As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am currently working a day job in retail. This is not my forever job, and it’s definitely not my dream job, but it pays the bills (barely) and I’ve accepted it as a learning tool God has temporarily placed on my belt of, “Skills Diane Needs To Learn To Reach Her Full Potential.”
Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot in the couple months I’ve been cashiering. In an eight hour shift, I average around 40 customers an hour. That’s one customer every 1 1/2 minutes. And, boy do I have the stories to tell!
But that’s another blog post.
Suffice it to say, I meet all kinds. Fortunately, 99% are pleasant. But the variety of personalities and attitudes people portray while checking out is amazing.
So are their parenting styles.
As a result of witnessing hundreds of people in real life situations, i.e., it doesn’t get any more real than shopping for groceries with toddlers in tow, I’ve drawn this conclusion: INEFFECTIVE PARENTING ASSUMES CHILDREN ARE UNABLE TO CONTROL THEMSELVES, THEREFORE WE MUST MAKE CIRCUMSTANCES CONDUCTIVE TO THE CHILD BEING UNABLE TO MISBEHAVE.
EFFECTIVE PARENTING, ON THE OTHER HAND, ASSUMES CHILDREN HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS, AND HONORS THOSE DECISIONS WITH NATURAL CONSEQUENCES.
Case it point: A child sitting in the cart’s baby seat reaches over and pushes my buttons (the ones on my register).
The father, being the considerate man he is, apologizes.
His solution to the problem? He moves the cart away from the register. Which makes it impossible for me to toss his items into the cart without unnecessary force. I explain to him that I need the cart right next to the belt so I can be as time efficient and careful with his items as possible.
He’s bewildered. “But if we put the cart next to the register, then he (Junior) will push the buttons.” The poor man only saw two choices, neither of which respected the child’s ability to obey: Either let him push buttons to his heart’s content or move him away so that he is unable to do so.
Dad’s only solution was to manipulate the environment to prevent Junior from misbehaving, i.e., forcing compliance.
His parenting tools? Manipulation and force.
Another true case: A child sitting in the cart’s baby seat reaches over and pushes my buttons (the ones on my register). Yes, this happens a lot. Like every other customer.
The mother, being the considerate woman she is, apologizes.
Her solution to the problem? She tells Junior to stop pushing the buttons. When he stops, Mom thanks him for exercising his self-control. Note: Child is responsible for his own behavior.
Her parenting tools? Faith and respect. Faith in the child’s ability to make good choices and respect in responding appropriately to his choice.
I think it’s worth noting that, no doubt at some earlier time, Mom told Junior to stop and he didn’t so she promptly and appropriately responded in a way that let Junior clearly know that it was in his best interest to obey. Kids are smart. We’d do well to respect their intelligence and persistence, and teach them to use both to their advantage.
Witnessing this mother’s approach reminded me of how God parents us. He never forces or manipulates. He allows us free choice. We can chose actions and attitudes which bring blessings and good fortune into our lives, or we can chose options which bring us unwanted consequences. Either way, his love for us is unconditional. We can neither earn nor loose his love. It’s steadfast, secure, and eternal.
God believes in our ability to make good choices, and respects us enough to let us face the consequences, often using them as learning tools. We tend to see difficulties in life as bad. Rarely do we see them as the learning opportunities they are.
So, once again, I ask, “What tools do you have on your belt? Do you tend to use manipulation and force? Or do you use faith and respect? In both yourself and others?”
It’s only 9:30 in the morning and I don’t know what the day will bring. But I think it’s time I take inventory of the tools on my belt so I will be ready for whatever comes next.