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.