Monday, December 5, 2011

Toddler Tip: Bribery, Just Do It

Charlotte with her bag of bribery mini-marshmallows

I think when people are pre-kids or no-kids or too far post-kids (or smack in the middle of kids but not displaying much grace), there's a lot of parenting judgement that occurs. We hear stories or see incidents and we pull on our judgey panties and start waving our fingers.

I am absolutely as guilty of this as the next person, believe me. In my better moments, which hopefully outweigh the others, I remember that everyone is just trying to do their best. No one is TRYING to be a shitty parent, it just happens sometimes. And this is why:

Parenting doesn't occur in a vacuum. And I think that's what none of us realized before entering the journey ourselves. Yes, you're instilling values and discipline and love and teaching moments and giggles and hopefully a lot of fun. But you're also doing it while doing everything else in your life, with all of the same moods and crappy days that existed before.

And the flip side of all of our judgment of others is really just us worrying that we're not doing a good enough job ourselves - or won't when the time comes. Over the summer when I was deep in first trimester misery of near-puking for 12 hrs a day and my child did nothing but watch cartoons and eat pretzels and ice cream and drink whiskey for six straight weeks, my total inability to perform even the most basic of parenting skills, let alone the good ones, forced me to see the bigger picture and take the whole thing WAY less seriously.

Really, will it matter to her intellect that she watched cartoons for 8 hrs a day for two months? No. Did her long term nutrition and brain development suffer because no nasty ass vegetable was going to come near me and therefore didn't come near her? No. I could go ON and ON with this list.

And when I was feeling better, but still clearly pregnant and had (have) all of the accompanying symptoms that come along with that, I still tried a lot less hard, and I'm a hell of a better parent for it. Because sometimes she's going to come into our bed in the morning to watch cartoons and snuggle and she's going to see the bag of gummy bears that are on her father's nightstand. And she's going to know EXACTLY what they are since apparently a two year old does not have to have actually SEEN or EATEN said candy to know that it IS candy... and she's going to ask for some.

Is it seriously worth the fight of saying no and starting the day off with a crying, upset child? NO. Let me be VERY clear - IT IS NOT. Give them the god damned gummy bears! Just don't leave them out next time. None of this matters. It FEELS like it matters - pre-parental relaxation - because you don't want to "set a pattern" or "a bad example." But in my experience those things happen a lot less often than you'd think.

And the reason all of this will make you - and me - a better parent is because you're more relaxed. More relaxed means more happy, more happy means more patience, more love, less yelling, less snapping. I know for a fact that a kid who is smiled at more and snapped at less is going to thrive and have a happier childhood than the alternative. A few less platitudes and a lot more patience.

My friend and I have a saying that most parents either aren't trying hard enough (and clearly we all know those people) or are trying WAY too hard (and we all know them as well). So this is my long way of getting you to the reason my adorable child, in the lovely pink Christmas outfit up above, is holding an entire bag of mini-marshamallows:

Yesterday we had a lovely brunch at the country club, followed by activities and a visit by Santa. We had to leave the house - dressed, polished, bags packed, and in a good enough mood to enjoy the next three hours - by noon. That's usually when Charlotte starts her nap, and she needs her naps.

So I put her down at 10, let her sleep until we had about 15 min before we had to leave, snuck into her room with a bag of mini-marshmallows, opened the curtains, gently woke her up, and whispered this:

"Charlotte? Hi honey. Listen, remember how I told you that we were going to go see Santa today? Well Nana and Papa are going to be here very soon to pick us up. I'm going to give you this bag of mini marhsmallows and you can eat as many as you want. But you have to let me change your diaper, get your dress on, do you hair, and leave the house. OK?"

Knowing the value of a really good deal, she looked at me all blurry eyed, took out her pacifier, set her blanket down and said "Oh-tay mom." And she ate the crap out of the bag until we walked out the door (at which point I shoved a string cheese at her to balance out the marshmallows). And as a result, she was a rested, happy, relaxed little crazy person all through brunch and activities and Santa (who she roughly equated with a serial killer based on her reaction).

And believe me, I was wishing I could have employed the same tactic this morning as we were attempting (and failing) to get to preschool on time, but that wasn't really a special occasion, so I had to stick to the tried and true methods of threats and coercion. Which, if you're keeping track, are FAR less effective than marshmallows.

 First time with painted nails. Her father was far less thrilled than she was. Her reply was "Oh tay, I do toes now, self."

 B is only smiling because of the lack of oxygen he's receiving from the Santa Death Grip

 The expression says it all

 Cousin chivalry


Ouiser said...

I want to squeeze her until she POPS. I love her!! And you, of course.

Also, excellent use of bribery.

die Frau said...

The "Santa scares the sh!t out of me" expression is PRICELESS. We have a similar shot of my sister at age 1 and three months in her footie pajamas, held by Santa, bawling her eyes out.

Thank you for this post. Remind me of it in about a year.

Wonderland said...

Agreed, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

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