We Floridians love our fresh waters, as much or more than our beaches. In the hot, sweltering summer time, nothing is more refreshing than a dip in one of our beautiful springs. This is where we go to really cool off.
Some of us grew up with little beach houses, but more of us grew up with lake and river houses. My parents owned a place on a nearby lake, and it represented my childhood weekends and holidays of fishing, skiing, catching lightning bugs and hours of hanging out on a raft. It was spring fed.
Our children got to enjoy the old lakehouse, too, until they were early teenagers when it burned. It was a great loss to our entire extended family, and we all grieved. My brothers and I still own the property, but no one ever rebuilt.
Now our children are in their late 30s, and we just came back from a weekend at that same lake. It included Harold and me, plus all three kids and their families. Eight adults and six grandchildren all stuffed into two rented lake houses, sitting next door to each other. What a wonderful long weekend.
Each family was in charge of three meals, and there were baby gates everywhere for the safety of the kids. Constantly stepping over those gates was like negotiating an obstacle course.
Having five toddlers in the family is fun and exhilarating. The oldest of the five wears a 4T, and they are all girls. Their exuberance for life is catching.
However, six toddlers also means six times the whining and crying. All except the oldest had one or more meltdowns, which brings me to the point of this blog.
When toddlers today are unhappy, they cry—no, actually it is more than that, they cry and whine for what seems like forever. Here’s my question, is it ok for them to cry and whine until they are driving everyone, including their parents, insane?
On Sunday, just before we left, the four-year-old wanted a toy that her three-year-old sister had. The toy belonged to the three year old. The four year old complained to her parents, and they said that she had to wait until the other child was done with it. That is when the crying and whining began. When no one paid attention, it grew to loud squalling.
They sent her to upstairs to a bedroom, but you could hear it anyway. It got even louder. Finally, she stopped and wandered back to where her sister was still playing with the toy. A fight erupted, and she was told to back down again. The squalling started again; and she was sent to her room, yet again. We listened to her caterwauling for what seemed like forever. Everyone in the house was on edge.
Meanwhile, Harold was loading the dishwasher and was having trouble getting it to close. He lost his temper and slammed it, breaking a dish. This from a man who hardly ever loses his temper, but the constant crying had been going on for over fifteen minutes, which is forever in toddler time.
The four-year-old caterwauler wasn’t the only one. It had happened to almost every one of these kids over the long weekend.
I finally couldn’t contain myself, and said something. I turned to my daughter and said, “were you ever allowed to cry like that?” She stared back somewhat hostile and said, “no, you would say, dry it up.” One of our daughters-in- law looked at me surprised and confused. I told her that I was brought up to believe that crying, when it became annoying to adults, wasn’t allowed.
In fact I remember my grandmother mentioning to my parents that it seemed a shame that they spanked us and then wouldn’t even let us cry. That wasn’t entirely the truth. We cried; and then when it went on too long, we were told that it was enough. I do remember them telling us to hush up or they would give us something to cry about. Harold said that it was the same in his family.
Oh, and that same grandma pulled so many switches off a bush outside her house that it was stunted for life. She would grab me by a pigtail and switch all the time yelling for me to keep still. Like I was going to stay still so she could get a better aim?
We brought our kids up the same way. Crying wasn’t an option when it became annoying. There was no time out. There was simply me and Harold, the kids, discussions about what they did wrong (sometimes an angry in your face discussion), and finally a smack on the hand or butt. The belt was only used for major infractions, and it was the best tool I had for keeping the kids in line.
Harold made it clear to the kids that if I needed him to, that he would take a belt to them when he got home after work. I remember on numerous occasions, when we were having a truly difficult day, saying “If you don’t straighten up, when your dad gets home I’m gonna get him to get his belt.” For about an hour, they would be angels. I think each kid can only remember about a half dozen of those belt moments over the years.
Now, we have to sit in restaurants and other public places and listen to these whining, melt downs from other people’s kids. Harold and I have talked about how there seems to be so many more of these than there used to be.
We can only remember one or two kids in our respective towns that behaved like this. They were usually the kids of a family that was wealthy, and most of the rest of us in town thought that these kids were neglected. Now I’m beginning to think that it might have been the opposite. Maybe, they were given too much of everything—too many toys and too much attention. Or maybe their parents were reading too many “how to” books.
My daughter and daughters-in-law all took the time to study these books written by professionals on how to raise their children. I’m wondering how many of these people employ nannies and maids.
I read Dr. Spock’s book myself, the book that all the mothers in my generation read. The difference is that I decided to take and use only some of the suggestions. I actually liked the way my parents and I turned out, so I used mostly what I learned from them when it came to discipline. I never thought about not spanking my kids.
For some of us, not disciplining our kids would be lazy and dangerous. I wonder what will really happen when you tell a kid today to stop when he or she is in danger. Will they listen?
Here’s how I would have handled the earlier two siblings squabbling over the toy. First, I don’t care whose toy it is. The first little girl would have had the right to play with the toy while the second one would get to “count her out”. I would have told the second one to count to 30, and when she got to 30, it would be her turn to play. Then vice-versa until they tired of the game. Of course, you might have to help them count to 30; but they would learn in due time.
If the second one (or the first) just wanted to continue crying. I would have told her just once to quit her bellyaching. The second time I had to tell her, I would have said that if she doesn’t stop crying then I would give her something to cry about. After another 15 or 20 seconds of this, she would get a spanking and again told to dry it up. No smiling, no giggling, no hesitation—I always meant business and the kids knew it. That usually took care of the problem.
Then consistency is the most important thing. You cannot let them get away with it again. No “annoying” crying allowed from then on.
Of course, when they get to be teenagers, all bets are off.
So I’m interested in how other seniors think? How were you raised and how did you raise your kids? Would you do it any differently? Should kid’s annoying whining and crying be allowed? How do you stop it?