Choose Your Own Adventure … Raise a Spoiled Brat or a Mentch

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Remember those books when we were kids where you got to choose your own ending? I loved them. They even trumped my stash of Sweet Valley High books — with the evil/good twins who battled for the same guy.

I think the draw was the sense of control they once gave me. This was the time when, like every other pre-pubescent girl, I was highlighting the “dirty” parts of my hijacked copy of Judy Blume’s Forever (you know you did, too); and repeating the mantra “I must. I must. I must increase my bust” after reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

But, all those books ended the same way — predictable — Pretty Woman-style. The girl always got the guy and lived happily ever after … blah blah blah.

But, in the choose your own adventure books, there were numerous ways it could end. I could turn to page 210 and see one outcome, or turn to page 222 and see another. If I didn’t want a happy outcome, there just wasn’t. They gave me the option to leave the story unfinished or not. It was my choice — sort of.

Lately I’ve been applying the “Choose your Own Ending” approach to parenting my two kids.

It’s the “empower your kids” info you already know. But, whatever. You’re still reading and I’ll continue, in case you were doing who knows what when the rest of us were in parenting 101 class.

My son, Blake is obsessed with collecting football cards. He absolutely has to have the 2011 Tony Roma card. He begs me for days.

“Mom, it’s only $4 and I’ll pay you back,” he pleads. “Mom, I promise I’ll make my bed every day and clean my room without you asking me to.”

In this case, there are at least 5 possible endings:

  1. I buy the card for Blake
  2. I tell Blake to put it on his birthday or Chanukah wish list;
  3. I deal with Blake’s whining for a week and refuse to give in (and buy him the card teaching him a valuable life lesson);
  4. I tell Blake to get a job and buy it for himself, or;
  5. Blake wants the card so badly that he steals it, realizes he has a gift for shoplifting, gets caught pocketing the entire 2011 season and goes to juvie at age 7.

If you’ve seen Blake, you know he’s way too pretty to go to juvie. So, scratch that ending.

If I just buy him the card for no particular reason, I’m reinforcing a sense of entitlement and an expectation of everything in life for nothing.

Now it’s just a $4 card but, in 20 years, he’ll be batting his eyelashes expecting a free BMW from some Sugar Mama.

Clearly the only responsible choice is to take me buying the card out of the equation and let Blake make his own list of possible conclusions.

Yeah, not easy I know. Kids are annoying and loud. The crying and whining doesn’t let up for days; and the damn Calgon can’t —  and won’t — take you away.

But, eventually they just stop and get over it. Last week’s football card crisis will be forgotten, like the must-have Pokemon or Talking Elmo of yesteryear once was.

He’ll deal; I’ll deal.

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