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She told me: "wow, mom you are becoming mediocre"

It happened the morning I was up doing all kinds of things, and hoping my 2 year old would just eat something. She asked for a croissant instead of the bean soup she was given, I agreed. Then she went on to ask for jelly, so I asked my older daughter to serve her some with the croissant. I didn’t think much of the situation while focused on my duties in the computer.

My child got up to obey mommy’s request but before she reached the jelly, she turned around and told me in her most sweet voice: “ wow mommy you are becoming mediocre”. I immediately forgot everything that I was focused on the screen and asked: “why?” She then took the time to state the facts that I had given in to play along the little one’s game. She was avoiding the good food and getting away with just bread and jelly.

What a humbling moment that was. First I realized how lost I was, when my focus on work distracted me. She needed my guidance to develop the discipline of a healthy eater. Second, I was communicating to her that if she yelled enough, she could get away with it. Third, I lowered the family standards we have kept at home for the past 13 years, and she knew it.

Yes I get it, parenting sometimes gets us all tired, we should rest then. Transitioning to another core of values just because we are too busy, tired or any other reason is not the right way. Some learning skills like hygiene, eating, spiritual grow, and early development; are not to consider slightly. These are our very own tasks as parents.

We usually think that little kids should just be entertained. On the contrary, all researchers -one in particular that I have analyzed and recommend: abecedarian- tell us that every possibility of a successful adulthood is developed in preschool years. I forgot that for a second that day. I had let a 2 year old decide what food was the best option for her development. She of course, dealt with the eating situation as a 2 year old would do, sugaring it up as much as possible. My lack of attention led me to just go with the flow of eating whatever made her quiet. Everything about that is wrong.

In a second thought, psychologists have researched and written hundreds of pages about behavior. One of those researches is the “law of effect”. It tells us that humans learn certain behaviors in relationship with the response or consequences. This theory is where the famous positive or negative reinforcement comes from. My child would be more prompt to whine while expecting a change of food, the more I give in to “reward” her with chocolate or bread and jelly. My response to the whining would be the effect she would record to her cause: crying.

Finally, we humans feel secure when things function in certain order. Kids crave for this sense of routine and standardized treatment. Don’t get me wrong, they are all a unique creation of God, but in general: order and standard procedures communicate security in the young souls. That is what triggered me teen’s reaction, procedures were changing. Which lead to the painful encouragement for me to strive for excellence, instead of mediocrity. There is an infamous idea that we parents just give up, and are not as disciplined with the last children. It is true so many times, we do. Now that doesn’t make it right. In the eyes of our Creator, we are wired to improve, to get up and make things better. That is exactly what I did that day, and I am thankful the atmosphere and communication in our little family flows so nicely that my older daughter felt free to tell me the truth in love. Of course it was still very painful non the less.

The little one was finally facing the reality that food was served: soup, and bread already on the table. That would be as far as mami will go on giving in to all her 1000 requests. She happily ate some soup once she realized there was nothing else she could do. I sat very calmed next to her, while we re-directed the conversation to something else than food.

Now I have to face the challenge of being very careful when a bad behavior is in place. Tiredness is no excuse to change the course of our core values. I should avoid rewarding by giving away something just for the behavior to stop. Instead I will address the behavior and measure what skill am I trying to help develop in the child.

You can do it to, remember:

  • It is imperative to pay attention and be intentional on the skills we develop from 0-5.

  • Reinforcing a bad behavior by giving in just to solve the drama might fire back with more drama - to get what the got the first time.

  • The same responsibility God gave us when we became parents, continues to be true with the other children. So consistency is important.

  • Above all, God is always there which gives us hope that we can get better even when we have done mediocre today.

Have you had challenging / encouraging moments of learning sponsored by your own children? I would love to read and learn along.

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