What is a parent to do?
I think parents are in a lose-lose situation. This isn’t in all cases — and I think everyone faces this in some aspect of their life, but it really struck me on a recent business trip.
To back up a step, I think I need to explain a little more about my approach to things. When faced with a situation, I mentally play out the various courses of action one can take and the resulting scenarios — then pick the course of action that produces the desired result, or if that isn’t possible, then next best. And as the Wifey (pronounced whiffy) can attest — I do this for even the most mundane tasks like deciding on which place for takeout. Annoying, I know.
So, I really hate the lose-lose scenarios.
Take this example: Parents on a plane with a quasi-fussy toddler — say, around 18 months – 2 years old. Old enough to be vocal, young enough not to fully understand discipline. As the parent, you have some choices:
1. Calmly try to get your crying toddler to calm down. Use a gentle tone and the standard goofball gimmicks to get the little one giggling.
A. Kiddo takes the bait and calms down until next meltdown. Everyone around you mentally notes your tremendous abilities as a parent but also think it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
B. Kiddo keeps on keepin’ on with the meltdown. Everyone around you mentally notes your inability to be a good parent since you are clearly not doing enough to control the situation — some actually talk to the flight attendant about what can be done to calm down your child.
2. Strictly discipline your child with “this is not appropriate behavior” type language and a dour tone.
A. Kiddo calms down, but everyone around mentally notes that you are a terrible parent for talking that way to a child. Disciplining in public should never happen. This shouldn’t have happened, but now everyone knows why it did — you’re a bad parent.
B. Kiddo keeps on keepin’ on with the meltdown. Everyone around you mentally notes that you are clearly a dictator that should not have children — some actually talk to the flight attendant about what can be done while others try to intervene directly thinking the child is in danger.
3. Do nothing.
A. Kiddo calms down, but everyone around mentally notes that your kiddo is going to have a life of no restrictions and that you are an absentee parent.
B. Kiddo keeps on keepin’ on with the meltdown. Everyone around mentally notes that you have met their expectations by doing nothing about your crying child. You are a typical parent with a complete lack of care for the people around you — and some actually talk to the flight attendant about what can be done to calm down your child..
I am not proposing that everyone on the plane is thinking like this — but I know prior to being a parent, I had thoughts like this and never realized that the parent was going to lose in my mind no matter what happened. The only solution for me was for the parent to provide and exact parenting approach, known only to me and having only one desired outcome: stopping the meltdown. We all know that the success rate of such a solution is <1%.
As a parent, I now understand the stress of taking my child into public — and have seen parents break under it. Everyone has an opinion and you aren’t going to appease everyone — and personally, I don’t think you have to appease any of them. I am not asking the world to change on my behalf — I just know that I need to teach my son to be empathetic; to understand that what he knows of the world is just a sliver of what is actually there.
Now, on to figuring out that takeout…
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