Monday, February 8, 2010

Parenting with Your Mouth Full

Ok, so if Humble Pie is inevitable, how do we parent around it?

A friend told me this week that her Humble Pie came as early as elementary school with her kids. I think she's right. We can all remember those Wal-mart moments when we swear our children were channelling alien monsters. And of course, that always happened when the place was packed. The days when you have the candy aisle all to yourself, they are dear little angels.

I remember very clearly the day I decided to be proactive with this problem. I was going to tell my children exactly what I expected before we entered the store. I practiced the speech in my head over and over and as I did, boy did I work myself up.So instead of sounding like a rational, in control grown-up, I sounded something like this:

"Every single time I take you into the store, you whine and beg for stuff you don't need. And when I tell you no, you whine and beg some more. I'm telling you right now that I will be buying you nothing, understand? And if you beg me for something anyway, I won't even buy you dinner. So, this time, don't act like little demon hellions, or you will be sorry. Got it?"

Then came the tears. Not the I-want-candy-and-I-want-it-now tears. No, it was the I'm-scared-and-I-want-my-Mommy tears. They stared silently with big eyes and finally one of them said, "You think we're from hell." Needless to say they each got all the candy and whatever else they wanted from the store that day.

But the Humble Pie changes flavor as they get older, and hopefully our reaction to it does, too. So when I got that call that my darling daughter was going to In School Suspension for cheating because the school has a no-tolerance policy,I paused, but thankfully not long enough to practice any speech over and over in my head. Instead I said that I have a no-tolerance policy, too. Then I asked to speak to Sophie and all I said to her way, "I love you."

I thought all day about an appropriate punishment. She had not only broken a school rule, but a Roaring Mom rule, as well. The school had dealt its punishment and I knew it would be keenly felt. I knew also that Sophie’s siblings would not let the opportunity to torture their sister pass without fully taking advantage of it. I would be put in the position of having to stand up for the daughter who had broken one of my cardinal rules against the others who had (like the good children I raised them to be) NEVER CHEATED—of at least never gotten caught as I later came to understand.

I decided Sophie needed repayment in kind. She needed her own dose of Humble Pie.
When Sophie trudged her way through the parking lot that day, she wore the look of someone who had learned her lesson. She climbed in the van and buckled up and waited. After a sufficient anxiety filled pause I said, “Okay, here it is. You cannot expect to do something like this and not end up getting ribbed at home by your siblings. So, you have a choice. I can either ground you for a week. Or, you can accept every joke and comment made at your expense for the next week with humility and good naturedness.” You know which one she chose. And it made life so much easier for me. And her siblings enjoyed it very much.

Sometimes I have to remember that the punishment or discipline needs to be more about the lesson than about my ego. Even so, my fragile ego can only take so much. So when I absolutely have no other choice than to take my teen and pre-teen children to the store with me, I take a deep breath, practice saying no, and avoid the candy aisle at all costs.

And just so you know, any parent who thinks the grocery trips get easier when the kids get older, open wide. You are in for your own helping of Humble Pie.


  1. When my youngest (now 20) was old enough to talk, we were in Wal-mart. She was riding nicely in the basket, but she wanted me to take her to look at the toys. Uh, no. I knew what would happen. Her reply to my NO was, "I hate you!"

    My reply to her was, "Then I guess I'm doing a good job."

    There was a lady behind me who started chuckling. I had a feeling she'd gone through the same I-Hate-You moments.

  2. The last time I pushed a kid in a cart was about 2 years ago. She was 16 years old. I think the conversation went something like,"If you are going to act like a toddler at the store, I'm gonna put you in the cart and push you like a toddler." Then she climbed in and we were both too stubborn to back down. I think an "I hate you" moment would have been less embarassing.

  3. Deb,
    Love the new look of your blog.

    The most I-really-wish-you-were-not-my-child moment came for me when my daughter was six. We were in the store, she was doing the "please buy me a toy" chant. I finally said, "No, we don't have any money."

    Darling daughter walked away and stopped beside an elder lady. She tugged on the woman's long black coat and said in the saddest voice you can imagine, "Won't you please buy me a toy. My mommy and daddy don't have any money."

    As the woman frantically searched for a parent, I, humiliated beyond words, walked out of the store, got in the car and told my waiting husband to go get our daughter. She was bothering some old lady.

    Yes, I abandoned her, but it was self defense.

  4. Art Linkletter had it right. Kids say the darnedest things.

  5. My kids never once said I hate you to my face. I'm sure it was said a thousand times behind my back. Kids are kids and Lord knows mine are a long way from perfect. I wish you'd taken pictures of your daughter in the shopping cart. What a hoot. Thanks for sharing that.