My son and I had an outing where we went to the store together to get the week’s groceries. We have done this from the time he was born, and as he got older, he participated more frequently in the choices of what to buy. He was quite protected from the world of sugar at home and did not watch TV, so we seldom had a disagreement about what to buy. I didn't know what all the fuss was over taking kids grocery shopping.
When he was almost 4, his baby brother was born and we decided to take him along. Everything went well until we got to the checkout line and he asked for gum. I said no and he began to have a full blown tantrum, I was completely overwhelmed with the baby, the groceries and him. So I bought the gum. All the way home, I kept saying to myself, “You are being controlled by a child! This can only get worse.”
I consulted with a friend and we agreed that she would come with me the following week on our grocery trip and I would try to Set the Limit and Staylisten.
All went well until the checkout. He demanded gum and when I said no, he pushed his little fingers into the spaces on the wire display rack where the gum was – right at his eye level. My friend took the baby and handled the groceries and after peeling his fingers out carefully one by one with him screaming the whole time, I took him aside and got on the floor with him. I had to hold him so he would not hurt me as he flailed. I wrapped myself around him and had my face near his ear. I told him we were not going to get gum and that I could see he was pretty mad. I struggled to figure out what to say (and not say), and resisted the temptation to “explain” why. I said things like, “You really like gum, and are very disappointed.” He kicked and screamed for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, my friend was engaged in very lively conversations with people in the store, explaining what we were doing. I could hear them off in the distance, some people laughing, some angry. Finally I said something about things being different now with a baby brother and he cried hard, saying that I loved the baby more than I loved him. I calmly said that I loved him as much as ever and was so proud of him.
He finally fell asleep in my arms, and I carried him to the car. He woke up happy. I took as much time that week as I could to reassure him that he was not being replaced. My friend encouraged me to say all the things I did not say to him in the store, the explanations and my own internal exasperation, in our Listening Partnership time, and I said some ugly and mean things. We laughed at how terrible it would have been if I had said them and how much more complicated everything would have gotten, especially his feelings about his brother.
The next week we went again, with the baby. He asked for gum at the checkout. I said no. He said, “Phooey!” and that was that. I was prepared to Staylisten again, but was glad I did not have to.
-Certified Instructor, Emmy Rainwalker