I hear parents confuse their children every single day and then punish them for it. My own mother was puzzled about why I would put my one-year-old in time out for pressing the Power button on the TV. Was is an enormous deal that he was pressing the button? Of course not. My issue was this: If I let him do it here, he's not going to understand why he can't do it somewhere else. I've walked into restaurants where a small child or two are wandering aimlessly around while their parents eat. Then when they see us come in they're like "OK, guys. Someone's here. You gotta come sit down." And while the kids are screaming and crying because they don't understand, the parents are saying things like: "I told you you could only do that until someone else got here." Just the other day I was at our local indoor play area and heard a mom telling her three-year-old daughter that she could no longer shove her baby doll stroller down the slides because there were other kids there now. The little girl was obviously baffled and simply stood there for awhile trying to understand what she'd done wrong, why she wasn't allowed to play with her doll in the way she was five minutes ago. What do those other kids have to do with her behavior? Answer: NOTHING.
I don't give parenting advice. I don't think I have any useful advice to give. Except maybe one thing: behavior can't be modified for different situations. If it's not OK to shove your baby doll stroller down the slide when other kids are there, then it's not OK. If it's not OK for kids to wander around restaurants when other people are there, then it's not OK. So may people are like "I don't understand why my kid is acting like this." when they know perfectly well it's because "last time" this was ok and "this time" it's not. OR they say "Oh, it's because last time when no one was with us, I let her do..." First of all, if you think it's OK for your kid to do something LET THEM DO IT. I am absolutely NOT going to decide how your kids should behave - unless it affects MY kid. You want your kids to run along the benches in the play area, that's totally fine. NO, I'm not going to let my kid. Because I said so, that's why. If your kid reaches for food on my plate, I will absolutely stop that behavior myself but if you want her to grab stuff of your plate, that's COMPLETELY FINE. My kid is going to sit with his butt on the chair and use a fork. He's going to say please and thank you, and speak in a nice tone of voice - and I don't have to say these things to him repeatedly because this is how I expect him to act ALL THE TIME. Not just in front of people. I might have to remind him to put his butt down, or to not hold his fork like a shovel. But he's not going to look at me, baffled. He's going to say "Oh, yeah." and adjust to how he knows I expect him to behave.
I know, I ramble and most of you guys probably don't even have kids, so you're thinking "What's the POINT?" My point is this: I am teaching my child NOT ONLY how to behave correctly, but also that we do NOT change our behavior depending on people or situations. We do the RIGHT THING when other people are there AND when we're by ourselves or alone. I am NOT a different person depending on who is there. I am also teaching him that he is not the only person on the planet and that the world doesn't revolve around him. That things are not always equal. He knows he can't have every single thing he wants. Don't get me wrong - I spoil him as much as possible. Sometimes we eat ice cream instead of dinner. But he also knows that when I say NO, that's my final answer. There is no begging. Mommy does NOT give in. I'm firm. He knows he doesn't rule the roost. But today when he gets off the bus and I'm waiting at the end of the sidewalk, he'll RUN to me with his arms open RIDICULOUSLY wide and I'll scoop him off his feet and spin him around and then we'll make cookies. Because I love him and he knows it.
I just want to add this: I know that different parenting stuff works for different people. Kids are all different, parents are all different. People are all different! I just think it's sad when people confuse their kids and then get all angry with them. Just do what you think is right, what works for you - and do it consistently. Screw everyone else. Go with what works, what feels right. Don't let "other people" decide how you let your child behave. What you think is right IS what's right. It is. No matter what anyone else says.