Friday, May 13, 2016

"Meanest Mom in the World?"

Recently a post by a mom, calling herself, "The Meanest Mom in the World" was making the rounds on social media. 

The story went...

She'd taken her kids out for ice cream. She watched as her children, ages somewhere around 8, 5, and 4, received their sweet treasures and began eating them happily. Then as they exited the ice cream place, she stopped and snatched those ice creams from the children mid-bite and threw them in the trash...because the children had failed to say, "thanks" to the person who'd handed them the ice creams. She then gave them a lecture on how someday they should be happy to have a job like that, handing out ice creams to children, and they need to show these people respect.

Her post went viral and had piles of comments telling her she was far from the meanest mom...but a great mom with children sure to grow up polite and respectful!

But is that what she's really teaching them?

I think an experience I had at Sam's Club a few days ago can shed some light on that...

So I was at Sam's Club...hungry (you know you should never do that...go to the grocery store hungry!) with my 18- and 12- and 8-year-old daughters...and we rounded a corner and there on the end cap...was a man in a "Free Samples" booth.

I peeked at what he had before him on his counter and saw rectangular Club Crackers with some delish-looking spread of what looked like flaky chicken mixed with a bit of mayo and something red, like berries or something.

I looked the crackers over quickly, sizing them up. There were about 5 on little square white napkins, and as I grabbed one I thought, a little guiltily, This one has like 2x's more spread on it than those others! I got the one with the most stuff on it, I'm so selfish! 

I held it up to my face and could smell it now. Mmmm.

"What is this?" I asked the man.

"Chicken..." he said and didn't elaborate on what was in the chicken.

It didn't matter, though. My mind was back on this tasty treat before me. I was afraid the cracker might break in half when I bit it and send the stuff all crumbling onto the floor, so I held my other hand up under it with the napkin. If I did drop some I was going to drop it onto the napkin and still be able to eat it.

And, Mmmm... Oh it was heaven. So good. (Seriously...just don't go to the grocery store hungry!)

As I chewed, feeling quite pleased with my mouthful of food, wishing there was a way to get more of these samples, and if I had a problem with buying the canned factory-farmed chicken meat, I pushed the cart out of the way with one free hand and my other elbow. I got half-way down the aisle...and pulled over to finish my snack when my 12-y/o quietly leans in to me and says, "You didn't even thank him."

I'm a 47 y/o grown-up with a fully mature brain, and I was so wrapped up in my delight over my treat that I failed Etiquette 101. 

And because I'm this soon as this hit me...I realized that I was in the middle of living the post by the Ice Cream in the Trash Mom...except I was the kid, and my 12-y/o was the mom!

The internet has declared her a hero! Everyone's so happy she's teaching her kids manners! More parents should be like her! about me and my manners?

What if Ice Cream in the Trash Mom had been shopping with me?

What if she'd taken my cracker, lectured me, and marched me back over to the Sam's Club employee, my head hung in shame and still wanting that cracker...and made me apologize for not thanking him?

Would she be hero of manners enforcement then...or would you all be telling me to find another friend to shop with?

Or what if my 12-y/o had, instead of quietly coming to me, had done as Ice Cream in the Trash Mom had done to her children?

Then what?

Or how about...what if one of Ice Cream in the Trash Mom's kids had been shopping with me...and seeing me fail to thank the guy had grabbed my cracker, threw it in the trash, scolded me, and marched me over to the employee and made me apologize to would you see the behavior then? Would you see Ice Cream in the Trash Mom's kids imitating her behavior and turn to her and congratulate her on teaching her kids well?

Normally when we show kids to do stuff and they mimic it perfectly, we're proud! But would watching her kids treating me this way be something to applaud?

Unfortunately for are little parrots. It's like they're born with this, "Show me!" circuitry in their brain. It's evident as early as day one when they'll stick their tongue out to imitate the parent doing it. Imitation is how kids learn to talk, walk, eat...everything.

I've spent a lot of time in the last few years watching parents with their own kids at sports practices and you can see more similarities between them than their physical appearances. You can see similar attitudes and hear the same accents in their speech...because kids mimic their parents.

This means if the parent makes a conscious point of BEING polite...always saying, "Please!" and "Thank you!" their children...will mimic them because that's how kids come wired. It's that easy to teach etiquette and polite behavior.

It also means that when a parent...stands aside watching their children in the middle of a learning opportunity...a mistake of etiquette...and reacting by judging them...then pouncing on them harshly because they make a mistake...instead of teaching them...guess what? The children will do the same.

Kids imitate how the parent acts more than they will do what the parents says. It's how they're wired.

This means...if you start smacking the hand of a baby, once they start to crawl, explore, and grab things, scolding them with a harsh, "No!" They will learn they get smacked for touching certain things...AND they will smack to stop others (usually other children) from doing what they don't want them to do.

They're wired to imitate us.

If you swat the bottom of your toddler, to make them do what you want...they will learn to swat other children to get them to do what they want.

If you yell at them and scold them when they don't do what you want...they will learn to yell and scold to get other kids to do what they want.

Just listen to them when they're playing and doing these things...just listen and you hear yourself...

If you call your child, "naughty!" and "bad!" when they do something you don't like...they will learn to call other children names when they do what they don't like.

If you take their toys when they're in the middle of playing with them because you've decided it's time to go or time to go to bed and you don't take into account their feelings and desire to "finish playing"...they will learn to take toys from other children without taking into account the other children's feelings or desire to finish playing with them.

And if you have a habit of physically moving your child when they don't wish to be moved...picking them up when they're not done with their toys, pulling their hands and tugging them away from something they're not ready to be moved away from...they will "push" other get others to move their bodies when they don't like where they are.

If you're the type of parent to disregard what children want because you feel it's important to "make sure they know who's boss," so you never, "give in and give them what they want lest you spoil them," they will not listen to the desires of others. They'll learn to stand their ground and not give in and give the other person (often the parent) "their own way."

Children are learning from the parents' every action and they will mimic those behaviors. They are going to smack, yell, take toys, and push others.

They're wired to watch us and imitate what we do.

Sadly, it seems society is blind to this. Even today's highly educated doctors will diagnose children who imitate unpleasant behavior with acronyms, and parents think these children need a "firmer hand." The kids end up punished, spanked, and medicated...for imitating their parents.

But you can tell your children 1000 times...that smacking, yelling, taking toys, refusing to be obedient, and pushing is can punish them for it and give them pills...but as long as you are doing those things in order to teach them...they will continue to mimic you.


Some seem to feel rude behavior isn't rude if it's done to a child. But if it would be rude for Ice Cream in the Trash Mom to take MY cracker and toss it in the trash, lecture me, and march me over and make me apologize...then it's rude. Period. Even when done to small children.

And if we want to look at what's rude and Ice Cream in the Trash Mom's children's childish forgetfulness with her adult calculated and planned behavior.

Which behavior was actually rude?

Ice Cream in the Trash Mom's kids might learn to say, "Thanks," via their mother's teaching they don't get in trouble with Mom again, but the irony of it all is that in her attempt to teach her kids to be polite, she did the exact opposite.

Through her behavior, Ice Cream in the Trash Mom's kids have learned a lot about how to treat people who make mistakes in front of them. In time, she will see it, as they become older and start treating her and others the way she's taught them to treat people...but she will likely misperceive it and label it as "teenage rebellion."

That's how it works.

So, is Ice Cream in the Trash Mom the "Meanest Mom in the World?" No. Actively demonstrating to children on a daily basis what it looks like to speak politely while treating people disrespectfully, is actually quite common for US parents.

Even Christians.

If you ask most Christians, or look at most of the books Christians normally consult for advice on how to deal with situations with their children, you'll see the default respose to children's mistakes seems to be to punish/spank/inflict pain of some type. But didn't the Christ Christians are following...tell us to get the log our of our own eyes, first?

Why would He tell us that?

He is the one who made children wired to imitate parents. And if we parents all spent more time looking in the mirror and focusing on our own behavior, we'd see our children's behavior changing for the better...right along with our own.

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

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