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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

With Three You Get Wonka

As a parent, it’s my responsibility to ensure my child’s safety.   That usually means protecting her from the biggest threat to her safety, herself.   In reality, I’m not so much protecting her for her own well being, but my own sanity.   If she’s not in trouble, it’s one less mess I have to clean up at the end of the day.

However, as a parent, it is also my job to teach her how to reason and how to discern right from wrong.  In doing that, I give her three chances.  The first two are me warning her that the wrong choice will have consequences.  Consequences that she will ultimately be responsible for bringing upon herself.  The third time, she gets Willy Wonka.

Now, I’m not saying that she gets a candy bar or that she gets a viewing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I’m saying that my attitude towards her choosing to do the wrong thing will result in my letting her do it and explaining why she was wrong afterwards… Oompa Loompa chorus, notwithstanding. 

Willy Wonka can be seen as a lot of things: crackpot confectioner, crazy chocolatier, even sadistic salesman.  The one thing he isn’t is a helicopter parent.    We live in a world where we take away the prospect of winning at competitions in order to spare our little snowflakes the harsh reality of failure.  Soccer games.  We give everyone a trophy and say good game.   Are we really surprised when they grow up to be unable to handle rejection?

Willy Wonka gives them a warning and then he lets them go, usually ending his warning with, “Don’t. Stop. Come back.”   He lets the behavior happen.  He doesn’t interfere with the potential of a bad person doing bad things.  Failure is essential in order to learn where we went wrong.  In that realization we make strides to correct the action that caused the failure. 

In the end of Roald Dahl’s book, the losing children do not die, they are returned to their nasty, rotten, selfish old selves, but perhaps they are a bit wiser.    They are not returned to their former states, because consequences have permanent results.  You cannot “unring” that bell.

Now, my intentions are not always good natured.  My child does her fare share of bad things and I sometimes want her to fail in order to understand why shouldn’t make those decisions.  I would never purposely put my child in harm’s way and often times I continually repeat myself by saying, “stop jumping off that” or “don’t swing your arms in a circle near there.”  I know my own lack of grace and agility and recognize those same defects in my kid.  I’m trying to save her a broken leg.    Usually, the things I let her fail at are not listening to us when she should in reference to cleaning up her room or getting something as a reward like a trip to PetSmart (just to look) or McDonald’s (to play).

But, in most cases, she gets two warnings and then after that, she gets Wonka.

"Good Day Sir."
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