Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What to Expect: Kindergarten Logic

The boys and I ran to the commissary today for a few things.  As we approached the check-out, Ben asked for some M&Ms.  I told him no, and that was the end of it.  Will asked for some jelly beans.  I said no.

That was not the end of it.

He started with a tiny “please?”  That was followed by a louder “pleeeeease?”  When I said no again, he said (a little too loudly for my taste), “BUT I SAID PLEASE.”

At that point, I leaned into the cart, cupped his cherubic face in my hands and calmly said, “Will, I said no.  That is the final answer.  There’s no reason to add anything else to this conversation.”

After paying, I wheeled the cart around to leave the building, and Will did his best impression of the most spoiled child on the face of the planet.  He crossed his arms over his chest and growled--like a deep belly growl, something akin to the noise that the wolf, Gmork, makes when he is about to attack Bastian in Neverending Story.  The check-out lady laughed and nearly sang, “Whoo-hoo!  That one is mad!”  Several of the baggers waiting their turn laughed among themselves, as Will’s scowl threatened to connect his brow to his top lip.

At the car, I loaded Ben and my purse into the car as the bagger loaded the groceries in the back.  When I returned to the cart to help Will out, he had tears--TEARS!--streaming down his face.  I put Will on the ground, so he could get in the car and gave the bagger her tip.

When I turned around, he was still standing outside the car.  I said, “Come on, buddy.  Let’s get in the car!”

He fixed his gaze on my face and said, “I’m. Not. Getting. In. The. Car.”  Very slowly.  Very calmly.

I walked around him and opened my door, saying, “Then, I don’t know how you’re going to get home.”

Stomping the three feet to the car and screamcrying, he said, “FINE!  BUT I’M NOT PUTTING ON MY SEATBELT!”

These are the moments--the moments when my six-year-old is screaming at me in a public parking lot--when I enact a code RED strategy:
  • Remember I am the adult.
  • Empathize with my child’s true needs.
  • Don’t strangle my child.
After a breath and a mental pep talk (I am the parent.  I am the parent.  I am the parent.), I responded calmly, “That doesn’t sound like a very safe idea.”

My response was met with this: “FINE!  I WILL PUT MY SEATBELT ON!”

As we drove home, Will continued to screamcry off and on for about one minute before I pulled the car over to the side of the road.  From the rearview mirror, we locked eyes, and I spoke firmly.  “Will, if you would like to have a normal conversation in a normal voice about this, I am more than willing to listen, but I WILL NOT listen to you fake cry.  You are not communicating anything with me by crying.  You are six years old.  Not a baby.  When you are ready to talk to me like a six-year-old, I am ready to listen.”

This is what I know about my children: 1) When I inform them of their boundaries, they stop acting like idiots more quickly, and 2) When I am clear about my expectations, they live up to them.  Every single time.  (This is what I know about myself: 1)  I have the ability to create appropriate boundaries, and 2) I have the ability to create fair expectations.  Because that’s what a good parent does.)

I didn’t hear another peep out of Will for about ten minutes.  Part of me wanted to re-engage, to push him to respond.  But the part of me that is most like him knew that the best thing I could do was let him reconcile this on his own time.  I knew he probably had some feelings he needed to express, and he definitely needed to apologize for his behavior.  But he didn’t need to be forced into it.  So I waited.

Ten minutes later, he started (as if only seconds had passed since I last spoke), “It’s just that we did a shopping trip, and we didn’t stop even once to look at the cool things.  We just got food and more food and no fun food.”


“And I didn’t even get a candy or toy.”


“And I just wanted to look at some cool things and get a candy or toy.”

“So, were you frustrated and disappointed?”

“Yes.  And sad.”

“I get that.  Were you also mad?”

“Yes. Really mad because you said no.”

“I get that, too.  Do you want to know how I was feeling?”





“You were sad and mad.”

“You’re exactly right, buddy.  Why do you think I was sad and mad?”

“Because I was yelling.”

Kids are so, so very smart when we let them be.  I went on to talk to him about the fact that sometimes when we go to the store, we get something we want, and sometimes we don’t.  We talked about accepting mommy’s answer the first time.  We talked about the fact that we bought strawberries and cookie dough, two things that we love, so in the end, we DID get something we liked, even if we didn’t think we did in the beginning.

When I thought the conversation was nearing its end, I said, “How about when we get home, we put away the groceries, and we can play a little Wii or jump on the trampoline?”

Will wouldn’t meet my eye in the mirror.  He said, “I’m still a little mad.”

When we got home, Will asked for some white paper.  He found a red pen and started working on his:
Book of Rules
I was informed that I am the “unfairest mom in the entire world and universe and even Mars probably.”  At first, he had plans for twenty rules, but this is what he came up with:
  1. 2 candy
  2. 2 sweat driks
  3. 2 ho video games
  4. en chiyld 2 toys
  5. a sweat and a book
  6. no shcool
  7. wh you want on your br
Here’s the funny thing.  These rules are only slightly different than the rules we already have.  
  1. Everyone is allowed two pieces of candy or sweet treats per day in our house.  You can have it at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or somewhere in between, but once you’ve had two, that’s it.
  2. We can only have ONE sweet drink, but it was a nice try.  There are certainly days when I could use an extra glass of wine Coke.  
  3. We are allowed ONE hour of video games, but we’re lenient on this one if we’re all playing together.
  4. Will explained to me that he decided to use some “aburviations” with some of the bigger words (which tells me he’s been paying attention in our geography lessons!).  So, this one is a rule for the adults in our house.  We are to enjoy two toys with each child every day.  Pretty good addition to the house rules if you ask me.
  5. We frequent bookstores, and the rule has always been that you can have a sweet thing OR a book.  Not both.  I had to shoot that one down and explain (for the umpteenth time this week at least) that he is always welcome to pay for the other thing out of his allowance.  The thing that I buy for him is a privilege because I don’t have to do it.  I just do it because I am, in fact, a very nice mom, probably one of the nicest this side of Mars.
  6. When Will was three, he told me he wasn’t going to college.  He was just going to be a Daddy and get married.  His attitude has changed over time as we have impressed on him the importance of education.  The kicker was when he found out he couldn’t be a space ranger without going to college.  He’s six.  We’ve got time to work on this.  I told him it wasn’t possible to have “no shcool,” but that I would compromise.  We could have “no shcool” all week and the week after that while we have relatives in town.  He thought that sounded like a great idea (which works out for me because that just so happens to be when I wrote in “spring break” for our homeschool lesson plans).
  7. Whatever you want on your birthday (more aburviations).  Absolutely.  I think this should actually be made into federal law.
At one point in discussing our book of rules, I had objected to the “two sweat driks” a day rule based on the fact that it’s important to our family to be healthy, and that would not be healthy, and Will said, “I should just throw this in the trash!  You’re never going to live by these rules!” (Complete with a very dramatic throw of the hand in the air, followed by placement on the forehead, head shaking.)
I put down the cheddar cheese I was about to put in the fridge, sat on the floor in front of him, and cupped his cherubic face in my hands.  “Absolutely not!  We will NOT throw these rules in the trash.  We are going to finish talking about them.  We are going to come to a compromise.  You know why?”


“Because that’s not just a piece of paper.  Those are your thoughts and feelings on that page, and I am never going to throw your thoughts and feelings in the trash!  You have good thoughts and feelings, and even if my thoughts and feelings are different than yours, yours are never, ever trash.”

We finished talking about our rules, and when he asked for a snack, I suggested some milk and Oreos.  After all, he had already had a sweat drik at lunch, but he still had one candy left for the day.


  1. You should consider writing a parenting book. Or at least a parenting memoir.

    1. Consider me considering. I'll add it to the stack of books I've already written in my head. I have promised myself 2012 will be the year of action, so please, friend, kindly hold my feet to the fire if you will. Love you.

    2. Those toes getting a little warm yet? Rock it in 2012, tick tock.

    3. JF...I'm not completely sure who you are (although I have an idea). Keep me accountable.

  2. Awesome post. I love the way you responded to his desire to just throw the rules away. It is so important for these kids of ours to know that their thoughts and feelings are important, even if we don't agree. Nice work today. And you have to keep that book of rules to give him when he becomes a parent one day!

    1. Thanks, Emily. It will certainly be filed away when I decide to take it down from the fridge. :)

  3. Great job of parenting, one of the hardest jobs in the world.

  4. Leia - I love reading your blog when your parents post a link. (I should just become a follower/stalker!) This has to be one of my most favorite posts!! Could you please come save me from the depths of 3 year old drama?!? Again, I LOVE your logic, because it's easy to listen to an adult, but for whatever reason it's easy to forget with a child. (NTS - do a better job at being in the moment!)

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Stacy, and for all the nice things you said. I am swimming in three-year-old drama over here, so I'll let you know when I get some extra time to help you with yours. :)

  5. I've lived these encounters many times. Sadly, I didn't handle them all as wisely as you did. No one ever tells you how utterly and gut-wrenchingly difficult parenting will be. At least, no one ever told me. :-)

    1. Parenting is practice if nothing else. You get better with time. I shared this moment in my life because it was a time when I got it right, but I'm still completely capable of massively parenting fails. Thanks for reading!

  6. Ok, our pediatrician turned me on to this blog. I love it. We begin our homeschooling journey this year and I am definitely subscribing to this blog! I love EVERY. SINGLE. BIT. of this last post. You did not handle it like a child like so many other parents would...just getting angry and frustrated and not working through anything in a positive light. I love that bit about not throwing his feelings in the trash. That showed him he mattered even if you said "no" and were stern about it. Thank you for showing us what motherhood can be!

  7. Thank you so much for reading! Dr. Kelly is a personal friend of mine and the best pediatrician around--it was such an honor for him to pass this along! Truly humbled!

  8. Love this post, Leia! We have code red parenting moments most days, these days, but it absolutely works. Wonderful job, all around.

    1. And by "it absolutely works," I mean it works when I put in the effort and do it right. We also have plenty of code fail parenting moments around here too. Every chance is a chance to get better, right?

    2. So right, Stacey! I would say (at least in our house) 90% of our problems come from my attitude and only 10% from the kids' behavior. :)