“Bamboozled”. That’s what we call it in Jamaica
where I am from. In the US where I currently
live they say “pulling the wool over my eyes”.
In my little world of parenting I call it an
invitation for a discipline encounter. I’m
talking about the little game of manipulation.
On this evening in question, I had specifically told my three year-
old to take his shoes from the stairs to his room. There was no
miscommunication – I said it with a pointing finger, beady, squinted
eyes and that ‘you had better do what I say and NOW!’ tone. In a
swift movement, he bee-lined to my husband and whispered: “Daddy,
can you take my shoes upstairs for me?” No way! This little boy did
not just try to undermine me and get someone else to do his job for
him – oh yes he did. Cuddles and all he almost got away with it.
But (trumpets blaring now) he didn’t. Instead he got the same
speech “Landon, go pick up your shoes like Mommy asked”. Pakow
– Bam – Shazam – Parent Power Activate! Unwillingly, huffing and
puffing but surely as the sun is hot, that little boy took his shoes up
This act of Bamboozlement could have gone different ways. It
could have erupted with an argument between my husband and me,
saying the “you should have…, why didn’t you…, you always…, you
never…,” or with one of us going ahead and picking up his shoes
resentfully. However that didn’t happen.
One of the greatest contributors to parental stress is disunity.
Children want what they want right now. They will cry, stomp,
whine and employ tricks that can put a Magician out of business. I
remember seeing this play out in my own life. My Mom as vivacious
as she was she was equally stern. To say her method of discipline was
aggressive would be an understatement. While my Dad’s was the
polar opposite; he yelled, but I never received a spanking from him.
This was made real clear one day when in my innovation, I decided
to cut my own hair. I just knew I was glamorous and I was so proud
of the fantastic way its unevenness jutted out all around my face. I
was about five so hey, I was beyond cute. I looked just like Bam Bam
from the Flinstones – mission accomplished. I mean, who couldn’t
see that? My fabulousity? My Mom. She raced for the belt and I ran
up the stairs screaming for my Dad.
Hiding me behind himself, he switched me from side to side while
my Mom’s belt tried to find its way to connect.
That day, I knew. There was a way out – manipulate. See, there
is a price to pay when parents are not unified. It’s called respect.
Children, especially toddlers in their formative years, need to know
the boundaries. If you are a Single Parent the principle is still the
same. Consistency. Preschoolers need a reliable environment, clear
boundaries and clear consequences or rewards. This is how life works.
We make a choice and receive a reward or a consequence. Some of
the things my husband and I had to do were:
“PAKOW – BAM – SHAZAM
PARENT POWER ACTIVATE!…
THEY WILL CRY, STOMP, WHINE AND EMPLOY TRICKS
THAT CAN PUT A MAGICIAN OUT OF BUSINESS”
1. Define the major rules – agree on the acceptable behavior. Is it
okay to handle knives, throw tantrums, respect others etc. Based
on each person’s experience those personal convictions may vary so
get on the same page.
2. Define the system – ours was LASOO
everything they do must operate out of
these five filters: being Loving, Asking
before doing, Sharing, being Obedient
and being Orderly i.e put your
things back up.
3. Define the rewards
and consequences –
toddlers understand. For us,
then and now, watching TV
is a reward not a right and
responding to an approved
adult is not an option it is
4. Define the roles – both
parents should support each
other. My husband will support what I
mete out to our kids and if he disagrees he
discusses it in private. There is no US versus
THEM it’s just us, all of us.
5. Depend on wisdom – we poured over
the Bible and got our parental
plan there first. On other things we
went to other parents and simply asked
how they dealt with particular issues.
In the end, you have to be fully convinced
that regardless of the circumstance that
brought your child and you together, you
are fully equipped to take care of them.
Whether you are a grandparent taking
care of your grandchild, a divorcee,
widow or married, Dad or Mom, begin
to take note of those fluttery eyelashes
that seek to butter you up. Keep the
line drawn in the sand and beware of
the Preschool swindlers that move
mountains with their screams, and
hearts with their tears. Be bamboozled
no more! Yep. Like that’s gonna
happen – lol!