Friday, March 18, 2011

Parenting: The Game You Can't Afford to Lose!

I have learned something very important in the last few days, and that is that Sesame Street is truly addictive.  My son and I were watching it, and I actually caught myself watching it and paying attention to it too.  That's crazy!  

Normally, when we have the television on it is pretty much background noise because the little man can’t sit still all that long, but with Sesame St. it was different.  He actually got mad at me when I tried to play with him, which of course made me worry that he was becoming a couch tater, so I turned off the T.V.  Boy what a tantrum that caused!

The little man was acting like I killed his puppy or something.  There were toys flying around, tiny baby fists smacking the ground, and what I can only assume was a toddler's version of a verbal assault that would shame the devil!  

It was adorable!  

Unfortunately, I had to put a stop to it because I have seen what baby tantrums turn into as the kid gets older.  

You know, this was the first time that had I actually said anything sternly to my little mighty mite.  All I said was, “Calm down.”   I didn’t yell it out or even really raise my voice at all.  I just said it in a way that meant, "I mean it this time."  Well, as soon as the words came out of my mouth he just sort of  looked at me like I was a trader, but it did the trick, and it broke my heart at the same time.  

He calmed down.  I felt awful.

It wasn't like that was the first time I have ever reprimanded him, but it was the first time that I had really meant it, and he could hear it in my voice.  Before, when he has been naughty I usually smirk and laughingly tell him to cut it out and he would stop, but this tantrum was different.  This time he wasn’t stopping with a few laughs, a smile, and a hug.  He was in it for the long haul.  He was pissed and he meant business!  

What was I supposed to do?  I couldn’t let him out maneuver me.  If he won this battle, it would set me up for a losing streak I don’t know how many years long.  It was another one of those "Nut up or Shut up" moments.  I knew what had to be done.  I had to stop this cycle of behavior before it began  no matter how much it hurt me to do so because  I am not about to let my baby be a tantrum throwing little brat like so many of those other jerky kids that I often see in the grocery stores and restaurants around here.  I had to nip this in the bud, and I had to do it quick like.

What few parents tell other first time parents or anyone for that matter is that sometimes being a parent is a lot like being in an extremely long chess match, and that is kind of fitting.  In both, chess and parenting, you have to be able to predict possible outcomes in order to be any good.  Now, I am a crappy chess player, and I am trying my hardest to be a decent daddy, so I am bound to make a lot of mistakes, but I am relatively certain that had I let the little man win this time as a result of his huge tantrum, I would have set the precedent for countless other tantrums and what not because he will know that tantrums work to get him what he wants.  

Well, that's not going to happen on my watch.  I have seen this happen before with a lot of other bratty kids, so, naturally, I am concerned that my kid would be no different if given the chance and I didn't do anything about it.  I had no choice.  I had to block the future tantrums and fights from happening.  I had to start teaching him that he cannot always get his way and have what he wants.  A stalemate wouldn't have been good enough here.  I needed a win.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not really equating chess with parenting.  I fully understand that being a parent is so much more important!  I am still only grasping at how important it really is because I am not sure if I will ever be able to understand what's really at stake here.  So, what I am really saying is that in order to be a good parent, you have to strategize like in chess.  There has to be a definite game plan or you are going to fail miserably, and none of us want that.     

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