I know people talk all the time about the terrible twos. I never had terrible twos. Two was still a cute age for us. Three was when we started having issues. Three has been one long year that has continued on into four. I don't want to make it sound like my son is awful, nor have we been working on the same problem for an entire year. (though there are some things like manners that we really have) In a personality book I read it describes him as being an "L" or Lion personality. It says lions are take charge, assertive people who like being in charge....even of you. That is my son. So my struggle as a parent is how to foster his leadership tendencies without letting him become disrespectful and rude. It is really hard!! In my writing I discovered one pattern of behavior that has helped a bit. When I take the time every day to play at least one thing where he gets to be in charge our day is almost always better.
Lately, we have encountered issues when we go out in public. This is a first for us. Up to this point he has always been easy to shop with. It really seems like he has been testing all the boundaries to see what reactions he gets. Isn't that scary? Think what you want, but kids really are like that. He pushes me to the edge frequently to see where he might put a crack in the rules. Sometimes my walls get battered every day. Sometimes it feels like every second of every day. So, lately getting groceries has been something of a challenge. He is loud and hyper. If I stop to talk to someone I know he is loud and interrupts. When people talk to him he gives them a grumpy face and is rude. It's really embarrassing. Now at home that doesn't happen as much because he knows you can send him to his room or time out. Where are you going to send him when you're at the grocery store? Certainly you aren't likely to spank your kid in the store because someone might give you the evil eye or call you a bad parent. They are smart enough to recognize this.
So what do you do? The first thing I hear a lot of parents say is to just avoid going to the store at all. It's not worth the struggle or embarrassment and the kid will grow out of it right? Well, avoiding public places is not an option for me. Even more important than that is I do not see myself as the kind of mom who is going to have a four year old control where I can or can not go. Once a child figures out they have that kind of control it never stops. The other thing we assume is that we must not have passed the parenting 101 class. It's so easy to blame ourselves and take it personally. What we need to keep in mind is that the behavior is a normal developmental stage. Hear me out this does not make it acceptable behavior. However, it is so easy to look at an out of control kid and blame the parent. All kids throw a fit in public at some point. Unless you see that kid on a regular basis you have no way of knowing if that was the first and only episode or the millionth. Instead of taking it personally, I have decided to take responsibility. Mommy is getting revenge. From now on the grocery store is my little practice place. Sorry patrons, this means war.
Before we go in the store we will go over the rules that we abide by in the store, such as inside voice, no whining, and speaking nicely when spoken to. If he speaks rudely to someone we will stop right there and explain to that person that we are trying to learn good manners and we will apologize and say at least one nice thing to that person. No more ducking my head in embarrassment because I don't know how to explain my child's behavior. The only real way kids can learn is by having a chance to practice. Staying at home does not allow for that. So I am not taking my child's behavior personally, but I am taking responsibility for it.