Recently I was killing time between piano lesson and swimming. (We have two activities at any one time, like piano, swimming, or karate and swimming… but now they happen to be almost back-to-back…) Anyway, we were at TJMaxx, and I got some little organizer things that we needed, but M of course begged for stuffed animals, crappy-crap-crap. I had not primed her as I usually try to do, with, “We’re not getting X, Y, or Z, we are here for A,” but the truth is, I didn’t have an agenda so we wandered (we also checked stuff out at Pier 1, and enjoyed a small impulse purchase of a pig-shaped flash-light…)
So M is begging for this hideous poodle-bag. I don’t want to get it, but I say, “You remember that if we buy a new stuffed animal, we have to get rid of one of your old ones.” I was being wishy-washy. Waffling in my own mind, “well, how bad can it be, it is kind of cute, it will make her happy, and buy me some tantrum-free time…”
M: “I will, I will get rid of one!”
Me: “Um, no, what I meant was we are not buying it…”
I didn’t want her to buy it, I should not have engaged or tried to rationalize. She had a mini-meltdown. She got over it. We talked about how disappointing it can feel to not always get everything you want when you want it. (note, the photo is not our pile of animals, but we are getting close to that amount…)
Setting boundaries, being straight-forward and not intimidated by the threat of tantrums is part of the deal. That’s parenting. It’s also part of helping kids learn how to eat. Kids will have tantrums, they will be disappointed if you’ve allowed grazing and are now transitioning to structured mealtimes and snacks. If you no longer engage in negotiations for dessert, there will be tantrums and outbursts. If you’ve been used to eating in front of the TV, they will pitch a fit when you turn it off, your teen will likely sulk if you institute a no-texting rule at the table. It’s OK. They won’t like all the changes right away, things will improve.
But, if you try to make a toddler, child or teen happy all the time, try to protect them or prevent disappointment in every way, or be wishy-washy about your expectations, no one will be happy.
What do you think? What has your experience been?