It seems the older a child gets, the more they feel entitled to. My 3-year-old Kael documents this well with his current fascination with the number three. We made homemade pizza this evening, and when the pepperoni came out he let us know his rights: “I need three pepperonis, ‘cause I’m 3.”
Though he still pronounces 3 “sree,” this is just
one bargaining chip the little genius has picked up to help him with his
supposed entitlements. I’ll grant the kid “life, love and the pursuit
of happiness,” but beyond Constitutional entitlements, the kid’s really
not guaranteed a lot.
That doesn’t mean I don’t entreat him to
some of his arguments. If I’m in a good mood, and I don’t think his
requests are too far off base, I’ll usually grant them. Three big greasy
pepperonis? Definitely needs to catch me in the right mood. Three
M&M’s? I’ll usually hook him up. When he asked for three pieces
of pizza after I sliced the finished product up, I told him no initially
before I got my wicked parent grin on and sliced the single piece I’d
already gotten him into three smaller pieces. The kid was happy and
nothing really changed.
Problem is, he’s smart. For a 3-year-old
kid, he puts up some pretty sophisticated arguments sometimes. I just
envision myself in ten years when he’s a teenager and sounds like a mini
prosecution lawyer when I don’t give him his way like I did when he was
just 3 years old.
It’s that mental fast forward button I have
that often makes me say “no” even when I think it’s harmless. I think
establishing a role as a loving provider who is able to say “no” without
questions asked is important when they’re young. If the guidelines are
set when the child really has no say in outcomes, the guidelines are
much more likely to stick into teenage years and beyond.
“yes” too often to invalid arguments could land you in trouble. Though
farcical, I think of a scenario with a teenaged boy coming home and
saying, “Dad, I need 16 cars.”
Kid: “This is serious, Dad.”
Me: “Everything is serious at your age. But fine, I’ll hear the nonsense argument you have.”
Kid: “Here goes. I need 16 cars because,” (bet you know what’s coming) “I’m 16.”
Laughs uncontrollably. “Boy, that argument hardly ever worked back when
you were little and cute. It’s not going to get you one car now, much
less 16 of ‘em.”
Kid: “You’re ruining my life!”
Me: “That’s what you said when you turned 6 and I told you you couldn’t have 6 baseball gloves.”
Kid: “Really? I wanted 6 baseball gloves? I don’t even like baseball.”
Me: “You should probably stop liking cars too because this argument’s leading down the same road.”
I’m sure there’s no son that doesn’t belong to Brad Pitt and Angelina
Jolie that would actually use that argument for 16 cars, but you see my
point. A parent has the right to say “no” at any age to any request. By
virtue of the fact we have raised the child the best we know how, we’ve
earned that entitlement. But no age, whether 3 or 13, comes with an
entitlement from parent to child.
So I guess my point is to know
when to say “no” to a kid. Yeah, many requests are harmless, especially
coming from the innocent mouth of a 3-year-old boy convinced that 3
pepperonis will make him grow big and strong like Daddy. But I don’t
want to plant myself behind a wall of precedent where I find I can no
longer reasonably say “no” to unreasonable requests from my children.
a while, when we went to a certain store, we loved to see how our kids
lit up when we got them a $1 Hot Wheels car every now and then. Pretty
soon, we found we could no longer go to that store without them feeling
like they got to walk out of the store with a brand new toy. The magic
was lost to the spirit of entitlement. Saying “no” became difficult and I
found I was becoming one of those parents I have always abhorred that
will let their spoiled brats pick out a toy every time they are in a
Let’s just say this is not a pleasant corner to paint
yourself into. We have since made severe course corrections, and have
devised methods to make sure they know they are entitled to nothing at
the store. So maybe next time your child comes to you with a request,
ask yourself if it will put you in a scenario where giving in will
become habitual. Maybe a “no” should come out, even if the kid is just
asking for “sree gummy bears, ‘cause I’m sree.”
Monday, September 10, 2012
|Daddy-daughter camping dates are the perfect way to bond.|
All the worry, concern, tiredness - everything - drained out of her voice when she knew I was there and awake.
"Oh," she said nonchalantly. "Why is the headlamp still on?"
We were on our first-ever Daddy-daughter camping date in Grand Teton National Park on Jackson Lake. It was 3:30 a.m. and the full moon shone overhead so brightly that I had woken up an hour earlier thinking it was predawn light coming into the tent. I was so alert thinking of impending morning that insomnia set in in a big way when I checked my clock and found out it was 2:30 a.m. So I had finally turned on my headlamp and started to read a book I had brought for just such an occasion.
But when her little hand touched my shoulder and I heard that wavering, higher-pitched-than-normal voice, I felt needed in a way I don't think I ever have before. It felt... good. Insanely good. I felt loved, appreciated, and even depended on. I knew had I not been there immediately for her, she would have burst into hysterics instead of calmly laying back down and falling instantly to sleep, which is precisely what she did when I told her I was just reading, tucked her back in, and kissed her goodnight.
|Daddy-daughter camping also helped her feel needed, as I was|
able to let her help gather kindling for our fire. She loved it.
Being needed may be the greatest thanks a parent ever receives. Had she awoken during our Daddy-daughter date crying for Mommy I would have been heartbroken. But she wanted me. Needed me. That is all the validation I ever need as a parent. And she made me laugh with her abrupt mood change, which made it all the richer.
The Daddy-daughter date came about because we have been having discipline issues lately with our son, 4. He is testing boundaries and really pressing us to see if we can make child-shaped holes in the wall. He began voicing to his mother recently how he feels like his only interactions with me were for discipline, and I could feel distance mounting because of it, as could my wife. I scheduled a Daddy-son camping date with him just to let him know that I love him, like to be with him, do things with him, and most importantly can do more with him than discipline.
We had a great time. We got doughnuts and other snacks from the store, we headed into the mountains, set up the tent together and he fell asleep as I read to him from a children's chapter book. The event brought us closer together and I can honestly say I haven't needed to discipline him as much since, although there have been plenty of bumps in the road. We are also more liable to play together again, something that was beginning to lack in our relationship as he did so many naughty things that could make Curious George blush. I'm now more of a necessity in my son's life since I took him camping.
So the Daddy-daughter date was a continuation of that. And boy did it ever work. Leading up to the camping with her after hearing of our son's experience, she would pump her fist and say "YES!" every time I told her it was almost time for Daddy-daughter date. After the fact, I feel closer to both my children after spending the night with them in the mountains. We laugh more together, they are more open to teasing sessions with me, and just enjoy being with me more than they have in a while.
|Daddy-son camping helped build a relationship that had been|
struggling through major obedience/discipline issues.
Monday, September 3, 2012
|Getting family to Hidden Falls is more|
difficult than going solo - by far. But it
is also a much more magical experience.
"The map says we need to go that way," she stated with surety, pointing the exact direction we had been traveling along the much-used horse trail stringing between Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park.
Our 4-year-old voiced his concern about her map, collecting rocks that served as indicators of trouble - sort of tea leaves for the tiny.
"Mmm," he said. "My rocks say there is trouble that way."
It turned out he was right. We soon passed into a beautiful rock garden with view rivaling the much-more visited Inspiration Point above Hidden Falls. The garden was infested with goblins, trolls and ogres.
|Inscribing on the already beat-up map with a twig, I assume |
to make it more legible. Didn't work, whatever the case.
We quietly passed through the beautiful rock graveyard so none of the trouble would know we were there. Our quiet warning whispers were occasionally punctuated by a gleeful scream from our uncontrollable and easily excitable 1-year old.
Luckily no trolls seemed to take special notice of her. Maybe they knew they couldn't eat anything so cute and friendly. The 15-month-old girl had been greeting most people we passed through the day on the busy lower trail with a wave, a grin and the word "Hi." And if you haven't seen her smile, you don't know what you were missing.
|Our 4-year-old son enjoys the view from|
the horse trail leading from Jenny Lake to
Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park.
In the forest, the map wielder made sure we were still on course.
"We just need to follow this trail right through to Salt Lake City," she said, probably stemming from conversations earlier in the day about a possible visit to the city for our son's birthday party at the dinosaur museum at Thanksgiving Point. Somehow, the Nauvoo Temple stood in Salt Lake City on a big green hill, and seemed to be a landmark we needed to pass on the way to the van at the edge of the lake. Hmmm...no idea where that came from at all. Who was doing this make-believe anyway?
The best part about all this is how much they loved it despite complaining about us going hiking again. We had just gone on a hiking trip for my work, and though they also loved it, they always think it will be torture going into another place like it. But once out, their fears usually dissolve amidst the playful atmosphere we foster on the trail, munching on any in-season huckleberries, raspberries, thimble berries or currants we can find.
A couple we passed commended us for hiking with our children, saying they wished they had tried harder to get their children out before they succumbed to foot-dragging. I told them my philosophy is that you usually only have to endure the pre-hike whine and the tired last bits. Everything in the middle can become magic, plain and simple.
They agreed with me, again voicing their wish they had done things differently with their kids. I hope to be a parent that never has that kind of regret with my children. I want my children to know and love the outdoors. To crave them like I do. And I think magical hikes like this one will cement fond memories of the forest and mountains, even if I do tend to jump out of the woods and make my son scream like a girl when he's dilly dallying too much. It even worked to scare an adult hiker on his own in the woods at one point. My son thought that was so funny he suggested me trying to just scare other people. I digressed.
In the meantime, he told every hiker we passed about it.
"Hey," he said to a random man passing us. "I want to tell you something." He then launched into his story about how his daddy scared a random hiker and himself. It took a minute for the man to even register that my munchkin was talking to him, but when he finally did, he looked amused.
"Great story," the man said and continued walking on, smiling a little more than before.
I have to think differently when I hike with children. I have to constantly remind myself its not about the speed or even the destination. It's all about the experience. I don't have much to say about our time at Hidden Falls. It was little different from other times I've been there among hordes of excited tourists. But I will remember my daughter finding a tree that seemed the perfect hangout spot for a little girl, with defensive branches forming a fort-like structure just off the busy trail. I will remember the fairies, the ogres, the trolls, the maps, the tea leaves and all those things that made our day pure gold.
But most of all I will remember the family magic.