay home.”
The time came for another trip to Wal-Mart. He asked if he could go. I simply said yes, without putting conditions on it, such as “If you go, you’d better be good.”
The highlight of the trip that day, was when we heard another Wal-Mart Whiner. A child in the aisle next to us was screaming because he didn’t get what he wanted. Jeremiah only said, “I think that boy needs to be taken home.”
I never again had to deal with my own Wal-Mart Whiner.
The Most Important Word You Can Teach Your Child
Shortly after that Wal-Mart episode, I decided to teach my son one very simple command. Stop.
I had read that most people put more effort into training their pets, than into training their children. Was it true? Could I avoid having to discipline by using training instead?
We tested this theory by playing the “freeze” game in the living room. Jere would play with his toys. When I said, “Stop!” he had to stop what he was doing and freeze in position. He thought it was superb fun. Trying to freeze while in an unusual position became his favorite spin on the game. Often he would say, “Let’s play the stop game!” Little did he know, I was preparing him for “real” life.
Several times, my simple command, “stop,” has kept him from getting hit by a car in a parking lot. While most kids learn early on that a street is a dangerous place, it takes longer for them to learn the same about a parking lot. After all, most cars are just sitting there. How dangerous is that? In situations where he has walked ahead of me, I have been able to just say “stop” when I see a car’s back-up lights come on. Other times, I have been able to keep him from dashing across the street when picking him up from school. One simple word.
When he was six years old, we were visiting a mall in another city. Computer Geek and I were out in the mall foyer, sitting on a bench while Em and Jere were shopping inside a Radio Shack. Jere found a toy he wanted to show me. I looked up just in time to see him walking, toy held high, toward the store entrance, which was surrounded by the usual shoplifting alarm. From out in the foyer, I yelled “Stop!” He froze in position about one inch from the alarm. While the situation was not life threatening, I was saved from major embarrassment.
Even today, although the situations have become fewer, I can still stop him in his tracks with that one word. He’s eleven and I just tried it. Because he’s eleven, he laughed at me, while he waited for me to say, “You may proceed.”
A Related Story
When I married Computer Geek five years ago, I explained my “stop” training to him. One day he decided to show me how he had trained his children when they were small. Without warning, he yelled “Duck and Cover!” I watched as his three adult children hit the floor and covered their heads. No one moved until he said it was OK.
And so we learn that some parents train their children to avoid getting hit by a car, and some people train their children to avoid getting hit by the bullets of a tyrannical government employee's machine gun. :)