Don't Panic

I read an article recently about parents who don't control their children. It went on to describe that kid running down the aisles of the grocery store, screaming and knocking things over, while Miss Welfaremom gently suggests "no-no, Timmy, don't do that or you won't get a candy."
These children piss everyone off. They really do. But the parents piss people off even more. Even the bystanders that don't have any kids momentarily entertain the judging thoughts; "if that was my kid, I'd..."
I personally think that about half of them are just bad parents. They don't take care of their kid(s) because they are preoccupied with other things or they just don't care or what have you.
The other half, I think, are parents who panic.
When these other parents are in the privacy of their own homes, they keep their children to a strict code of conduct.
No yelling.
No hitting.
No talking back.
The list of rules at that house is probably endless. When a rule is disobeyed, these children may be disciplined strictly and thoroughly, even.
We all have been in the tough situation though, where, for the first time ever, our perfect little quiet baby decides to throw a tantrum in the middle of Wal Mart.
Oh. My. Lord.
You didn't even know that a ten-month-old knew how to throw a fit.
Here she is though, screaming at the top of her tiny lungs, refusing anything you try to calm her with, and shouting "NO NO MOMMY!!!" right in your face as she tries to slap it.
Pause momentarily.
Did you pause right in the frame where the child's hand is whizzing through the air towards mommy?
That's where I stopped too.
This scenario has played out for every parent at one time or another. There is no boundary drawn between good or bad parents based on this circumstance. Every child reaches the age where they want to push their limits, and every child gets tired enough sometimes to have a meltdown.
The difference is, when you are at home, it never gets this far. If the kid starts crying uncontrollably, they are put in bed. If they start screaming, they may end up with a swift paddle on the rear. And if they EVER reached the point of swinging at you, you catch them by the wrist mid-swing and give them the most terrifying mom-look the world has ever seen, to the point that it may haunt their sleep.
So what happens to these well-meaning, tough-disciplining keep-em-in-line parents when Junior has totally lost it in the cereal aisle?
They panic.
Did that phrase look small to you?
Yeah, same here.
It's to show you exactly what the act might look like.
A fit like that is what I would call "the equalizer" to a parent who panics. They instantly get much quieter than the child and start begging, more or less, that the child quiet down. The parent shrinks down in an attempt to make themselves invisible.
They have panicked.
The last thing they want is for an onlooker to see them hitting their child. Sure, a gentle slap on the hand never hurt anyone. It teaches the child proportionately and is a great tool for learning instant repercussion. But slap little Timmy's hand in public?
Parents don't want to be that person that gets "turned in" for child abuse. Parents don't want to be viewed as the person "hurting" their child.
So all of a sudden, all the discipline goes out the window. And the child involved can read this like a book. It takes only a split second of diverting from the typical plan for the child to realize that something is different, and start feeling out the situation...which usually means even worse behavior than before.
I'm not trying to be put on a pedestal here. When my daughter was around a year old, we experienced a C.F. type of panic like you wouldn't believe. I had no idea what to do and didn't want to discipline her in public, so it got worse and worse.
Since then, I have learned a few things. I think it looks equally tacky to start yelling at your toddler or telling them to "shut up" in public (or at all, if you are being serious). I also think that hauling off and giving them a good beating is not suitable for public eyes.
So I put a new spin on an old classic.
In the article I read, they mentioned "the Look." I don't even have to explain it to you, I bet, and you know what it is. It's when your mom or dad used to just look at you and you knew you were in for it, big time. This is a great tool for public use, because it is silent and deadly. But one drawback is that it doesn't really work on toddlers. They have to be trained into obeying "the Look." Until that happens, or even to help it along, there must be a discreet signal that can show your little ones that even in the grocery store, they must listen to you and behave.
My mother thinks this is a horrible and cruel thing.
I find it to be very effective though.
When my child started to act up, especially when sitting in a grocery cart, I lean forward and make strong eye contact and gently pinch the fat on the back of the arm. Not enough to hurt, by any means, but enough to grab their attention so you can quietly and discreetly tell them exactly what you expect. I've noticed that their initial reaction to me pinching their arm fat is to begin to open their mouths, but it is instantly turned to a silent protest once I lean forward. I don't know why, but it works. And then you can administer your instructions, such as "You had better quit with the attitude right now, or you will go sit in the car with daddy while I finish shopping."
Now, if you start using the warning pinch, there can be no empty threats delivered with it, or it will lose its effectiveness. If you lean in and say "if you yell at me one more time, I'm going to take you into the bathroom and spank your butt," you had damn well better do it.
and on that note, I have dragged a pleading child into the bathroom many a times, and people have heard the pleading and the swats I'm sure, but they always give an approving look when my quiet, obediant child emerges calmly and politely once again.


  1. That is the nice thing for my family about having discipline methods that don't use corporal punishment I am never afraid to discipline them in public because I don't use anything that could be considered abusive.

  2. I commend families that can attain their children's obedience through discipline methods aside from "corporal punishment." Realistically, these are also typically non-sanguine families. We have far to much sanguine in my family too do without biblical spanking. No sparing the rod over here! :)


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