You are standing in a grocery store, and a 3-year-old waiting in line with their parent throws a dozen eggs onto the floor. The parent smiles looks at the check-out employee and says “Oh my daughter is so intelligent; it’s really a challenge to keep her interested when I’m shopping.” The parent stands and smiles while another clerk cleans up the mess and offers no help, or pay for the broken eggs. You are watching and quite disgusted with the parent’s lack of action.
Parents have been told by many of us, including psychologists (I’m one and most of my colleagues hate it when I say this), that any form of discipline will harm their child. The word “no” isn’t something most children hear today. We read of studies where spanking is a very bad thing and that it often leads to violence or crime later in life. We rarely hear of studies, however, that suggest 100% of successful CEOs were spanked as children, or that over 70% of parents believe that some form of spanking or corporal punishment is still a parent’s right to choose as a form of discipline.
But parents do understand if we give them permission to use common sense and what they know to be correct. The only reason to be a parent is to raise a child that is capable of taking on the world when we are no longer available to them. That is it. It’s not about being their friend, making them avoid failure, stopping them from losing at a sport or competition or protecting them from natural consequences.
If a 3-year-old can’t behave at a grocery store, don’t take them shopping. If you do and they cause damage, make them help you to clean it up and pay for the loss. Apologize, apologize and buck up. No need to be ashamed of what just happened as it’s a learning experience for you and them.
Shame is something many grandparents use when they witness this wimpy parenting style. “I would never let you get away with that when you were in the grocery store with me. I would have had the courage to give you a quick one on the behind and you would have never tried that again.”
Instead of shaming, let’s give advice, permission and support to young parents so that they know their jobs better than we did, and if they choose, the permission to discipline their children. Yes, that may include an occasional swat on the behind.