Yesterday, my errands took me across the path of a gentle older lady who was a cashier at the local dollar store. But, for a minute, let me backtrack...
One of my uncompromising discipline staples as a mother is that I do not give in to or reward bad behavior. (Well, that's my goal; I'm sure I'm not perfect in execution.) Manners and politeness are required; fussing and whining are not allowed.
This past week or so, my one-year-old daughter, who is normally nothing but sugar and spice and everything nice, has become moody and fussy and is constantly crying and throwing tantrums. About EVERYTHING. It's sort of thrown me off guard, and I think I maybe subconsciously thought it was my fault, like I wasn't giving her enough love or attention and that was her way of getting my attention...And I kept making excuses for her, "She's just tired...She's teething and her teeth are bothering her...She's hungry..." But the point is, I was so focused on making sure she felt loved and special that I didn't even realize that I was catering to her bad behavior.
Until I was checking out at the dollar store. Hmph. Fia saw the candy and mints and was squawking wildly for some. Now, in my own defense, I just want to throw out there that I was planning on buying some mints anyway; let's just keep that in mind! So, I was trying to calm her and was letting her pick which one she wanted.
This older cashier lady said kindly, "Oh, aren't they just like that sometimes? Earlier today a grandma was in with her twin boy grandsons who were acting similar, but she didn't give them what they wanted and reward their behavior, and I was glad to see it! It just takes once, and they know...Aren't they so smart?..." Albeit gentle, it was still a slapping rebuke. If there's one thing that always makes my blood boil, it's strangers commenting on my parenting technique...in a negative fashion. (If they want to tell me how great a mother I am, they can comment away!)
I just enacted my "smile and nod" defense mechanism to get out of there as quickly as possible, but once safe in my car, away from judging eyes, I felt angry--"Who is she to say such a thing to me? She doesn't know us and she doesn't know what our morning was like..." etc. But then I felt a gentle prodding in my spirit, "Does it matter what your morning was like? Is bad behavior ever justified?" And I knew that I was angry because I knew that she was right; she had brought to my attention an issue that I was for some reason blinded to. I knew that if she had said that same comment about another mother, I would have agreed with her wholeheartedly, and I felt convicted.
After a short battle in my spirit between self-righteous anger and humble acceptance of reproof, the latter won, and I immediately changed my manner of responding to my precious, ill-tempered child. And you know what? The results were dramatic. She shaped right up, lost the attitude, and has been back to her sweet self. So, thank you, Dollar Store Cashier, for your brazen nerve. It was just what the both of us needed.