This morning I saw a piece on Jezebel about how parents in Park Slope, Brooklyn are backing a ban on ice cream trucks at their local park because their kids see the trucks and want ice cream. Then the parents say no because of childhood obesity and stuff and then the children cry and everything is ruined. So the solution that some parents, at least, are agitating for is to ban ice cream sales at the playground.
You should go read the piece. Jezebel's take is that banning ice cream trucks is redonk and that these parents need to man the eff up and deal with the kids' whining and wheedling, that it's a parent's job to "deny them, again and again, until they grow up to be people the rest of us can tolerate being around." I have an affinity for this view, which is expressed in Jezebel's signature style. I mean, yes, just because a child gets mad and cries does not mean that there is some problem needing a solution.
But what I thought as I was reading it, though, was, "Geez, buy them an ice cream." Not every day, and NEVER after a fit has been pitched or whining is underway. But lord, that's the time and place for sweets. It's what I think of as a high-impact treat. Lots of bang for the buck. Spend your sugar allowance on ice cream at the park and not fruit loops for breakfast every single day or some other crap loaded with HFCS.
While I was in my active weight loss mode, I formulated a rule for myself (guided by Michael Pollan's Food Rules, which I highly recommend). I wouldn't eat what I thought of as "meaningless bread." You know, bread eaten for no reason and for no occasion, just gluteny carbs. But at someone's birthday party, I would have a piece of cake. Just make it matter. Make it an honest treat that means something.
And ice cream at the park is making it matter.
What do you think?
The other, deeper aspect of this that troubles me is the idea that it's normal for your kids to totally fall apart when they don't get what they want. I swear, after the age of two, this is not the case. They need to be more resilient than that. Part of the trick of this is that you've taught them that whining will never, never work, but for Matt and me, it's also that they DO get what they want a lot. They don't feel that life is an endless series of no's, which means that when the answer is no, you can point to all the yesses, and they know more yesses are in the future.
When my kid got excited about the ice cream truck and asked for a treat, I would say, "Okay." And make it a big occasion! "Yay, ice cream! Which one are you going to get?" Then, later at the grocery store, I would say, "No, you don't need that free cookie they give out at the bakery. You had ice cream, remember?" End of story.
I think the word "permissive" has taken on some slightly negative freight. But I guess our parenting style is basically permissive. I mean, we have core principles and values about what we think is important, but we lean toward saying yes a lot of the time. When one of our kids does complain about not getting/doing something, we're like, "Dude. Listen to yourself! You don't have a leg to stand on here."
Look for my forthcoming book, Dude, Listen to Yourself: Tactful and Respectful Communications with Children.
I wonder if some of these crying Park Slope kids feel that they are in a pitched battle with their parents over every indulgence, so every bit of anything they think they want has to be Custer's Last Stand, and both parties are stressed out over it.
I mean, we all grew up asking for candy in the checkout line at the store, right? I don't remember our parents being too bothered about saying no. In fact, TRUE STORY: Once when I was four or five, I asked for a little plastic suitcase of candy at the cash register at Ben Franklin. My dad said no, but I picked one up and opened it anyway. He took it from me, paid for it, and then poured the candy in the garbage outside the store. So you know him as the kind and loving Camp Papa in my comments, but he is also the Pourer-Out of Candy. THAT HAPPENED.