Leadership Parenting

Lessons in the Coke Aisle

by Don Jacobsen, Dean of Coaching

A few days ago my wife and I walked into a Wal-Mart store to do some quick shopping. Just ahead of us was a little family…mom and three kids, I’d guess about 5, 7, and 10. The 10-year old, a boy, I’ll call Jack.

Mom grabbed a shopping cart and set the course. As they passed a huge stack of soft drink cans in the aisle, Jack said wistfully, "I want a coke."

Mom replied pleasantly, "No."

"But Mom," Jack retorted, "I’m gonna dehydrate!"

Mom’s response: "Let me know when you’re done."

Discussion over. They proceeded down the aisle toward the cauliflower.

Did you catch the dynamics going on here? Let me dissect that brief piece of stellar parenting. Jack, 10, is thinking about Jack. His question wasn’t, "Mom, can we stop and get something to drink? I’m thirsty and the other kids probably are, too." No, he saw something he wanted, something he apparently liked, and his first thought was to get some for himself. But of course he’s ten.

Mom’s response is classic in its simplicity: "No."

There is no apology, no equivocating, no attempt to justify her decision, no asking forgiveness that she doesn’t feel inclined to stop what she’s doing at that moment and fulfill his request. There is no explanation…no seeking permission from a 10-year old to make a parenting decision. Mom doesn’t say, "We don’t have the time for that right now." If she launches into a rationale for her decision she sets the stage for an argument. So it is short, uncluttered, decisive: No.

We expect push-back from a 10-year old and we are not disappointed. "I’m gonna dehydrate," he warns, as if to instill terror in her heart and create a paralyzing fear that the Childrens’ Hydration Police will instantly appear and force mom to relent and buy him a coke. She is wise to his strategy and not in the least intimidated by his appeal.

"Let me know when you’re done…" she replies. She calls his bluff. It is as though she says, "I am the mother and your phony plea does not move me. If you are seriously thirsty there is a water fountain at the front of the store by the restrooms. We’ll meet you there after we check out."

Leadership parenting. Jack has re-discovered who’s in charge. The other kids will pick it up, too. Wish I had it on film.

Don Jacobsen is Administrator and Dean of Coaches for the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Institute. Don is a Certified Master Coach, author, educator, syndicated newspaper columnist, and clergyman; his third book, "Rare Kids; Well Done," was recently released. He is also a member of the American Christian Leadership Council. Visit his website at http://rarekidswelldone.com/

Reblogged from John Rosemond

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