Monday, May 11, 2009

Shopping with a Sigh ...

I sigh when I shop. Not because I'm tired or bored, but because my heart is broken. When I see children and parents at war in public, I can only imagine what it’s like in their private lives. Yanking back and forth on a tug-of-war rope for control, the parents put on quite a show. Sadly, nobody really wins in the shopping battle and the hostile war rages on.

Take, for instance, the woman who was berating her son so loudly I could hear her two aisles over. When they later passed by me, I noted the downcast eyes and chin of a boy who couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 years old. He wanted something, but what it was doesn't really matter here -- It's how she responded:

“You’re always asking for something. Can’t you, for once in your life, let me shop in peace? I don’t know why I brought you with me in the first place.... and on and on it went. She word-whipped her son in front of everyone.

And what about the dad who threw up his hands and surrendered to his daughter? “FINE. We'll buy the stupid doll. Just shut up for two minutes.” Score three big points for the three year old and none for Daddy-O.

Who won in both cases? Not the parents, and certainly not the children, though it may seem that way with the daughter and her doll. But she didn't really win. Those parents and children were either the wounded or the woundee (new word) and neither really won in the long run. The war rages on beneath the surface and the conflict was not truly settled – by giving a toy or withholding a trinket. The same battle scene will be revisited again and again.

The parent that allows a child to “push his buttons” will lose control and react. In this way, the child seems to win, but actually suffers from lack of security. Things take the place of healthy family intereaction. In proper training and discipline, there are some precedents that must be set. Dr. John Rosemond, author and family psychologist, shares the following:

Management as opposed to punishment

Pro-activity as opposed to reactivity

Authority as opposed to anger

Consistency as opposed to unpredictability

Communication as opposed to confusion

Please don’t get me wrong. There are parents today who never had a good parental role-model, and for that reason, parenting can be extremely difficult for them. They need to admit that and ask for help so they don’t carry on the poor-parenting cycle. Other parents simply load “too much on their plates” and fail to reserve time for their children. Thus, every trip to the store is another hurried project that must be checked off a list.

I sigh, but I also try … to make a difference. Sometimes that means a smile for the parent and an encouraging word. Other times, it means a sympathetic smile for a ten year old who is feeling diminished in size by a mother who humiliates him.

I’ve also been known to approach parents struggling with squirmy little boys. I’ll comment on what a cutie he is and then say, “Can I ask you a little favor? When you tuck him in tonight, would you give him an extra kiss for me? My son is over in Iraq, and I’m missing him.” Those mothers melt on the spot and promise to carry out my wishes. I notice as they walk away, that there is more patience in their posture. (Thankfully, my son came home safely, and I’ve kissed him several times!)

Let’s reach out to parents who are struggling. An encouraging word, a smile, or a brief reflection on our own experience … just might make a difference. If they are open to encouragement, we’ve done a good thing. If they aren’t … at least their children have seen a brief glimpse of what a parent can be.


  1. I think that many are overwhelmed because they are working full-time in addition to trying to be a Mum...tough days for them...How wonderful of you to encourage everyone you meet!!! I'm sure you make the day! ~Janine XO

  2. I guess the stresses parents are under make them lose control. I can't say what it was that caused my mother to humiliate me in public and knock me about behind closed doors, all I know is that I never did anything THAT bad. As I grew up I realised a lot of it was due to her own frustrations; she suffered from two illnesses - nymphomania and overdose taking. In my past profession I learned a lot about both sides so I can't easily pass judgement on either. I like your approach and sincerely hope it worked for a long time afterwards.


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