"Smart, audacious and often hilarious. Takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear." - Jennifer Jason Leigh



This post is not the way I wanted to start off the New Year, but alas, I’m sure getting yelled at by his dad wasn’t the way the little boy I saw at the park wanted to start of his New Year’s either. In fact, I’m sure the Dad who was doing the yelling was himself hoping to start of the new year with a lovely walk with his family on a particularly gorgeous, warm, clear Los Angeles day. He wasn’t out to be a dick. But things don’t always go as planned.

You see, I was walking my dog back home when I saw this mom pick up her toddler. Ahead of her was her husband. Behind her was her other son, who was likely four. Just then, the four-year-old stopped and let out a loud, guttural “Ahhhh!”

“No screaming!” his mom screamed back at him.

And that’s when his Dad jumped in and added “If you scream again, you’re going to be in trouble.”

(While this is besides my point, I have to rhetorically ask: Wasn’t one parent telling him not to scream enough? And if you can’t scream amongst the redwoods in the largest city park in the country, where the fuck are you supposed to scream?)

I can tell you this.

It was hot.

The kid was in a long sleeve black sweatshirt and long pants.

And based on where we were, they’d likely been walking at least a little while which to a four-year-old can seem like a long while. And some of it was uphill.

So all of that says to me that perhaps the little boy was screaming because he may have been hot or tired or wanted some of his mom’s attention that his little brother was getting. Or all three. Or something else. Whatever it was, when a child lets out a scream, it means something. Something like, I’m uncomfortable. Help me.

Which brings me to one of the roughest Catch 22′s of being a kid:

Little ones are not particularly adept at assessing their own needs and then conveying them to their parents in a way that will help them get those needs met. In fact, they often do it in ways that will land them in “trouble.” Things like: screaming, hitting, spitting, stomping their feet, calling people names, starting a fight, and complaining—you know the usual stuff that drives parents so crazy that they then— in their clumsy attempts to meet their own need for some  peace and order— threaten their children with being “in trouble.”


Now for this Dad in particular, I don’t know what his “in trouble” was referring to. Perhaps he meant that he’d give his son a time out, or would yell at him some more, or give him the cold shoulder or no dessert or a spanking or take a toy away when he got home. Whatever it was it would be something to put his son in trouble, what Webster’s calls “a state of distress”.

Just what he needs!

A kid in a state of distress acts out (as in does something adults don’t like) to indicate he’s in a state of distress which puts his parents in a state of distress so they threaten to put him in another state of distress if he doesn’t stop acting distressed.


How about: “Honey, you’re screaming. You sound upset. Is something wrong?”

That’s all.

And if the child was hot, his dad or mom could offer to take his sweatshirt.

If he seemed jealous of his younger brother, a parent could offer to hold his hand.

If he seemed tired, they could have asked him if he wanted to stop and take a break.

(And as a side note, doesn’t “in trouble” sound so dated to you? So 1970′s? I mean really, who wants to spend their childhood either being in trouble or out of trouble?)

Isn’t it so much better to just meet a child in a state of distress with some interest, some compassion and some assistance rather than meeting a state of distress with a threat of another state of distress?

How about deleting IN TROUBLE from your parenting lexicon for 2012?

Here’s to an in-troubleless 2012!











36 Responses to “YOU’RE GONNA BE IN TROUBLE!”

  1. [...] Jag vill gärna undvika att straffa mina barn. Varken fysiskt eller psykiskt. Jag vill inte att de ska gå omkring och vara rädda för att själva göra fel, för att då minsann kommer de få smaka på konsekvensernas sura eftersmak. Jag vet själv hur [...]

    • Jennifer says:

      translation: I would like to avoid punishing my children. Neither physically or mentally. I do not want them to go around being afraid of ourselves do wrong, for then indeed they will get a taste of the impact the sour aftertaste. I know myself how [...]

      i think this means you are sharing this on your site. thank u.


  2. Boriana says:

    Love all the comments, feedback and responses…..particularly the ones about siblings! We are playing with the idea of having a second child and this is all very insightful!! I also could not agree more about shopping online vs. going to the store (when possible of course and when its not for food). Especially when the child is still a baby. I saw quite a few little ones at IKEA last weekend and almost broke into tears!! I wanted to scream at the parents – yes!! A couple of the babies were in such distress…. I do not have a blog but I had to vent and David heard it all.

  3. Jaclyn says:

    This is wonderful! I think this paints the perfect picture for a lot of parents who mean well. It is hard to do if this wasn’t how you grew up but it makes so much sense! Thank you!

    • Jennifer says:

      hi jacklyn!

      thanks for the new subscriptions and for writing in. welcome.

      yes…definitely a MAJOR CHALLENGE when it wasn’t how you were raised..and since 99.99% of us were not raised that way it would be challenge for virtually all…that is if they take take on the challenge.

      but the more you practice it…the easier it gets!


      • Jaclyn says:

        I’ve have been trying to explain this to my wonderful husband for sometime. It’s just not the same coming from me though. I read this to him last night and I think he actually gets what I have been trying to tell him. Thank you!

        • Jennifer says:


          This makes me so happy to hear. Yes! It is often so hard to hear this kind of thing from our partner. I agree…an outside source and gentle nudge can be a great help. Was there anything in particular that he was able to relate to? Might be helpful for other dads…

          Thanks for sharing!


          • Jaclyn says:

            It takes the whole post to make sense, but the part I’ve been trying to explain to him is this, “Isn’t it so much better to just meet a child in a state of distress with some interest, some compassion and some assistance rather than meeting a state of distress with a threat of another state of distress?” I’ve have been trying to get him to start out being more compassionate before he tries to be the “DAD!” Being the dad is hard, and it is also hard for men to learn what being the “dad” means. A lot of us grew up with the tv dad where what he says goes and nothing is questioned when in reality and in my opinion this doesn’t work out so well.

          • Jennifer says:

            ahh yes! thanks for that.

            and you are TOTALLY right. no dad should have to be “the dad” that’s an awful role to have to play…better to be someone truly concerned with your child’s emotional well-being instead of being a dick. everyone will be happier…but a hard mold to break out of.

            need lots of practice. have you and / or your husband read this piece: http://goodjobandotherthings.com/you’re-stupid-mommy-go-away-you’re-yucky/

            i think it can be helpful.

            the thing is this is all fine and good theoretically BUT what happens is that in the heat of the moment, during all of the stress and frustration many of us revert to saying and doing things we regret. it’s okay if we we REPAIR them. but better to handle it more compassionately from the start. it does get easier with practice….question: where do u live?


          • Jaclyn says:

            This is out of order, but we live in California.

          • Jennifer says:

            any where near la?

          • Jaclyn says:

            I can’t seem to reply in the right order now. We live in northern California, Lakeport. It’s in Lake County.

          • Jennifer says:

            ahh! thx jaclyn.

  4. vivica says:

    a friend shared your blog on facebook. i was very excited to read it! i fully agree with your parenting philosophy, and love the aspect of it. however i was disappointed at the actual presentation. this is the response her post got from me on facebook. please keep in mind, i DO agree with you, but i find your writing harsh, hateful and judgmental toward other parents. after all, arn’t your trying to teach your children acceptance along with strength?
    here is the post:

    “oh man. that blog rubbed me the wrong way. i would not want to be friends with that woman, nor subscribe to her blog. the weird part is, i agree with her parenting philosophy! it is very MONTESSORI in nature. she keeps going on and on about showing her kids respect and respecting their space, body, nature etc…but where is the respect for the reader or the parents of the other kids in her town? holy crap! how does she know that the child didnt BEG to wear that hot sweatshirt and thje mother told him it would be hot but he chose it anyway? how does she know that the mother was doing her best to not be combative, and letting him make his own choice and discoveries? how does she know that the parents didnt previously offer to take the childs sweater and he refused because he wanted to wear it? this woman makes me batty!! she was very disrespectful toward her fellow ‘citymates’ in every single post i read. if she wants to teach her children how to respect themselves, and others, and to expect to be respected themselves….she should take another look at her blog.”

    i will add that i agree, the parents should not have yelled at the child. ever. and the wording the father chose was less than productive, and probably damaging. however, it seems to me that you caught them at the peak of a very rough family dynamic, and judged them very harshly for their lack of self control. i wish them luck in figuring out a more productive way to speak with their children. and i hope you can come to an understanding that everyone makes mistakes, it seems you caught them in one of theirs.

    • Jennifer says:

      hey vivica,

      thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on this.

      it is definitely something i’ve heard before, thought about and struggle with.

      as i explain in the about section on my blog, i really have a hard time when i see children mistreated. it’s like it’s happening to me or something. i feel it so deeply. And intellectually i know that their parents were more than likely mistreated as children themselves and so it is written into the psyches and from what i understand about neuroscience, their brains were literally wired in a particular way and that way (usually punitive, reward and punishment style, i know better than you parenting) is so deeply ingrained that it will be the default way they respond to their children unless they 1) have a shift in their thinking 2) literally force themselves to respond in a different way day in and day out until they can create new neural connections to replace the old ones. i know this is extremely difficult. plus parents have the culture working against them. conditional parenting or reward and punishment parenting is TOTALLY PERVASIVE in our culture and in a sense i think it holds us hostage. most can’t even imagine there is a different way to handle situations. so my point is that intellectually I KNOW ALL OF THIS and yet in the moment i feel so much anger towards the parents and feel like i want to defend and protect the children. i cannot do that. and so i blog!

      my blog is my outlet for that. and sometimes i release this “judgment” more than other times but i do it at anonymous people so no one is HURT by it. but i hear you, you think it is so harsh that it is turning away the very people it can help. i hear that. and i do know that sometimes that is the case and other times people see themselves in what i’m saying an appreciate my directness.

      and re: the sweatshirt….even if the child HAD DECIDED to wear the sweatshirt…after hiking one can get hot. i dont’ expect four year olds to be able to prepare for this eventuality. and what’s wrong with walking with your shirt off. he’s a boy and four.

      my personal take on the situation was that the parents had NO IDEA that it wasnt their job to teach him not to scream. In their minds i think they thought they were handling things beautifully. If your child acts improperly, yelling at him in front of countless people in order to get him not to misbehave is what you do. I feel badly that they think this way. I feel worse for the child that they do because he has to grow up with them. It’s a hard way to go. I feel the pain of the next 15 years of his life with parents who are punitive and don’t know there is anohter way to address a child’s upset and “acting out a way that is more understanding and humane. i write it as i see it and try to temper it. i also try to use humor. but as a writer i know i can’t please everyone and if i try my writing becomes sooooo boring. so i try my best. i’ll definitely keep your thoughts whispering in my ear as i work. (i did write one particularly hardcore piece for babble.com and you should see those comments. people flipped out but i stand by my point of view….http://www.babble.com/kid/child-development/damaging-kids-self-esteem)

      again thanks for sharing your thoughts. i truly appreciate it. i love it when people speak up!

      (personally i’m not montessori at all. i’m very pro play-based, progressive education. but i get your point!)

  5. Dara says:

    I love the paragraph that explains the chain of “states of being distressed”. :) You know, I often find those words, “Or you’re going to be in trouble” coming out of my lips purely out of habit and bad training (of me in my own childhood) and I actually do always give pause when I do that and ask myself, “Well, what the heck does the mean anyway?!” And…your list of potential “meanings” for that dad as to what “going to be in trouble” means sounds so shallow…like…if I was to list of my possible meanings of what I mean when I say it to one of my kids…then…I’m really nothing more than a big 3 year old trying to get my way. I really REALLY appreciate this post and it is going to stick in my mind…and it’s going to be that extra boost I need to get me to catch myself before I ever ever say that again… Thanks! :)

    • Jennifer says:

      Hey Dara,

      I think you really nailed it when you wrote that you find yourself saying these things because of habit and the way you were raised. These things so many parents say are so deeply ingrained in the culture that i believe that they are virtually holding us hostage. As parents we have soooooo much working against us. In most cases we have the ways we were raised (which are deeply ingrained into our psyches and will always be our go to under stress unless we’re jedi knights!), and we live in a world where reward and punishment style parenting is pervasive and we don’t have parenting classes readily available or part of our education system so essentially it’s a miracle if we don’t say “good job!” “if you don’t do this then you’re in trouble” and “you’re so cute” and all of the things that i talk about here.

      It’s SOOO hard to just say “How can I be of help?” in the face of screaming or crying or hitting or annoying behavior. But it can be SOO helpful but more importantly sooo humane.

      I appreciate your support of my writing. It means the world to me that you find it of help.



  6. sara says:

    OOOh I’m so interested in your parenting style. I have a daughter who just turned two and a 5 month old. I essentially have two babies. 99% of the upset is caused by her wanting me when I am taking care of/holding her brother.

    Please give me some more actual dialogue of what to say like “it’s hard when you can’t have what you want.”

    I’m not a screamer, but I can feel myself going down this path of threatening her to get her to do what I want her to do and I don’t like it.

    • Jennifer says:

      hi sara,

      i can relate. my children are two years a part as well. my oldest, my daughter, was very and still is jealous of her brother. this is totally understandable. as a second child myself, i can’t even imagine how hard it must be to go from the center of someone’s universe to having to share it. i just wrote about this in a reply to kristin who is struggling with the exact same thing.

      because your older child is likely in mourning, her screaming and crying is so normal. plus she has to work extra hard to get the attention she used to get without any effort. that’s so hard for her. and she’s still SOOOO young. a two year old truly is still a baby, just alive on this earth 24 months!

      if you can try to make extra special times for her each day even just 10 or 20 minutes i think it would go a long way. perhaps make the plans when things are going well…as in “in a little while i’ll have to feed your brother and that may be hard for you. what activity would you like to do when we’re done? Should we get the crayons out now?”

      You can’t take away her tears or her feelings, you can just TRULY empathize with how she feels. “You want mommy’s attention right now. You’re upset I’m taking care of your brother.” That’s it! just restate it so she feels felt. “Do you want a hug?” “Can we all hug together?” Before you develop any solutions (like taking a bath together or coloring) first EMPATHIZE. so important.

      helpful? and i hope you’ll read my reply to kristin!

      this time will pass. it gets easier!


      • sara says:

        Thank you so much. I really love your ideas and writing style. Your blog is EXACTLY what I have been searching for- answers to my real life parenting problems that make sense.

        I’m going to stick around alright, in fact, you may end up banning me for bugging you. ;)

        • Jennifer says:

          sara! so glad u found me.

          glad u’re connecting with these ideas. they’ve genuinely HELPED me so much and made my life as a mom easier, calmer and more sane.

          which doesn’t mean of course there aren’t frustrations etc…it’s just i feel so much more equipped to handle them.

          bug away! (and spread the word!)


  7. Kristen says:

    I just wanted to say that I agree completely with everything you’ve said in your post and in the comments. And I wanted to let you know that I have never subscribed to a blog before… I’ve always bookmarked them [and I've fallen in love with some awesome blogs] but yours is so great, I subscribed! I can’t wait to look around and see what else you’ve got to offer!!

    I do have a question though, what would you suggest to someone having issues with their four year old acting out after baby #2 was born? She has always been the most helpful, patient, understanding, and pretty mature beyond her years… but since baby arrived, she has been throwing crazy fits, not listening, not wanting to help, hitting, screaming, kicking, etc. :/ I’ve been a pretty “peaceful parent” and I’m still learning every day but wow. I’ve lost my temper more in the past few weeks [baby will be 8 weeks on Friday] than I have her entire life! :( It breaks my heart. Talking to her and trying to help her through whatever issue she’s having has always worked but now, it’s like she just doesn’t hear me when she’s like that, or she hears me and just screams louder or hits more. A dear friend has suggested saying such things as “I understand that you’re angry and that’s okay, but you can be angry in your bedroom until you’re ready to talk to me.” Does that seem like a good idea? I hate to just leave her to scream and cry but she doesn’t want me near her most of the time and I definitely don’t want to be hit! I’m at a loss. I think a lot of the reason everything worked so well up until now was honestly because she was just an easy child. haha It was just her nature and I know this is a phase and has a lot to do with her world being turned upside down… I just need ways to get this to stop. I want her to go back to being her happy little self. I don’t like feeling like she’s depressed or something. /:


    • Jennifer says:


      I’m beyond flattered. I take every subscription seriously. I know all of our in boxes are full as hell and so to ask for more is a lot. thank u.

      and thank you for writing me with this question because i’m here to IMPLORE you NOT to send your child away from you. she’ll feel worse! isolated. rejected!

      your child has enjoyed FOUR GLORIOUS years as the center of your attention. it is hard for us to truly understand what it must feel like to have all of that love and attention snatched away from you on a dime. in an attempt to put this into some perspective for parents i heard a story that magda gerber used to ask, how would you feel if your partner brought home a younger, more demanding young lover one day and said “I still love you but i love him/her too and i need you to love her too” or at least be civil and not have any big upsetting feelings about it.

      your child NEEDS to know that her mom is someone who loves her unconditionally, yes even when she hits and screams and cries…she may not be depressed but it sounds like she’s in MOURNING. she’s mourning the death of the life she once had and will never have again. without any perspective or experience she can’t understand that some day she’ll come to love and enjoy the company of her sibling. she just knows she’s not getting what she so deeply loved getting. the mourning process is different for everyone. she needs EMPATHY. she needs space but closeness.

      I’d always try to say the first part “I understand that you are angry” and forget the BUT. She’s only four years old. She shouldn’t be expected to contain or control herself during her period of mourning…it makes me think of how it might feel to say to a woman who lost her child two months ago, you can cry about it, i understand your upset but i can’t bare to hear it so please do it in another room. no one would have the nerve, no?

      hitting, i agree, is not acceptable. but can she push on your hands? i often say, “push against me” or “here’s a pillow” or do you want to jump on the sofa. there are actual ways to hold a child who is hitting…i have to find the link but you can have them sitting in your lap facing out with a grip around their body but not holding down their arms. your child, i think, needs to get the tension and stress OUT of her body and flailing about is a healthy way to do that. you don’t want it stuck inside her.

      if possible, can you plan periods to be with just her? even for twenty minutes at a time. a walk down the block? just special time each day. a bath together?

      and how about making a book? Fold a couple of sheets of regular paper in half and tell the story of having the baby with simple language and stick figures. Maybe call in BECOMING A BIG SISTER IS HARD. no happy ending is necessary or important just a statment of facts and feelings.

      page 1. You were born and we loved you.
      page 2. Mommy got pregnant.
      page 3. A new sister was born who cried a lot and needed a lot of attention. You didn’t get as much attention. That made you cry and hit.
      page 4. Mommy loves you very much.

      something like that…u know what i mean? if you don’t, let me know…i have an older post on book making and it can work wonders. Or just writing down their feelings as they dictate them to narrate a drawing.


      i know it’s so challenging in the first months with a newborn who needs so much and an older child who needs so much too. i feel for you. this too will pass. but i’m soooo glad you wrote in!!!

      please keep in touch if you’d like to.

      page 3

      • Kristen says:

        Oh my gosh. I think you’re my new best friend. haha!

        You’ve just put into words everything I’ve been trying to figure out. Thank you so much.

        And seriously, I’m so so ecstatic that I’ve come across your blog. Wow. I’ll DEFINITELY stay in touch I’m sure I’ll have lots more questions!!!

        Thank you!!

      • Kristen says:

        hi, this is her husband michael and i had a question on our daughter “pushing” against us. see i have TWO girls! wonderful as they are its a lot of estrogen! haha. anyways i want to do all sorts of stuff with them i.e. play football, baseball, go fishing… but when she gets angry and wants to hit do you think it would be selfish of me to want to tell her to hit me to invoke some sort of “battle royal”? haha. i figure we could have fun wrestling and she could get her anger out. oh and fyi i am in no way trying to make my girls into boys haha i have had my nails done and my face “did” more times than i can count! i just want my girls to be happy and healthy and able to understand and deal with their emotions appropriately.

        thanks again,


        • Jennifer says:

          hey michael,

          i think there’s a place for rough housing…if when you do it BOTH are into it AND you are highly attuned to your daughter so you know that she’s into it and if she says no or stop (even if she’s laughing and seemingly enjoying it, that could just be a uncontrollable physical response to tickling) that you do stop. so it’s all about being attuned to your child.

          but when she’s angry…she needs you to help her PROCESS her emotions…not engage in her anger with her. does that make sense? like you could say “you seem angry. i don’t want you to hurt my body but you can push against my hands really really hard” or i’ve even let my kids hit my palms like boxing because it doesn’t hurt me at all.


          and yes! i know what you meant! your daughter is treating you to a day at the salon!

  8. Kaitlin says:


    I came across this post tonight via a friend, and w-o-w. I’m super impressed and amazed and agree so very much with what you’ve written (both in the article and your well articulated comment above). Thank you for writing this. I look forward to getting to know the rest of your work at your site.

    • Jennifer says:


      thank u so much. i really appreciate your vote of confidence. Definitely take a look around. Perhaps even consider subscribing if you haven’t already.

      I hope to be able to continue to make it worth your while.


  9. Joanne says:

    On a kind of related topic, what are your thoughts on teaching about consequences? While in recent weeks “youre in trouble” has crossed my lips, I get so stressed out by my 3 year olds screaming that all other vocabulary leaks out of my brain.

    This screaming – the blood curtling scream – the scream that serves one purpose and one alone – to drive me INSANE. Especially when I am trying to accomplish something that could take 3 mins, this screaming often extends my simple task to 10 or 15 mins – time that could be spent playing with her. But 3 year olds arent known for their patience. Usually I ask her to stop and tell her that I will give her my undivided attention as soon as I quickly finish X (checking out at Target for example). But no – first she has to cause the whole store to stare at her…

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Joanne,

      It seems the holidays are particularly stressful for parents with little children.

      I am all for natural consequences as in “If you can’t get into bed now, we won’t have time to read all three books tonight.” or “It’s 20 degrees outside, if you don’t put on your coat, we can’t go outside.” However, I don’t like to use consequences as in If you don’t do X then…..because it then comes all down to how do you MANIPULATE your kid. I don’t want to get my kids to do things via manipulation. I don’t want to threaten to take things away or not give them something they want. I don’t want them to even think this kind of thing would ever happen so they don’t think of ice cream as a gift or their own toys a gifts. They are theirs to play with and if they are having a problem together we WILL WORK IT OUT.

      When your child is upset I’m guessing it pushes your buttons as it does most of us and if you are busy and under other stress it is so hard to handle it the way we’d like to. But I don’t think yelling at a child (scaring them, in essence saying as a grown up I’m UNABLE to deal right now) is the way to go because it is so scary for little ones to think mom can’t handle things. It is better to say, I feel overwhelmed and need to go get a drink of water or whatever so you don’t pour your anxiety and frustration onto your child or release it onto them.

      Then you can find out what need they have (attention? comfort? food?) that isn’t being met and you can try to help them meet it. If they need to cry, you can’t really rush that…you can only be there with them while they are crying (I know you really want to watch tv, but now isn’t tv time. and then let them cry. you can’t fix their feelings but you can empathize. “it’s hard when you can’t have what you want.”)

      But re: target…

      shopping with little ones is definitely a major challenge for me and something that sometimes goes well and sometimes doesn’t and actually is something i usually do anything to avoid. i prefer to leave them home with my husband, shop online as much as possible etc. But that can’t always happen. If they are very upset at the market (either because they couldn’t get the toy they wanted or because it is taking too long and they’ve had to stay in a cart shopping when they really need to run around) then it is not their job to not feel their feelings just because we are in line. YES! it sucks to have a screaming kid but ultimately easier to say “honey, you’re upset…how can i help” instead of “stop crying until i’m done which will be in a minute” because they aren’t faucets that can turn on and off their feelings. And maybe you’ll have to get out of line, talk with your child, resolve things and then get back in line…it’s not as fast but may be less stressful and helpful for you, your child and everyone in the store.

      what do u think? helpful at all? i’m happy to look at other situations with you to help you untangle them and see what might be a better way to go….

      thanks for writing in and sharing!


      • Dannie says:

        What about another suggestion: Allowing your child to help you check out or help you do some chores. My son is only 16 months old, but I have found when I include him in chores he is less likely to feel like I am leaving him out (and therefore, crying or showing other feelings). So if I am feeding the cats, I have him help me, if we’re going outside I have him get me his shoes, if I have to do some laundry I try to have him help me put it in the dryer (though ours is stackable, so most of the time he helps me close the door), it seems to alleviate any issues for us. :)

        • Jennifer says:


          Thanks for reading the post and sharing your suggestion. I whole heartedly agree. My kids are really much more apt to help when we do things together.

          I appreciate u taking the time….


      • Soda says:

        I don’t know if this would work for every child, but what was very effective for me and my child when he was going through a bit of a phase of being full on at the shops was just walking out of the shop and leaving the groceries behind. I didn’t do it before having a chat (reminding him that we were nearly finished and I could attend to whatever need he had shortly), but if that didn’t work I would just say “this kind of behaviour isn’t ok at the shop”, and then we sailed on out of there. I only had to do this twice, when my son was somewhere between 3 and 4 years old. It seemed to be quite significant for him.

        It can be a little inconvenient to get home without whatever it was you were shopping for, but in a week or so you’ll have forgotten the inconvenience anyway. And if you haven’t paid yet it’s just a matter of the storeperson returning things to the shelves after you’ve left. Even if half the things are rung up it’s still not such a big deal to leave them and go.

        Was this disrespectful to my son in a way I am not aware of? I know I am guilty of treating him disrespectfully many other times (still [STILL!] trying to overcome the “criticism and love-withdrawal” parenting style I was brought up with), but I felt that this was one time I did ok.

        • Jennifer says:

          hey soda,

          thanks for writing in with this example. AND for being so mindful of the way you were parented—ie criticism and love-witdrawl. i really feel for you. that’s such a hard way to have to have had grown up feeling like criticism was lurking around every corner or that if you didn’t act or feel the way your parents wanted you to then they would simply give you the cold shoulder. i really have to hand it to you for being so aware of it. as kids we felt so powerless and its basically coded into our bodies that in order to feel “better” in some way as an adult we do that to our kids. HARD HABIT TO BREAk.

          so, re: your example.

          without being there of course, my take on it is this:

          if your child was making a check out at the market impossible and you took him home in an effort to take him out of an environment that wasn’t helping him or you connect and repair what ever caused him to be so upset, then YES you did the best thing.


          if you did it punitively as in, “if u can’t behave than we’re going home” and making it in any way his “fault” then that wasn’t the best way to go. if you were teaching the lesson that if he can’t handle his emotions properly in the market then he won’t get the groceries he needs that’s not good. but if you were sending the message that you realized it was late and he was hungry or had something really unresolved and you needed to figure it out in the quiet of your own home, than that’s fantastic.

          i think what i may have done is to tell my kid that i want to get at what’s upsetting him / her and the market isn’t the best place. let’s go into the car (or outside) and if we can resolve things and he/she feels heard and understood and can agree to go back into the market so the family can have what they need then great. if not, we’ll come back when the timing is better.


          thanks again for writing in.


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