Spud, in a very firm tone, telling off her 4.5 year-old brother: Squirt, clean this up. Or I will not play with you or give you my candy.
Spud (now in a high-pitched tone): Help me or I.will. not.let.you.watch.TV
Squirt went on to grunt and whine. To further demonstrate his reluctance, he got utterly sluggish. Meanwhile, Spud was getting very agitated that her instructions were not followed and that her wishes were being purposely ignored.
It was clear that the tense atmosphere between the 2 younglings would escalate. In a matter of minutes, it would turn explosive since Spud was adamant on exerting her authority to wrap her uncooperative brother around her little fingers.
Rather nonchalantly, Silver Bullet decided to intervene to make light of the situation. I decided to stay on the side lines and watched the events unfolded from the corner of my eyes.
Silver Bullet: Spud, you cannot force your brother to help you clean your mess. You can’t boss him around or demand that he helps you if he does not want to.
Uh-oh. (I thought!)
The father-daughter fight soon unfolded; I kept myself out of it and let Silver Bullet got on with his gig on authority as THE parent. I made sure that I did not interfere but at the same time kept my pseudo-stoic face while I, in my head, silently palm-faced myself and cringed.
The “WTF just happened” moment flashed before my eyes. I managed a soft underneath-my-breath-mutter to Silver Bullet who, at the same time caught his own parenting flaw the moment he said those words.
Because from many moons ago, we taught the kids the meaning of cause and effect.
Because for several years now, we continue to educate them on the ramifications that would come with doing or not doing the things that were asked of them.
Because all this while, we insisted that it was nothing more than a well-intended practical technique to make them understand the meaning of consequences.
That said, we also attempted to teach them the concept of will. That it was never OK to mess with people’s wills. We have to respect other people’s “NO” and they, us: our “NO”.
And at the core of things, that was Spud emulating the very parenting style we dish out whenever we need her or her brother to get on their arses to do something in a do-this-or-else fashion.
The “WTF just happened” moment was a clear showdown of parenting slap-in-your-face in action from a 6.5 year-old who learnt it all from her parents. In her 6.5 year old mind, it was the right thing to do. What’s the fuss? Why the fuss!
There was no doubt that Spud grasps the concept of cause and effect well. She more than understood what consequences mean and if anything, she was only mimicking her parents, thereby expecting her brother to carry out her orders.
And somehow from this incident (and a little element of will thrown in) we are telling her that it was OK for her brother not to listen to her? And that she needs to respect her brother’s decision of not wanting to do what she said? How is that ever OK? Why can’t her will and wishes be respected when she tells her parents “no” whenever we ask her to clean up?
One can only imagine that it must have been confusing for her!
So here we go with an unexpected turn events that led to a rather awkward parenting situation. It was telling; we had some explaining to do and we may need to re-think this parenting style thing. For a start, explaining the concept in the rights of authority as a parent with the de facto entitlement of being bossy was not the easiest thing to do!
Ahhh! The light bulb moment. The conundrum of parenting. Hopefully, one day it all comes together.
What about you dear readers? What have been your lightbulb, slap-in-the-face parenting moment? How would you deal with such situations?