Last week I visited a toy store with Arlo and Elsa. While there, Arlo and a boy who looked about three or four became engrossed in play with the toddler train set, while Elsa happily stood at the train table, looking on. Meanwhile, I browsed, wishing for a "mom" table of my own so that I could take advantage of these precious minutes where neither child needed me.
After about ten minutes had passed, the mother of the other boy asked him a question that made me cringe: "Can we go to my store now?"
The boy, being all of three or four, and not understanding adult subtleties, responded honestly. "No" he told her.
That's when the mom became upset. "Excuse me???"
I couldn't bear to hear any more. I announced to Arlo and Elsa that it was time to go, and even though Arlo protested I led him by the hand outside the store. No negotiations, no explanations, no sweetening of the pie ("If we leave now you can have a sucker...")
Of course the boy said no, they couldn't go to the mom's store yet, because she had asked him if it was time and he wasn't ready. I can only imagine how confusing it must be for him, to assume you are being asked your opinion when really your parent has a specific answer they are looking for.
I don't remember my parents ever asking me if it was time to do something. Ever. Thank God.
Have we as parents handed our parental responsibilities over to our toddlers/preschoolers/middle schoolers/high schoolers? From what I see being out and about with my two kids, I would have to say that sadly, many of us have. How many times have you said the following:
* "What do you want for breakfast?"
* "Are you ready to leave the park?"
* "Are you cold? Want to wear your coat?"
Language matters. Boundary-setting matters. Being the parent matters. Give the child the security of knowing that you are in charge. If it's breakfast, offer a healthy meal. If it's time to go home and take a nap, announce it's time to leave the park, and then go home. If it's cold outside, put a sweater or coat on your baby and move on.
And if you EVER catch me asking one of my kids for permission to go to "my store" kick me in the tooshie.