Have you ever noticed that the families who dot the anecdotes in parenting books are fam-bots?
Child (screaming): I want that truck! Buy me that truck! I want! I want it!
Parent (with amazing ability to think on feet despite screaming): You really like that truck. It looks like fun to play with the truck.
Child (magically recovered from screaming): It IS a fun truck. I want it.
Parent: You REALLY want that truck. How would you play with the truck if you could play with it?
Child (happy and giggling): I make it go zoom zoom zoom.
Parent: You would make that truck go zoom zoom zoom. That sounds like fun.
Child (forgetting about truck): You have allowed me to fantasize about that truck and now I no longer care to force you to buy it with a tantrum. In fact, I will never tantrum again because you have so successfully diverted me from such immature behavior. And I think I am potty-trained and can read too.
Here’s how that scene actually looked in our house when I had two toddlers and a baby:
Child (screaming): I want truck! I want truck! I want! I want it!
Parent (having JUST read a book about how to divert a child’s behavior through empathy and fantasy): You really like that truck. It looks like fun to play with the truck.
Child (screaming louder): Yes! I DO want it! I want truck!
Parent (trying step 2 from the book): You REALLY want that truck. How would you play with the truck if you could play with it?
Child (propelling self out of cart towards truck, dumping over parent’s coffee on the way, screaming louder): I want truck! It’s MY truck!
Parent: (wondering what went wrong, but staying the course because the damn book cost $18.95, and screaming OVER the screaming of the child so child can hear): YOU COULD MAKE THE TRUCK GO ZOOM! THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN! FUN! BUT TODAY WE ARE STICKING TO THE LIST! LET’S PLAY WITH YOUR OTHER TRUCKS WHEN WE GET HOME!
Child (lying on top of truck with arms flailing in the air, sobbing): Truck mine! Want truck! MY truck! Love truck!
Parent (with milk dripping from breasts because baby sibling is now also crying, slumped over cart, sobbing, wondering if it is too early for a shot of Tequila, scanning the aisle for chocolate, pondering the whereabouts of the eldest child): I. Am. Now. Counting. To Five! If. I. Get. To. Five. And. You. Are. Not. Standing. Up. I. Will. Be. Spending. Your. Christmas. Present. Money. On. BEN AND JERRY’S PHISH FOOD!!!
Child (looking at parent in shock, standing up slowly, reaching up to be put in cart…pause, pause, pause): I waaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnt truuuuuuuuck! I waaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnt truuuuuuuuck!
In an act of parenting super-power, parent plops screamer into cart, locates and scoops up eldest child, shoves breast into baby’s mouth (also in cart, in car seat), runs out of store, buckles all 3 kids in car, throws diapers she just inadvertently shoplifted in back, jumps into front seat, and realizes she is only wearing one shoe.
And that was a good day.
This is why I tend not to biblio-parent these days. Though I learn a lot from books, everything from pedagogy to self-help to history, there is no book in existence that knows my kids the way I do. The methods mentioned above merely irritated my eldest. She wanted a definitive answer. Fantasy confused my son, who thought that if I was willing to fantasize about him owning the item, then I was willing to buy it for him. All my youngest wanted in these situations was a chance to express herself verbally, followed by a nice shot of breastmilk for comfort. It didn’t help for me to try and talk HER through it because SHE was doing the talking.
I have found the most vital parenting resources to be my gut, my husband, my friends, and my spiritual center. I have learned to go to my gut first. I usually know what to do and, though I don’t always DO it first, I KNOW it first. When my gut fails me, it has been life-saving to know incredible parents. Having learned the hard way, I try and surround myself with positive, kind, experienced people. HotNerd and I have learned more about parenting from hanging out with great parents and great people than almost anything else. And, for me, a spiritual center (in my case, my faith in God) guides me through both the beautiful and horrendous parenting moments.
Really, if I want to read about how to be a better parent, my time is best used reading about how to be a better ME.