Monday, January 4, 2010
Disciplining our kids vs. keeping the peace
Saturday, we went out to brunch with friends. I was psyched; Max wasn't. He wailed when we walked in to the restaurant. Once we were seated, we kept him calm for a few minutes with a Cars coloring book and a (what else?) purple marker. Then Max jumped up and tried to make a break for the front door. Then he stood by the door and watched people come in and out. Then I toted him back (there are definitely times when his pipsqueak-ness comes in handy). Then he dashed to the front door again. Then I hauled him back. Then he got up, walked over to an empty table, sat down and looked up, happily. He would stay if he could sit at that table.
I walked over to the restaurant hostess and asked if it was OK. She said yes.
"We're switching tables because otherwise, we're not having a calm breakfast," I told our friends, and we all moved over to Max's table, where he had a pitcher of mimosas waiting for us.
Once we were seated and Dave was helping Max down blueberry oatmeal pancakes and chocolate milk, one of our friends asked something alone the lines of, "Do you guys always give in to him like that?"
He didn't mean it obnoxiously, he was just curious.
"Well," I explained, "in a situation like this, I wanted you to enjoy your brunch, I wanted to enjoy brunch, and this was the only way Max would be pacified. So, yes, I gave in to him today."
His question percolated on my mind for the rest of the brunch. If this had happened with Sabrina, we wouldn't have let her get away with it. Nuh-uh. No way. But Max is another story.
I've written before about struggling with disciplining Max when I wasn't sure he understood me. These days, his cognition is much better, so that's not as much of an issue. Keeping the peace is.
Believe me, I do not let Max get away with everything for the sake of the greater good. We were in a store the other day, for example, and Max started tossing every single thing with a speck of purple into the shopping cart. First thought: Wow, he's using his hands really well! Second thought: Uh-oh. I let him pick just one purple thing, a plastic basket, and then took out the other stuff as he screeched his head off and people stared.
I certainly don't want Max growing up thinking he can always get his way. Can you picture Max on a date at a restaurant as he leaves the girl alone at their table, walks over to another and stakes a claim?! Can you picture Max tearing someone's shirt off them because it's purple?! (Actually, that might be kind of interesting to see.) Still, I know that his behavior isn't totally bratty; it's mainly because of his condition. Max has sensory issues about the hustle and bustle of restaurants, and asserting control by choosing a new place to sit calms him down. So I don't think it's wrong to give in, though our friend's question did give me pause.
[Sigh.] With Max, the answers are never black or white; they're inevitably gray.
Posted by Ellen Seidman at 12:01 AM