I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast a while ago and it spoke of
an economist father who decided to call his daughter's bluff at the
playground one day.
He and his wife would tell their daughter that it was time to leave,
and the daughter would fight and argue and not want to go. So one day,
they don't argue with her. They just get in the car and go. She freaks
out, and they never have the problem again.
Yes, they had arranged some people to watch her just to be safe.
I thought BRILLIANT. But as I go on parenting, I think more about it.
Is controlling a child using the fear of abandonment really a healthy
way to be a dad?
If I believe in God and want to show my child God's love in my own
fathering, can I say that has God ever treated me that way?
But I tried it anyway.
My youngest son is two. We had a wonderful time at the park tonight.
Playing and running. Long jump. Flying and spinning. I don't remember
what caused it, but he had a tantrum at his mum, and wouldn't go to
her and do what she asked. We were leaving and he kept sulking in the
I decided we should go and he would (should) realize that spitting the
dummie and demanding his own way will only lead to being alone. (It's
a deep existential lesson all 2 year olds need to have.)
We walked home, but I doubled back and hid and watched him. Even after
his entire family was out of sight he was not fussed, but just
continued to play happily in the sand pit all alone. Maybe even
happier. I watched and waited, just out of sight.
A family rode past him on bikes. I could hear their thoughts... They
saw me and thought I was either a potential kidnapper spying on
abandoned kids, or perhaps the worst parent in the world for not being
closer to my son... I assume.
Eventually, he got up and started to walk quickly. HA HA! I thought.
He has finally realised the error of his ways. He misses his family
and wants to be with us. I came out of hiding and headed toward him,
anticipating a beautiful reconciliation and reassuring moment.
But then I realized he wasn't going home. He was going to the small
skate ramps that were nearby. He saw me. He beckoned me to join him,
didn't run toward me, but continued his advancement toward the skate
parks and up the steepest concrete ramp.
Experiment over. I picked him up and carried him home. He wasn't
impressed about that. But within 30 seconds he was happy and glad I
was carrying him thus saving him the walk home. We chatted on the way
home about life mostly in two syllable sentences.
I think about his younger years (huh? he's only 2) and I am surprised
this kid has no fear. He slept in our room at the foot of our bed
until he was about 1. He was carried in a sling until about 10 months
as he screamed whenever he wasn't held. And now he carries himself
with such an assured confidence that he will never be abandoned and
doesn't need to be close to his parents at all.
All those stupid baby books should be chucked out. We did everything
wrong by them this time and were told we would be creating a dependent
child that wouldn't be able to do things for himself, and instead we
have the opposite! A kid who wants to do everything by himself. He
still loves family time and cuddles and all that, but he is so
independent it blows my mind.
With my 4 year old, we actually TRIED to make him independent, and did
all the stuff from the "Baby Wise" books. But it seems to have only
caused insecurities in him.
It's impossible to be scientific with only two kids. Too many
variables and the nurture or nature argument can never be solved.
But I feel that the fear of punishment or fear of abandonment is not a
tool in God's parenting play book.