Picture the scene: You are at a fast food place. You are waiting in line for your food. You are watching a 3-year-old screaming (loudly) that she wants “ICE CREAM!” Then you watch as the mother, holding one of a set of newborn twins, tells the 5 or 6-year-old boy to Then you watch as the mother, holding one of a set of newborn twins, yells at the 5 or 6-year-old boy to “Sit DOWN! If you get up again you are in TROUBLE!” The dad takes up for the boy. The mom says she has told him 5 or 6 times before. She hasn’t. You have been living this nightmare of just-wanting-to -get-your-chicken-and-go scenario since they walked in the door.
She turns back to the screaming toddler it plays out something like this:
“What do you want to eat? Do you want chicken?”
“NO! ICE CREAM!”
“What about french fries?” (Cause that’s a healthy meal all in one.)
“NO! ICE CREAM!”
“What about corn?”
“NO! ICE CREAM!”
Do you get the idea? It keeps going like this for quite a few minutes! You look at the little boy who is quietly telling his dad what he wants to eat. Afraid of the wrath, apparently.
This is one of those “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments. Have you ever had those? Where you know what you would do. You know what you wish you could do. And you wonder what you should do. Yep, you’ve had those. There is that small smile of acknowledgment showing up on your face!
What I would have done:
Have you ever seen the movie Air Force One? I love that movie. Could be that the lead character is Harrison Ford. OOH, he makes my heart go pitter-pat, but enough of that. The reason for the movie credit is this: In his speech, President Marshall (Ford) says
“Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It’s your turn to be afraid.”
Such glorious words of wisdom. Spoken almost the same way that Dr. Phil would say them, I believe.
This act of terrorism is coming from a toddler. What would I do? I would order food, put it in front of the child and tell her that she can either eat the food, and perhaps get an ice cream later (NO PROMISES!!) There are two (2) choices here. Eat or do not eat. Never negotiate food choices with a toddler. EVER. Or anything else for that matter.
“You can wear this outfit, this one, or this one.”
“You can have this whatever, or this whatever.”
No more than 2 or 3 choices. Non-negotiable after that. You are the parent. Not an FBI trained negotiations expert.
What I could have done:
I could have intervened. I could have given advice. I could have taken up for the little boy. I could have said, “If you stop negotiating with that 3-year-old, you might notice that your 5-year-old is a very well-behaved little boy. I could have told the dad to “Get involved in your kids’ lives. Don’t sit there like a lump on a log. You have 4 kids, man, step up!”
I could have left without my chicken! What the heck? Who am I kidding? I’m not letting a small riot from a 3-year-old stop me from chicken, mashed potatoes, and slaw! Nope. No way!
What I should have done:
Here is where it gets tricky. I am really not sure. I truly felt sorry for the little boy. Looking back, I am sorry that I did not defend him. But, I didn’t want to cause a scene. You see, I know me very well! If I had taken up for him, I would not have stopped there! I know what I wanted to do. I wanted to throw my hands up, yell at the mother to be quiet, tell the child that she could have one of two things. If she chose neither, I would order one for her and tell her that she could have it, or not. If she did not eat it, it would go in the car with us and when she got hungry, it would be there. There would be no other food/snacks until the next meal. Eventually, she’d get the idea!
Sound a little harsh? Maybe, but I can say that this was the way things were handled at our mealtimes. My kids are happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. They will try pretty much any food. Some new things they like, some they don’t, but they will always try it first. And usually a second or third time.
My middle child HATED eggs when he was little. I did not force him to eat them. There were other choices at meals where eggs were served. However, now he eats them. He never gave up trying. Same for my youngest and sour cream. At 18 she tried it (for about the 10th time) and now she likes it. There is a mantra for that: “Your taste buds change every 7 years. You never know unless you try it.”
All in all, if you continue to try to “win over” that toddler with what she wants, what happens when she is 12 and wants to start dating? What happens when she starts down a path that is dangerous for her. Can you “win her over” then? Nope. Non-negotiation does not mean that the child never has a choice. It just means that the choices are predetermined by a person who has the intelligence and insight to know what is best.
What about the boy? While he watches the 3-year-old get whatever she wants, does he start to take on this ideology? Or does he see that he can do nothing right at this point and begin to resent the mom? That’s what I would do if I were him. Be honest, wouldn’t you?
So, my question is this? What would you have done in that situation? What would you have WANTED to do in that situation? Anyone?
PS…A few of my favorite Dr. Phil shows about “raising brats” and trust me, this 3 year is growing up to be an A#1 First Class Brat!
- Dr. Phil Toddler Like Tantrums
- Dr. Phil Teen Terror
- Dr. Phil Biggest Brats – Abusive Son
- Dr. Phil: Are you raising a spoiled brat? Losing the battle
- Dr. Phil: Are you raising a spoiled brat? Parenting through guilt