Why is it that our kids have the biggest temper tantrums when we are trying to do something nice for them?
Why do they suddenly get grumpy and throw their sippee cups and fight with their siblings when I’ve taken them out to a nice (-er than McDonalds) restaurant and just paid way too much for a “kids meal” I could have made at home and snuck in the restaurant in my purse? Why do they throw a fit about getting into their carseats after their mothers scheduled a play date at Chic-fil-a with their best friends, then let them actually have apple juice (instead of water), their own box of chicken nuggets, their own dipping sauce, and 20 whole minutes in the play place?
At least with my three-year-old, I’ve learned not to fall all over myself to treat him. He seems to be happier that way. He likes boundaries. If I say “yes” to everything, and give him tons of choices about food, and plan an entire day of activities for him, and let him stay up as long as he wants, etc. etc. etc., he turns into a total grump.
Michael was out of town with Faith at a wedding this past weekend, and Gabe and I had three entire days to ourselves. It was absolutely lovely. Except, I admit, for when I set out a couple of times to “focus totally on him.” I planned some special activities for us and made or bought his favorite foods. I let him listen to whatever he wanted to in the van. And you know what? Looking back, when my words and actions basically put him “in charge,” he wasn’t a happy camper.
He threw a fit when I gave him too many choices for lunch one day. And when I took him for an ice cream cone at McDonald’s before going to see the rockets at NASA, he started whining and fussing at the littlest things. He suddenly refused to read any of the books he had picked out to read at mass. He started yelling at me rudely to turn down the volume on the radio. And he whined and complained the entire time I was scrubbing out the water table I stopped and picked up (for free) from a neighbor’s yard for the kids.
A friend of mine set out to make her three-year-old a princess for a day on her third birthday last year. She invited me and my kids to the zoo for the morning (she brought her daughter’s favorite breakfast, donuts) then we went out to lunch. That afternoon, she had planned to get ice cream and then go to a local theme park for the evening, then out to dinner with grandparents. Her little girl was a screaming, whiny toddler-zilla all morning. And from my friend’s later recollection of the day, all afternoon and all evening.
I think it’s best to keep things simple with these little ones. All the rest of the hoopla and treats just make mommy and daddy feel nice. These sweet little souls are happy with so little. That is why, finances aside, we will not be taking our kids to Disneyworld or the like for a few years at least.:)
I do think there is a way to give special things to our children in a way that still gives them boundaries and lets them know who’s in charge. I think it’s in our tone of voice, in our way of speaking, and in our choice of things we give them.
I’m still learning, mostly by trial and error. See above. 🙂
I think it was St. Josemaria (who else, considering how often his quotes are in my posts:) who said that too much comfort makes us unhappy, because we get so used to being comfortable that we start to make our own crosses out of the slightest discomforts. Something to ponder! How similar we are to our little children.