Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekly Column: Don't Be Vague

Walking into the department store with my two year old, I paused for a warning in my most serious mom-voice: “Be good, okay?”

With angelic eyes, she agreed, so we held hands through the doorway and made our way into the store. It must have seemed like an amusement park to my toddler, because no sooner than we’d entered, she tore her hand out of mine and raced for the nearest rack of clothing. I darted around in the junior’s department, following the high-pitched giggle of my rule-breaking girl.

She was gloriously unrestrained and she wasn’t going to give up without a fight. When I caught her, she threw herself limply to the ground before bursting into wailing screams, kicking her feet, and, I’m sure, cursing me in her own language.

Obviously, her idea of good behavior was glaringly different than mine.

We tried again a few days later in a different store, but this time, I had a plan: I’d still tell her to be good, but I’d explain what ‘being good’ meant. “In the store, there’s no screaming, no running, and make sure to hold mama’s hand. If you scream, run, or let go of my hand, you have to get in the shopping cart.” She agreed, again, to the rules, and we set off for a much easier shopping trip. She wasn’t perfectly well-behaved, but I felt better knowing I’d been clear with the rules.

Now, I make sure to always outline our expectations according to our destination: whispering in the library or church, staying in sight at the park, not throwing food at a restaurant, and so on. It takes a few extra minutes before the fun can begin, but the payoff is worth it. Nothing feels better than NOT chasing an escaped toddler through a public space.


  1. Ah, yes...I've definintely learned that I need to be very specific with my children {and my husband for that matter}. It is sometimes a pain to have to lay everything out like that all the time...but it saves us all in the end!

  2. I can see this in my head! At least it's a little better. She's so cute, though. :)

  3. I've learned this the hard way, and sometimes I still forget. :)

  4. You know that's what bugs me about the curious George book we have. The man with the yellow hat just vaguely says be good and then poor little George just acts like a monkey and gets upbraided for his natural curiosity. The man never specified don't try to fly like a seagull or jump over the side of the boat.

  5. Ha! Yeah. Even with the rules clearly laid out, Levi still bolts in stores. There's something about racks of clothes that just scream playground to him. Needless to say, he winds up in the cart a whole lot.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?