Sunday, April 11, 2010

Attack of the Shopping Cart ... and a Little Insight Into Child Rearing

Hovered at the $1 Spot at a local Target store the other day, I came in contact with an unexpected shopping cart. Not more than three years old, the driver's aim was spot on. I was totally lost in looking at $1 gifts for my daughter, Annie, but was interrupted by the crack that I heard and the pain that I felt at my ankle. I looked up to see a petite little blonde boy who was hurriedly moving his parents' shopping cart faster than they could keep up with him.

Stunned by the sudden attack, I looked up and saw him there, oblivious to what had happened. Parental instinct told me that it was nothing more than an accident resulting from an over-eager little boy who was excited about going to Target.

Almost immediately, the parents rushed over and began fussing with him about hitting me with the cart. They fussed about his not listening to them, and swatted him on the side of his head. Finally, their attention turned to me and they asked, "Are you OK?" I was fine, but barely listening to my response, they proceeded to force the little tike into apologizing to me. Why was he apologizing? My insistence that they didn't need to hit him went ignored, and they finally just walked off, the little boy still unaware of what had happened.

A few seconds later, a Target employee greeted me as I rounded the corner of the $1 Spot asking if I was OK. After a brief conversation with the employee I was soon on my way to get a birthday card for my sister. While walking the aisles, I saw the parents and the little boy once again. I thought about my own children and how their mother and I decided to deal with them in times of crisis like these.

Before Annie and Hunter were born, we decided early on that there would be many times when they would "mess up". The test, however, would be in their motivation. Was the mess up an accident, something that could not avoided? Or was it the result of disobedience? After many discussions, their mom and I decided that punishment was warranted only when disobedience was the root of their choices. Correction for an accident would not result in punishment.

Had that incident been caused by one of our own children, we would have handled it a little differently. First, we would have apologized to the shopping for the accident. Second, only after we were assured the shopper was OK would we deal with our child. Calmly taking the child aside, we would have explained that he/she caused an accident with the shopping cart. Third, we would have punished him/her only if he/she had ignored our direction to not take the cart and walk with it without an adult.

The parents of this child were probably mortified by the accident and took the situation personally. After all, what parent doesn't see their child's behavior as a reflection them?! But, then again, how does a parent, in what they perceive as a safety violation, deal with a child expediently?

One of our goals was to raise our children to respect people, property, laws, and authority. If we react with haste without providing respect in our correction of our children, are we also disrespectful of them?

Studies have shown that parents have more influence on their children far more than any other source or person. And since no day with our children can ever be repeated again, why would we not make the very best of it?!

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