While getting a brief break from the kids at the YMCA tonight I witnessed a mom just not sticking to her guns. The teenager, clearly had just finished some sort of sport activity was headed to the cafe for some refreshments before starting her homework. The girl was overweight for her age and the mom clearly stated "Chose a healthy snack and then get started on your homework" The kid proceeded to peruse the frozen ice cream area and asked the lady at the counter why she had frozen Milky Way bars and not frozen Snickers. I knew that this was not going to be good. "Who would want to eat that? That's gross" she said. The lady at the counter said "We have other non-frozen stuff over here" to which the child groaned and said "Yeah, I KNOW, but I can't have that. Ugh.
She settled on some pretzels and much to her exasperation, sat down and slumped her shoulders. The mom then asked if she wanted a drink and suggested she get a bottle of water. The girl went to the cooler and said "Oh yeah, I LOVE root beer! Can I get a root beer? I want a root beer!" The mom said "No, you can have a water" to which the daughter replied "Why do you always have to ruin my life!"
Kid, it is a root beer. While delicious I think that downing some sugary drink after a good physical activity is not in your best interest. She continued to complain about the root beer and I was very close to saying "You'll get nothing and like it" quoting Judge Smails in Caddyshack. However, I restrained myself and continued to witness the train wreck that was about to ensue.
We make choices for our kids everyday that in their minds are unfair while we are just looking out for their best interest. Setting boundaries with your kids is key and most of all sticking to your guns when you make a judgement call. We don't have challenge flags and do overs so we must make value judgments constantly and in split second time. Sure, NFL referees have a tough job making calls that happen in fractions of an instant but so does anyone with a meltdown prone toddler.
So, here is where the mom loses all control. She sighs. Uh oh, we know where this is headed. She is about to concede because she would rather not listen to her kid complain. The mom says, OK you can have a root beer. The kid is happy but inside the mom is struggling. I can see it and it is welling up inside her. She is thinking "I should have just stuck with the first thing I said"
So, she changes her mind, AGAIN. Takes the root beer away from the kid and physically walks over and grabs a water bottle now claiming "I am not going to pay for a root beer" The poor kid. She is now in agony over the loss of the root beer she once held in her hand. Sweet, sweet root beer gone from whence you came.
The girl says "Why do you always ruin my life! I hate you." There's the dagger. The thing I hope I never hear from my kids. We are not still talking about the root beer. Give your kid too many chances and vacillate in any way and things are going to crumble.
Turns out the kid didn't do last week's homework. Mom says "You didn't do last weeks homework and I should have grounded you but I let you slide, so you have lots of work to do, now get to work." So the girl replies "But Mom, some of these questions are HARD. This sucks and so do you" Finally the mom talks to the kid about acceptable behavior and tells her she is on her last nerve.
The kid is at fault for the homework being overwhelming. I have been there. My friend used to say that procrastination is like masturbation, you are only screwing yourself. But, in the end the mom is at fault for going back and forth on decisions. She allowed her daughter to push beyond boundaries of unacceptable behavior and clearly she knows that if she pushes her mom enough she will get what she wants.
I'm no perfect parent. I have done this with my kids. Sometimes you just want them to stop asking for ice cream for the billionth time that day because it wears on you. I get it but we have to set clear expectations for our kids and stick to them.