I witnessed a scene over the weekend that upset me. I’d like to share it with you, and welcome your feedback…
A father was playing with his son who was around age three. The father had taken to spinning the little boy by pushing on his shoulder and forcing him to turn around. Each time the father pushed the boys shoulder, the little boy would say, “ouch!” The father ignored the little boy who was starting to cry, and then fell down.
Once the little boy was on the ground, the father started to tickle him, and the little boy started to laugh through the tears. For several more minutes the father wrestled and chased the boy. There was intermittent periods of crying and laughter from the little boy.
Finally, the mother said, “Okay, I think we should stop now. He’s getting tired, and he’s going to get hurt”. The father kept playing with the boy, not heeding the mothers request.
After a few more whimpered cries from the boy, the mother said again, “I think it’s time to stop and settle down now”.
The father, seeming somewhat angry said, “First you say I don’t play with him enough, and then you don’t like it when I play with him. I can’t please you.”
The mother told the little boy to go “sit on grandpa’s lap”. The little boy, now fully wound up and very tired, began tickling the grandfather’s face. The grandfather held onto the little boys arms, preventing him from reaching the face of his grandfather. Again the little boy proclaimed, “ouch!”.
The grandfather replied, “That doesn’t hurt”.
The little boy continued to be held back by his tiny wrists by the grandfather. The little boy would say, “ouch!” and the grandfather would answer, “That doesn’t hurt you!”
After a few minutes the little boy was let go, and went to sit by his mother. He started to climb onto the back of his mother, then slide down her legs. Many times she exclaimed, “Ouch! Stop, that hurts!”
After the little boy continued to disobey his mother’s requests to stop. The father stood up and angrily disciplined the boy with a spanking. The little boy, now crying was removed from the scene for further discipline out of my site.
I was upset by this because of the hypocrisy I saw in the parents, although mainly the father and the grandfather. The boy was showing signs that he was being hurt by the father and the grandfather, and they were both ignoring the boy’s objections to the point of minimizing the pain he may have been feeling.
(I recognize, here that at the age of three, the little boy may have been confusing “ouch” with “stop”, and perhaps he was trying to send a different message. If that is a possible explanation, then I felt that both of these adult men should have helped to clarify for the boy whether he was feeling pain, or whether he meant stop)
On the other hand, I have fibromyalgia and if I had been held my my wrists as this little boy was by his grandfather, I would have been in pain. The lesson this little boy was being taught (whether or not he was in pain), was that he was not going to be listened to, and that his requests were not valid.
This lesson was evident when that same little boy did not readily listen to his mother when she was also saying “ouch” and “stop”. This little boy was disciplined for doing the same thing to his mother that the father and grandfather were doing to him.
I felt so sorry for this little boy because, having raised two children myself, I know how important it is for parents to provide a consistent message to their children. These parents were not communicating well with this child, nor were they exhibiting proper leadership in their role as parents.
I’m willing to hear what you have to say about this event. Tell me what you think about my interpretation of this scene. Am I wrong?
Have you witnessed similar examples of inconsistent communication and leadership?