The photo of my great niece with crocodile tears on her face sparked a discussion on Facebook. Mom posted a photo of her two-year-old crying because she was told to take her red boots off before church.
The parents allow her to wear her boots anywhere, except to church. She can wear them in the house and out of the house. She can wear them to bed and to town. She just can’t wear them to church because she wears her “church shoes” to church.
Their reason for this restriction is to teach her that church and worshiping God is special. To show reverence to God, they choose to have their princess dress in what they feel is appropriate. (You’re entitled to your opinion; at the same time, it’s their child and they are entitled to theirs just as well.)
You should have seen the outcry from other folks!
- “Let her wear her boots!”
- “If I could go back [in parenting], I’d let her wear her boots.”
- “It doesn’t hurt if she wears her red boots to church.” [Nor, I would like to add, does it hurt if she doesn’t wear them to church. She will survive.]
You know what brought the outcry? The little girl’s tears.
She went from this – (“aren’t I pretty, Mommy?!”)
to this. (“But I want to wear my boots to church!”)
If she had been happy about wearing church shoes, the Facebook friends probably wouldn’t have said a word.
But those tears. Oh, how those tears won over the masses of moms who thought the child really, truly, must have her way. If she wants to wear her boots, then she just must be allowed to do so. Those masses of moms are the ones who would have seen her tears and asked upon her arrival to church, “What’s the matter, darling?”
What is it about being a mom that makes us want to feel sorry for kids when we see them cry? You know – the time you walk into a store and see a child in a cart with mom. The child has those monstrous tears sliding down her doleful cheeks, and instantly, we assume something is just plain wrong.
What is it about a child’s tears that makes us think she has been wronged?
What is it about us that makes us ask, “What’s the matter, honey?” instead of just ignoring the tears? What is it about us that makes us assume she has been wronged instead of assuming that perhaps the child needs to learn she can’t always have her way?
Perhaps it’s time to consider that maybe the child is unhappy because he isn’t allowed to do something he wants to do. Maybe he was just reprimanded by an adult for misbehavior. Perhaps he didn’t get to wear his favorite shirt because it was already dirty. Maybe he wanted to sit by the window in the van and another sibling got there first. Perhaps he’s tired from getting to bed too late the evening before. Maybe he’s sick. Perhaps he didn’t get to have his way and he’s hoping the tears will change someone’s mind.
So we stoop down and ask, “What’s wrong, honey?” putting the adult instantly in the camp of mean parent.
Maybe instead we should just ignore the tears.
Or, maybe we should say something like, “It looks like you forgot your smile this morning,” or “I wonder if you know how to turn that frown upside down?”
When we don’t coddle kids, when we don’t feel sorry for them, when we don’t insinuate that mom or dad is just too harsh, their tears will dry up much quicker than when we fan the flame. We’ve watched a child fall down and get a scrape on the knee. Dad picks the kid up and he’s okay. Then mom shows up, and the tears start. There’s a reason: the child know where he will get sympathy.
Seriously, we can help moms with their kids by not assuming the child has been wronged just because we see some tears. We can help and encourage moms by not feeling sorry for a child unless we truly know what has happened. We can also help a mom by not making her feel guilty for not giving in just because her child has tears.
How else will a child learn that the world does not revolve around his whims, and that pouting is not the correct way to negotiate?
How will a child learn that “No” means “No”, unless we start teaching him when he’s young?
Our prisons are full of people who have not learned to listen to the word “No.” Our schools have to expel students because they’ve never learned that “no” means No.
Many folks weren’t taught that “No” still means “No” even though life isn’t fair. They’ve not learned that we get to choose our response but we don’t, however, always get to choose the consequences. Our children need to learn that principle, and we do them a disservice when we undermine the authority of the parents who are teaching them this verity of life.
How else will he learn to handle reprimands from an employer or teacher unless he learns to listen and correct his ways when he’s a child? How will he learn to follow rules and orders if he’s never made to listen to rules and order at home? How will he learn to listen to the voice of God in his life if he’s never had to give up his “it’s about me” mentality as a child? If all a child has to do is cry to get his way, how will he make it as an adult when tears won’t work the magic?
There’s so much talk these days about how kids feel entitled. Could it be that we – the adults in their lives – are teaching them to expect to be entitled by feeling sorry for them when they pout or shed tears? Could it be that the adults are partly to blame?
Maybe it’s time we allow parents to be the parents instead of feeling sorry for a child who needs to stop crying because he didn’t get his way. I sometimes wonder what would happen if, instead of asking, “What’s the matter?” we’d smile at a child and say, “Oh, it looks like your smile has turned upside down today!”