NEW YORK November 8, 2013 (AP)
Perhaps you saw this story. A father, separated from his wife, takes his son out to eat on Tuesdays. The son is almost five and, surprise, he likes McDonald's! They’ve been to McDonald's before but the father determines he has had too much fast food lately and suggests going anywhere but McDonald's. The nearly 5-year-old child refuses to go anywhere but McDonald's.
Ultimately the father tells his son that he can eat somewhere else, but if he insists on McDonald's, he won’t eat at all. The son threw a tantrum but dad did not give in, not wanting to reward bad behavior, and ends up taking his son back to his mother’s house without dinner.
Somehow, most likely because of the legal battles between mother and father, a psychologist gets involved stating this incident reveals the father is incapable of caring for his son.
My take on this?
First of all it is ridiculous to accuse the father of being an incapable father based on this incident. Perhaps there is more to the story but nothing else is revealed beyond the facts above. So let’s look at this incident and what the father may have done right, or wrong.
What the father did right.
· The father is the person in charge. He should not be bullied by the demands or tantrums of his son. The father gave the son more than a reasonable choice of dinner options.
· The father stuck to his word as he should. You cannot state something to your child then do something different, especially when it comes to discipline.
What the father may have done wrong.
· Dad may have wrongly timed his ultimatum. When the father decided McDonald's wasn’t going to be where they were going, did he give the child time to absorb that change in his routine?
· Judging by the tantrum, the father has not been consistent when it comes to his disciplining or actions in the past. This is likely also true of the mother.
· The son is in the middle of a documented bitter battle between the two most important people in his life. There had to be a way to handle this night out together that would not cause more stress on the kid or the situation.
What you do as a parent may be correct at the moment (like the fathers stance on dinner), but you (he) may be guilty of allowing the situation to develop (e.g. not being consistent). In other words, you must have good parenting principles, not good parenting moments.
When you have positive parenting principles, they overshadow current mistakes. Good principles and consistent application of them will take you a long way towards a predictable, rewarding family life.
(See an earlier blog regarding parenting principles: “Guiding Principles for Parents – Got Any?” 10/24/2013)
If you have 4 minutes, watch my granddaughter manipulate her grandfather at a McDonald's a year and a half ago.