A mom came in with her two small children; a boy and girl who looked to be between five and seven years old. They stopped in front of the bowls where she said, “See, you take a bowl and then go over here and put the flavor of yogurt you want in the bowl.” (They moved down the line to stand in front of the yogurt dispensers.)She then guided them further down the line to stand in front of the toppings bar. The toppings bar (in case you don’t know) is filled with containers of crushed candy bars, nuts, fruit, sprinkles, gummy bears and all sorts of other goodies you can top your yogurt with.
You could see the children’s eyes getting bigger and bigger as they listened to their mom telling them that a person could choose as many of the goodies as they wanted to put with their yogurt. “And then,” she said, “you take it to the person at the counter, pay for it and then sit down to eat it.”Emma and I expected to see the children and their mother go back to the bowls and begin their delicious yogurt experience. But that is NOT what happened. Instead, the mother of these children said, “See, doesn’t that look good? We aren’t going to get any today, but we will come back soon and when we do you will know what to do. Okay?” And with that the three of them walked back out the door—the children not saying a word.
BAM! Talk about taking the wind out of somebody’s sails! Emma and I just looked at each other not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Did she really just do that to her kids?Okay, I admit—we laughed. It was the I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened kind of laugh. But we were not nearly as amused as we were dumfounded and even sad for those two kids. Their little faces fell when their mom announced they were leaving empty-handed.
As parents we need to be careful to not dangle the proverbial carrot in front of our children’s faces—exasperating them. You cannot dangle your attention, support, time, encouragement and even your love in front of them and then yank it away because you are too busy or because your children disappoint you or don’t live up to your expectations. To do so sets them up for low self-esteem and insecurity, resentfulness and rebellion that can lead to making poor choices that may also be life-altering choices.Our children aren’t cups of yogurt; hoping you’ll load them up with toppings called acceptance, trust, encouragement and unconditional love. They are children—your children—and should never be made to feel as if they have to wait for some other day for you to parent from the heart.