simpering hippies and a snarling hellcat

"bedtime" with green lantern
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

Your toddler goes stiff as a board and won’t get in her car seat? Oh my god, how will you persuade her to co-operate?

I can’t believe someone just asked that question and about 30 people on my local mom-list answered with a variant of be nicer/persuade/explain/distract/wait-it-out. One person boldly used the word “stern.” One other mom hinted that getting mad might be difficult to overcome.

Hello…. you are an enormous, powerful grownup and you have stuff to do.

I liked my sister’s response. “A simple karate chop to the belly should do it.” Hahahah! Just kidding, people… I hate the pro-spanking rhetoric, and would never hit my kid.

Since when did being mad, stern, or displeased go out of style? It’s like there’s no middle ground between weak-spined bribery and child abuse.

One of my most effective tactics is to warn that I might be about to get mad. This has to be done with a serious frown. And if I’m mad, it doesn’t help to pretend I’m not mad. If I’m in a hurry and need to drive somewhere, why should I pretend to be infinitely patient?

The line, there, to me, is to not tell the kid they’re bad. You can snarl out, “I’m getting really mad because you’re not buckled into your carseat and I’m in a hurry.” But you should not add to that sentence, “…you damn brat.” Are we clear on the difference?

The worst suggestion was for the mom to offer a trip to the zoo and then when the kid refuses to go in her car seat, then shrug and say “Okay, I guess little kids who don’t go in their car seat don’t get to go to the zoo!” and go in the house again. It strikes me that this will lead to a screaming meltdown and will only teach the 18 month old that her mom’s a huge bitch. I guess maybe it works in that the kid gets to experience “consequences.”

Everyone’s got a different style of parenting, sure. But now we can’t ever have a moment of being pissed off? We’re supposed to raise kids without ever frowning or disapproving? I have a horrible feeling this is part of the patriarchal message to women that they should “be nice” at every single moment.

Tickling, offering special toys, singing a little song, and specially yummy food when you’re in the carseat … I don’t think so. How about a million dollars and a f#&%$#! pony while you’re at it?

Now that we’ve cleared that up, you can all go yell at your kids.

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