Becoming a hard-hearted mama

As we walked into the shopping centre, I told Brandon that he needed to do as mommy says while we were in the mall. Snuggled into my arms, I don’t know if he fully understood what I said since he didn’t respond. My attempt to warn him not to try manipulating or going off on his own was prompted by Matt’s experience with him earlier in the day. One that included a trip to a different shopping centre that was unfruitful as he had to take an upset little boy out of the store.

After relaying this story to me, I realized that we’ve gone too long without setting firm boundaries with Brandon. We’ve (knowingly) allowed him to manipulate circumstances and get what he wants when he wants it. In general, he’s a well-behaved child, but I know he can do better.

My two (almost three) year old should not be calling the shots and I’m done letting him. Oh, he’s probably going to find the transition difficult, as always. But it’s worth it for his long-term well-being. I want him to respect authority figures - first and foremost myself and Matt.

As Brandon and I left the shopping centre, we had a few too many items for me to comfortably carry both him and them. If he put up a fight, I knew I’d be faced with my very first challenge. He was easygoing and congenial through the whole shopping trip, willingly following me to each area of the store that I needed to visit. I didn’t have much to get, and I did get him a small treat for being so good and helpful too. (He carried a step stool half his size all the way through the store - no small distance, I can assure you.) It was slow going, but I wasn’t in a hurry. When we got to the cash register he helped me put everything on the counter for the cashier. I praised him for his good helping.

He asked to be picked up, so I did and then grabbed my unwieldy bundle of purchases to carry to the car as well. As we got closer to the doors Brandon got squirmy wanting something out of the bag and I had to put him down. I should have kept going.

After sitting on the bench, Brandon wanted to take 3 of the 4 items we bought out of the bag. Again, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I decided to go with it for a few minutes. Really, it wasn’t hurting anything.

Several minutes later, I decided to attempt to move on. I carefully repacked the bag, allowing Brandon to carry one item, knowing that this wouldn’t appease him about leaving and that he would eventually drop it.

I was right.

Thirty feet from the door, once again squirming in my arms, he dropped his one item. The nice man who walked by us, pointedly not making eye contact didn’t bother to help me pick it up, despite the obvious struggle going on. (Thanks a lot, mister.)

I had clearly asked Brandon to hold on to this one item and not to drop it. He dropped it so I would put him down, so I took it away and that made him mad. He proceeded to sit on the floor in the front of the mall, eventually laying all the way down on the floor to express his displeasure about leaving.

By then I’d had enough. I picked him up, despite his toddler-drop attempt, grabbed my unwieldy purchases and pushed my way out the door and to the car. I put him down by the car and told him how disappointed I was and that he needed to apologize to mommy. 

He did. Then he asked to hold his one item. I gave it to him.

Who can resist such a sweet face?Perhaps that was an error in judgement. I’m not sure. As I was buckling him into his car seat, he wanted to have his iPod. Said iPod was sitting nice and cozy and warm back at our house. When I broke this news to him, he got very upset. The screaming and throwing that one item prompted me to take said item away from him. I told him he needed to say sorry before he could have it back and that he couldn’t listen to his favorite song or watch a movie until he said sorry.

For 10-15 minutes, he cried and occasionally screamed, except for the odd break where he asked for a movie or music. I hardened my heart to it. I needed him to say sorry. By the time he finally did, I knew he was just saying the words to get what he wanted. Maybe I let the battle of wills go on for too long. Would I change it, though? Not until I know it isn’t working.

Because I very much fear that I’ve spoiled my child. He isn’t rotten yet and I don’t ever want him to be.

Do you take the easy way out with your child(ren) at times? Does it make you feel like a total pushover or is there an acceptable amount of easy that we as parents can get away with?