Reader Essay Analyzing your own parenting mistakes can be discouraging. Pointing out a spouse’s can be dangerous. From a safe distance, identifying other people’s parenting mistakes can be fun and educational. Test your skills at the expense of the “Smiths” with the following scenarios:
1) The Smiths have three simple rules on school mornings: no TV, no computer and no dress-up. One morning, the Smith daughters get dressed for school, eat breakfast and become engrossed in imaginary play featuring Queen Elizabeth. Both girls desperately need to put on dress-up gowns. Can they please, please, please put on dress-up gowns OVER their clothes?
Mrs. Smith agrees. (School doesn’t start for another half-hour.) Seconds later, one daughter is exasperated and tugging at her jeans. They’re showing under her dress-up gown. Can she just take off the jeans? Steam shoots out of Mrs. Smith’s ears as she orders the gowns off until after school.
What was her parenting mistake?
a) Having children. Mrs. Smith is obviously too short tempered.
b) Establishing such limiting rules. Lighten up, Frances.
c) Bending the rules, however slightly. Dress-up is dress-up.
d) Trying to salvage a bent rule. Just let her take off the jeans.
2) The Smiths have purchased a pair of cheap, glittery shoes for their youngest daughter. In theory, the shoes are for a far-off, future Halloween. They are a bit big and could cause blisters if worn on long walks. It is an exceptionally muddy week.
Mr. Smith tells the daughter that the shoes are for inside only. He then leaves for work well before the Smith children need to put on shoes. Mrs. Smith reinforces her husband’s shoe rule for several days, weathering lengthy pleas from the youngest Smith to wear the glittery shoes to preschool.
One morning, when the mud looks minimal in the Smith backyard, Mrs. Smith allows her daughter to wear the glittery shoes to preschool. That afternoon, flouting warnings to stay away from unexpectedly muddy terrain, the daughter accidentally plunges one glittery shoe into brown muck.
Steam shoots out of Mrs. Smith’s ears as she scolds her child and implies that the shoes are ruined. Mrs. Smith later agrees to try to wash off the mud. (Most of it comes off, with some slight glitter loss.) She reinstates the inside-only rule for the shoes.
a) Buying the glittery red shoes.
b) Allowing Mr. Smith to set rules by himself.
c) Failing to honor Mr. Smith’s rule, however difficult to maintain.
d) Failing to anticipate unexpectedly muddy conditions.
e) Trying to rein in the shoe passions of a budding Imelda Marcos.
f) Reacting without sympathy when the shoes got muddy.
g) Not buying two pairs of cheap, glittery shoes.
h) Reinstating a rule that is obviously not working.
i) All of the above—and there are probably more.
3) Several times, without incident, the Smith family has enjoyed a loaf of tasty, gooey cinnamon bread from a local bread store. For several days, the Smith daughters have requested another loaf. One morning, Mrs. Smith serves the bread. After an initially enthusiastic response, one daughter complains about the tough crust and asks that hers be cut off. The other daughter complains about the lack of a gooey pocket of sugary cinnamon in her slice of bread.
The following morning, Mrs. Smith serves the rest of the bread. She cuts into a gooey pocket of sugary cinnamon and makes sure that each daughter has an equal portion (half a slice). One daughter complains that she wanted a WHOLE slice with gooey pockets. The other daughter does everything in her power to coat herself with sugary cinnamon. Mrs. Smith cleans up the mess and questions her sanity. (To her credit, no steam shoots out of her ears.)
a) Feeding young children gooey, sugary cinnamon bread for breakfast.
b) Serving it two days in a row.
c) Failing to purchase enough loaves so everyone could have the desired quantity of gooey pockets of sugary cinnamon.
d) Failing to cover mess-prone children in plastic tarps prior to serving gooey bread.
e) Failing to seek psychological counseling.
4) Yes or no: The Smith children’s practical (non-glittery) shoes are getting snug. If one daughter has a cold and the other daughter will probably have to go to the bathroom right after school, should Mrs. Smith proceed with her plans to take her children shoe shopping right after school? (Note: Mrs. Smith may also be experiencing the onset of PMS.)
Answers: 1) c, 2) i, 3) a, b, and/or e, 4) No, don’t do it, Mrs. Smith.
If you got all of these answers right, please contact me so that I can put you in touch with Mrs. Smith. She obviously needs you.
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