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Kindness is for Losers, Right?

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Guest blogger Dani Klein Modisett: "Mooooom!!! You fix it! YOU FIX IT MOOOOM!" my son's best friend screamed at his mother half way through our last playdate. His "Martian Matter" toy was oozing in a way he found displeasing. The woman blushed slightly at being yelled at by her son like an army drill sergeant in front of me. I played with my baby and acted like I didn't notice how rude the boy was behaving.

boy standing yelling MOOOOM!!!

"You know that's not a nice way to talk to me, Jack," she said in a measured tone. "Why don't you think about how to ask for what you want in a way that will help you get it."

I must be old school, but that's not how I respond when my son Gabriel acts up. I say less complicated things like,

"Don't speak to me that way. Ever."

Then I threaten to take away his popsicles.

What was more disturbing than the "adult speak" to a five-year-old though, was the message this mother was giving her son. She was unapologetically giving him lessons in manipulation.

She wasn't saying. "Be a nice, kind person because in the end it will make you and everyone who loves you happier." Which, granted, is also probably too sophisticated, but nevertheless, her direction for her son was to know what you want and then figure out what you have to say or do to get it. This is not the first family where I have observed this exchange between parent and child -- and I have to say, we're usually sitting in pretty fancy homes when it happens.

Maybe these rich people are on to something. I've been teaching my son about compassion and generosity, but really what I should be encouraging him to do is to mask his greed for Legos with false compliments and to charm the pants off anyone who tells him no.

Dani Klein ModisettDani Klein Modisett is the mother of one-year-old Gideon (pictured) and 5-year-old Gabriel. She is comedy writer/creator/producer of the show "Afterbirth...stories you won't read in Parents magazine." An anthology of stories from this show will be published by St. Martin's Press, in stores in May 2009.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Uly October 21, 2008, 9:32 AM

But you’re doing the same thing. You’re teaching your kid “If you speak badly to people, and they’re bigger than you, they take your things away”. She’s teaching them “If you’re littler than people, you REALLY have to be nice to get what you want.” Same diff.

Joan October 21, 2008, 12:13 PM

I can relate to this…I am sick and tired of mothers who allow their kids to walk all over them. It’s pathetic .

Mandi October 21, 2008, 12:18 PM

I agree - on BOTH counts. There should be an underlining respect that children should have for an adult AND teaching them there are ways to get what you want in a way that makes everyone feel good about it. You can have both in a child. I have a 7 yr daughter and a 8.5 son. For some reason my daughter is actually better at this than my son currently, but teaching them respect and “manipulation” as it was put :-) can happen together.

Allena October 21, 2008, 1:58 PM

Um, I think you’re totally misinterpreting what she was saying. I doubt that had anything to do with manipulation. To get what you want, you ask for it politely. How the hell do you get manipulation out of that?

Stretching, but it is MomLogic, so why am I surprised?

birdsfly October 21, 2008, 3:02 PM

I see no problem with talking to your child like they’re a person with some reasoning skills. When my son throws a fit to get something I ask him “Have you ever gotten anything by acting that way?” he’ll say “No” I’ll say “How do you ask for things that you want?” he’ll say “Please may I have ___, please?” Depending on the situation he may get what he’s asking for (juice or something like that) or we’ll explain why he can’t have/ doesn’t need it and he’s fine. If he’s being disrespectful he gets a time out to chill, but for the most part any problems with him are just a communication problem not willful brattiness (not that that never occurs!).

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