This is the cry of a manipulative child. It is distinct. It is recognizable. It does not sound like a cry of pain. It doesn’t come close to a cry of disappointment or a cry of hunger. It is worse. It is shrill and piercing to the ears. It is uncomfortable because it is exaggerated.
Adults react to this cry in the way that children expect them to; They wear worried faces. They fear that their child is hurting. They try to find out how they can make things right. How they can enjoy silence again? We do whatever it takes to stop the ‘irritating’noise.
And therein lies the problem.
I am enjoying the company of my nephews and nieces who I have not seen in a long time. We are taking late afternoon tea. Hailey and Heidi are with me and they are happy to be in the company of their cousins. Kids love each others company and to them, it is creed that the more is indeed the merrier. A neighbor’s kid comes to join the merry as it is also my neices’daughter’s birthday (hehe, I like making your reading life difficult, don’t I?)
All is well in play and they even sit down to tea. I notice the manipulative nature of the neighbour’s kid early enough. He wants this, doesn’t want that. He wants to sit here, won’t sit there. He needs this, won’t do that. He had a lot of preferences. He had a lot of dislikes and you would be in this child’s beck and call if you were to give him everything he wants.
You have seen that kid right? He is with his mother at the supermarket. Mother gets to till to pay for the the stuff in the shopping basket. Child decides that he wants something. Mother obliges and gets him ‘something’. He is happy. But just for a while. The queue is moving slowly and soon, child asks (nay, demands) something else that catches his eyes. There is so much that catches a child’s eye when you are close to the checkout till; the candy strategically placed at a child’s eye level; the pocket-unfriendly, useless, tooth-damaging, appetite-eradicating, goodies that are there to solely create a rift between parents and their children and so much more. Child demands for something else. Mother is on a budget. She declines and tries to convince child that what she has bought for him is enough, baby.
Baby will hear none of it. He wants what he wants and he wants it now. He gets what he wants or there will be trouble to pay if he doesn’t.. Mother tries harder to talk to him because what he wants is expensive. Stuff that is not in her budget. Stuff that will not feed him, educate him or clothe him. But see, the child does not care about usefulness. He wants it, he wants it, he wants it NOW and ….. WAAAAAH! That distinctive, unmistakable manipulative cry is unleashed!
Frantic mother tries to end the annoying noise. She is wondering what to do to stop this child from embarrassing her. Everybody is looking at them. Watching to see what she will do. she returns something from her basket. One of the useful stuff she had picked. Maybe even something that could have fed, clothed or educated him. She instead puts the useless expensive thingamajig that the child demanded into the shopping basket. Noise ends, there is peace and quiet just like she likes it. Child is happy. Prying eyes look away. There is peace. Are you kidding?
The neighbour’s kid was such child. when he was ready to go home, he decided that he was going with another child’s stuff. ”But those are not yours young man.”he was told. “They are mine! Mine! mine!”he replied. He threw everything he had and demanded to be given what he wanted. WAAAAAH?!
And off he runs to fetch his mother from the adjoining house. We sat still. We sipped our tea.
Hailey tried it once on me. Its a cold afternoon, we are outdoors with family. The ice cream guy comes to where we are picnicking and strategically places ice cream a sniffing distance away from our children’s noses. Hailey takes the bait, tugs the sleeve of my shirt and goes “Mum, buy me ice cream?”I say no, it is cold for one, and two, you have recurring tonsilitis. She starts pleading. I stick to my guns. Seeing that pleading is not working, she unleashes the weapon: WAAAAAH! Everyone looks around. What does Hailey want? Just ice cream? Surely, si you buy for her? It’s only ten bob!? Just buy her the damn ice cream! Someone brought out a ten bob from her purse, “Here Hailey, go buy yourself ice cream” she said. I snatched it away before it reached her hand. “Don’t!”I warned them.
And the crying went on for a while. Everyone was uncomfortable for the time it lasted. But I knew that it was necessary. I did not want to stifle that cry because it came with a lesson that we don’t always get what we want.
The moment you frantically search for something to shut them up or end the disturbing noise, you encourage them to continue being children when they actually need to grow up. It is not something easy to do, but it is something that needs to be done. Enduring that manipulative cry with resilience, helps rid society of the thieves, murderers, and wayward adults who have a demented sense of entitlement.
So next time your child cries for something you can’t give, try and make them understand why they cannot have it. If they are well fed and hunger is not a contributing factor, if their health is not threatened then relax and sip your tea because growth is happening. Allow them to grow up.
Have a splendid week!