As some of you know, I often take my 4-yr. old Terror Twins to McDonalds on the weekends. Not so much for the highly nutritious meals served at the Golden Arches, no, but rather to get them out of the house to burn off some of their excess energy in the playland area.
Unfortunately, when doing so, I sometimes see a level of parenting that goes a long way to explaining why “no child left behind” is clearly leaving a whole hell of a lot of children behind. The trophy generation is now beginning to breed themselves and it’s not a pretty sight.
And listen. When it comes to parenting, I’m far from the reincarnation of Ward Cleaver. I’ve long been ineligible for any prestigious “Parent of the Year Award”. Yet I’ll put my two little guys up against just about any other four-year old in terms of listening, politeness, and overall social skills.
This past weekend, however, the parents at this particular McDonalds showed that their child-rearing skills are in serious need of an upgrade. I’d love to blame the kids themselves, but I can’t.
1, 2, 3
Within a minute of climbing to the top of the playland structure, several boys actually started tackling and pinning Twin #1 against the wall (my autistic son). Although I couldn’t tell if he was actually laughing or crying, I immediately told his brother – Twin #2 – to get up there and help him while trying to convince Twin #1 to get out.
Upon seeing this, the other boys’ mother stood up and said (and I’m damn near quoting word-for-word): “Conner, stop doing that. One, two… I’m serious Conner. One, two… Connor! Get down here now! One, two… You better stop doing that. One, two…”
Connor never came down, but eventually he did stop.
Does any parent, and I mean any parent, either a) ever follow through with any sort of disciplinary action when they get to “three” or b) truly believe this method even works in the first place? If your kid’s acting up, address it immediately.
Counting to three just makes you look stupid.
Soon those same kids graduated to simultaneous jumping onto the already weakened wooden floor. The mother, again, warned them to stop – or else they would leave – and again, showed the world her skills at counting to TWO.
“Let’s take off his shoe!”
Later, a different set of kids attempted to break off the foot of a Ronald McDonald statue. Their original goal was to just untie and remove his shoe, but after realizing Ron was a solid, one-piece, fixture – they went for broke. Literally.
As they kicked, twisted, and jumped on the statue – where was mommy? Sitting no more than three feet away, eating her fries while talking on the phone.
I’ve always said – and not always jokingly – that the worst influence on kids is older kids. There’s still a lot of truth to that, but as it’s so often said: it always leads back to the parents; the home environment.
Behind every undisciplined, spoiled, and obnoxious child there is usually a just as undisciplined, spoiled, or obnoxious adult. Studies show this is a very real pattern of behavior.
It’s just too bad one of those other parents didn’t try to tackle me inside the playarea. I doubt I’d have made it past “One…“.
The only reason the counting method worked with my daughter is because she knew consequences for her bad behavior were realistic and were enforced. If those things happen, whatever approach being used works. I rarely had to use counting as a threat because as she got older, she knew what was expected of her. I never threatened to do things like not let her go to a party unless I was truly prepared to keep her from going; I never threatened to ground her for a month or forever or some other ridiculous amount of time because she would know that it would be a bluff, an exaggeration. When she misbehaved, if a warning was warranted (sometimes it wasn’t, so the punishment was immediate), I told her exactly what her consequence would be and for what behavior. Is she the prefect child? Nope. But she is polite and respectful and responsible and makes smart choices, so something must have clicked. I always like to say that she graduated from high school without having been arrested, knocked up, or on drugs, and she’s getting good grades in college, so maybe I did something right and maybe she learned something along the way 🙂
Sadly, I see results of this “parenting style” every day at my job. Jim and I did use the “1,2,3” when our daughter was little, and it was rare to get to 2, and I only got to 3 once — the very first time. I had a realistic consequence for getting to 3 (meaning one I would follow through with) and I told her what it would be so she could make an “informed decision.” When consequences are not followed through, the kids learn that REAL quick and work it to their advantage. A friend of mine was one who never made good on her consequences with her daughters. One of them even said to me, “She never means it when she says she’s going to ground me.” Funny thing is, though, they never gave me any trouble at all when I had to babysit them. My child has plenty of flaws, probably due to my lack of “Parent of the Year Award”, but she knows that when I am offering up a consequence, I am going to follow through on it, and that make quite a difference in how she chooses to behave.
If your 1-2-3 method worked, then you’re the exception that proves the rule. You’re a teacher, right (or work in a school)? Yeah. If that’s the case, I’m sure you see examples far worse on a daily basis.