Adventures in bad parenting: Giving a kid cash to stop whining

I didn’t see this happen, and neither did Sweetie, but it concerns our youngest, the 4-year-old, Thing 2.

He was with his grandparents, and they don’t really want to talk about it, but here’s the story we’ve managed to piece together from the scraps of information we’ve been given:

Thing 2 is nearly 5, but he’s just now going through his terrible 2’s.

When he’s not happy, when he doesn’t get his way, he cries. If that doesn’t work, he wails. If that doesn’t work, he has what folks in the South call a conniption.

When we cave — and we usually do cave, especially in public — the crying stops, instantly, like you’re turning off a tap. Suddenly, he’s fine, and we feel like suckers, and rightly so.

We’re trying to break him of this habit, and I thought we were beginning to make progress.

So, Sweetie’s parents are in town, and they took Thing 2 to Kroger. He wanted something — I don’t know what, exactly — but they said no, and he started crying, and when that didn’t work, he started wailing, and when that didn’t work, he had a conniption.

Thing 2’s conniptions aren’t really angry, but they’re loud, and he sobs like you’ve just told him you’re taking his dog to live on a farm in the country. “Pleeeeease,” he’ll say between sobs. It can be heartbreaking, and it’s hard to say no, especially if you haven’t seen it a million times before.

When we’re with him and he does that, we take him outside and talk to him, or else one of us takes him to the car, but the grandparents were caught off guard, so I’m not blaming them for what happened next.

Thing 2 was causing such a disturbance in the checkout aisle that the cashier reached into her pocket and gave him a dollar bill. She gave him cash to make him stop crying.

And it worked. The crying stopped, instantly.

He used the money to buy a Hot Wheel, which he proudly showed me when I got home.

When I finally pieced together the story, I was speechless. How did it come to this?

I turned to Thing 2 and, trying hard to channel my inner Mr. Rogers, I said, “This is bad. Do you understand?”

He either didn’t understand or couldn’t have cared less. I changed my approach.

“I can’t believe a big boy like you were crying so much that the check-out lady gave you a dollar to stop crying. You’re almost 5. This is really bad. You know that, right?”

He smiled and nodded his head, like I’d said, “The sky’s blue. You know that, right?”

He said, “Oh, yeah,” and went back to playing with his new Hot Wheel, like he didn’t have a care in the world.

Sweetie and I have gotten used to reprogramming the kids after the grandparents visit. (I don’t know why, but grandparents cannot say “No.”)

But this? This episode established a dangerous new precedent.

This is going to take some work.

18 thoughts on “Adventures in bad parenting: Giving a kid cash to stop whining

  1. Grandparents mean well, but they do make life difficult for the parents. Even if all you have is “fur children”. My mother visited recently and would give our animals whatever they wanted, even though I’d asked her not to.

    I don’t have any personal experience with your situation, but I’ll tell you what happened to friends of mine. It was the same kind of situation, in a store, in public when their young son threw a major tantrum. The parents were also at their wits’ end having gone through this repeatedly. According to the mother, the father suddenly threw himself on the ground and wailed and cried louder than the child. The mother, now not wanting to be associated with either of them, backed away! But, the child stopped “performing” almost immediately, and has never done it since. May work for you . . . 😉

    1. Hi, Lisa! Honestly, I’m not blaming the grandparents on this one. This was sort of unprecedented. They’re good people, and I’m sure they were too stunned and/or embarrassed to act.

      Still, when my parents visit, I remind them constantly, “It’s OK to say ‘No.'” They ignore me. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Wendy. Honestly, Thing 2 is a great kid who’s really sweet and well behaved 99% of the time. He does great in school, and his soccer coach always stops us after practice and tells us what a great listener he is. It’s just that he’s learned this great trick for getting his way. Like I said, he’s a smart kid! 🙂

  2. Am I allowed to laugh, Todd? Because this is so funny. And so familiar. And I just LOVE the word conniption – wish I’d known that word when my boys were small. Thanks for another fabulous read.
    Sunshine

  3. This sounds so much like my Ollie I don’t even know where to start. The crying–>wailing–>conniption sounds very familiar. Not to dole out parenting advice, but what usually works for us is picking up our weepy little guy and just holding him until he cries it out. That’s hard to do when you’re absolutely furious about a public tantrum, but you’d be surprised by how much better it will make you both feel.

    As for the dollar thing? I don’t know, buddy. Good luck to you and Sweetie on that one!

  4. Thanks for sharing this story, Todd. Tantrums like this occur ALL the time, in all sorts of environments, with kids who are on the autism spectrum. So if it’s any consolation at all to you & sweetie, be thankful this was an unprecedented event. I’m sure he was “trying out” Grandma & Grandpa to see if they might cave in when faced with his infamous conniption. And darn that cashier… what was she thinking?

    Blessings to you, sweetie, Thing 1 and Thing 2,
    Lisa

    1. Hi, Lisa! Glad you dropped by! This is entirely our fault. He knows if he’s loud and/or pathetic enough that we’ll eventually cave. What’s so funny is that as soon as he gets his way, he’s fine, and he’s not like this at school, apparently. Just at home, because he knows it works. We are sooooo being played. As for the cashier, she was thinking, “Holy crap, make the noise stop!” 🙂

      1. Here’s an update: Grandma was taking him out of the store when the elderly cashier came up, told Grandma it was OK and gave Thing 2 a dollar bill. Grandma said, “When he saw the money, it was all over.” I asked Thing 2 why he stopped crying, and he said, “Because I like dollar bills!”

  5. I’ve definitely been there. My kids sound like yours – good, well-behaved and smart — with some moments of exceptions. It’s those exceptions that stretch every bit of parenting knowledge I thought I had! I think the smartness makes it more challenging because they’re skilled at negotiation, game-play, and seeking out parental (or cashier) weaknesses! Good luck with the new element of cash for tantrums. 🙂 I’m sure the cashier was well-intentioned but it’s a good example of why we should stay out of the parenting of other’s children!

    Enjoyed reading your blog – found you through Wendy! Can’t wait to explore more,
    Amy

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