Sometimes Your Kid Just Wants a Hug: Give it to Him
Withholding affection is not an effective parenting technique, and if it were, I still wouldn’t do it. Two days ago I watched as a mother of a 3 year old attempted to employ that strategy to get her kid to participate in a gymnastics class. It was a class where the parents were supposed to get involved along side their kids. Well, as some women do, this lady was spending a lot of time talking to the other ladies in the class and not too much of it paying attention to her kid. Predictably, the kid wasn’t having much fun as his mother, who presumably signed up for the class to spend time with her kid, spent her time chatting up the other mothers. His solution was to plop down, cross his arms and refuse to move. The mother, eventually noticing the change in attitude, went to have a talk with him. I don’t know what she said because I was just watching from the outside, but it ended in her bringing the kid out of the gymnastics class and plunking him down on the bleachers (3 feet from me). She told him “When you’re ready to participate and enjoy yourself you just let me know and we’ll go back in.” Then she walked down the hall, found more friends to talk to, and I heard her say “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He just decided not to do anything.” I know what was wrong, Lady. Your kid wanted attention and your reaction was bone-headed and backwards.
I turned to him and gave him a little thumbs up and a smile. I didn’t get a reaction out of him so I just said “It’ll be alright. Hang in there.” I wanted to give him a pat on the back and a hug myself, but seeing as we live in a world where any sign of affection by a man is considered a criminal act, I couldn’t. The best I could hope for was his mother to start parenting without my help. Of course she didn’t. She came back and sat on the front bench of the bleacher, with her back to her kid, pretending she didn’t notice him. I guess she thought he would come to her. He didn’t, and she gave up. She picked him up and took him back into the class and sat with him while the other kids played. I thought to myself ‘maybe she understands now’. She didn’t. Her next move made me want to go in there myself and yell at her, “Your freakin kid just wants a damn hug, you dingbat!” But, I didn’t. She stood up and started playing with the other kids in the class, kids that weren’t hers. She kept turning back to her kid to see if he was jealous yet (because apparently this was all about her). He wasn’t, and it didn’t look, at that point, like he even cared anymore.
After a few minutes of complete boredom on his part I saw him (seated) look up at his mom (standing next to him with her arms crossed defensively) and smile. It was a golden opportunity for her because that was his way of trying to bridge the gap between them. The mother looked down at him, and his smile immediately faded. I didn’t see here expression, but I suspect it was a scowl that killed his smile. Poor kid, stupid, incompetent mother.
Mercifully the class ended, all the parents collected their kids and started to file out. I’ll give you one guess what this lady did on the way out, when all the parents were briefly in the same place in the hallway moving towards the door. Yup, you got it. She stopped to talk to a friend (Thus clogging up the flow of traffic to boot).