On a recent trip to the grocery store, I overheard a young woman barking to her seven-year-old companion, “Behave! Behave! It is a privilege for you to be doing this with me.” She was squatted down next to him and looked about ready to shake him.
I say she was speaking to her “companion” not her “son,” because I did not get a motherly vibe from her. Probably because she displayed no skills. I don’t think it would really be possible to raise a child to the age of seven and use this technique expecting positive results. I could be wrong, perhaps she was his mother and was at her Friday night breaking point. More likely, she was his much older sister.
What I do know is that is was not a privilege to be anywhere near her that evening. I don’t know what the boy did to provoke such a scolding, he certainly hadn’t caused any disturbance that I saw. Looking at his scared and shamed face made me so thankful that I am no longer a child and subject to the whims of cranky, over-stressed adults. Can you imagine the implication of telling a child that he was so poorly behaved that he didn’t even deserve to be with a miserable, ornery adult at the grocery store? Sheesh.
Clearly, a parent was the missing element in this situation. Someone to send her petulant butt out to the car with a snack and a deep breathing exercise, and someone to put him in charge of the grocery list and later have a talk about how totally rotten a public scolding must feel. Empathy, now there’s a parenting technique.