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April 15, 2024

Dear Customer, do you really have a grip on your kid?

By Tedi Trindle

Dear Customer,

Welcome to our retail outlet. We provide the best in customer service that we possibly can. We want you to come back to our store again and again. We strive to please. But we need to talk about you and your child.

Some people may be aware of the current "Yu-Gi-Oh" craze which has swept up much of our nation's preteen and early teen youth. Step aside Pokemon and Harry Potter, "Yu-Gi-Oh" is the trading card game of choice these days. Our retail outlet provides an opportunity for Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments every Saturday afternoon, so that your youngster can indulge his current obsession and we can sell him his cards.

Some things you may not be aware of. Your son (around 8-9 years of age) came up and interrupted our adult business transaction because he had mistakenly bought a booster pack of cards he already owned. You rightly told him that if he had opened the pack, he was out of luck. Good on you. You sent him back to the gaming.

Before I could finish ringing up your transaction, he was back with a new plan. He wanted you to buy him a single card which exceeded the price of an entire booster pack of cards because it was a "valuable card". It did not matter that he had exceeded his budget for the cards in question. He needed that card!

He basically suspended the purchase you were trying to make with his insistence that you bankroll his acquisition. You patiently tried to ask him what he thought his father would think about his idea. He continued to make a scene and be insistent. I plowed on through his begging and pleading and managed to finish your transaction. (I so wanted to tell him to just shut up and wait for a minute or two, but that was not my place.) Meanwhile, activity at our checkout counter came to a standstill. He jumped up and down and begged for a full fifteen minutes for what he wanted. You knew that it was an impulsive purchase and that you were going to say no.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad you didn't give into him. I just wish you had taken him outside to get that through to him. You held all of our associates and customers hostage to his pre-pubescent pleadings for better than a quarter of an hour. I almost wonder if you weren't trying to show everyone how a patient parent deals with a persistent child.

You stood right in front of my register and let him have a basic tantrum. You outweighed him by at least a hundred pounds. You could have quite rightfully grasped him peaceably by the arm and taken him out of doors to continue the discussion. You did not. I walked away to help another customer and had come back again, and you were still trying to instill some kind of subtle lesson in a child who clearly needed to be told no, firmly and definitively.

So, my message is, be the parent. Make the decisions. Guide the child. When you're home relaxing with popcorn, you can discuss why. But letting your child throw a tantrum in front of forty horrified adults is not the way to teach your child anything. I'm sure if you had any idea of how everyone else around you was thinking you would have been mortified. And I'm sorry to say you had no clue.

Manners and decorum are for the outside world. Your child will have to deal with this world someday. Explanations and negotiations are for home. Teaching your child to dab a napkin to his lips and to know how to say please and thank you and not create a scene in a public place is giving him an edge over lots of other kids growing up today. Let his battles be private. Let him express his opinion. But ensure he does it in an appropriate venue and try not to bring your personal circus into a friendly place of business. Have some pride.

Sincerely, Your Retailer

PS. As a parent who has been through what you're experiencing now, I'll tell you that it's not enough that you endure your child's sales pitch for what he wants. Children are their own best advocates. And they don't really give a hang about anyone else. In addition to educating this child and making sure his basic needs are cared for, it is also your duty to socialize him. When he causes you major embarrassment in a public place, you have need to be concerned. If he behaves in a way which you know will be detrimental to him when he becomes an adult, cut him short. Trust me, it's easier to get control now rather than later when he has more resources at hand.

Your duty towards socializing your child does not need to rest on caring about anyone else, although I'd like to think it does. It should be gauged toward teaching your child how to get along in the world he will live in for the next 60 or so years.

If he can't learn how to exercise restraint in his desires, or to recognize that he is out in public and is creating a public impression at age nine, just imagine what he will pull at age 13 or 16. My impression was that he felt that if he were persistent enough, he could wear you down to the point where you would accede to his wishes. It's a sorry state of affairs when nine year olds can make full adults do what they want, when the child can hold the parent hostage in a public forum, and the nine year old is not in complete possession of the facts. You have some work to do. I'm willing to admit you've done some. But you have not asserted your full power as a parent. And you jeopardize the future of society for all the rest of us. Sometimes, no just needs to mean no. Clearly, authoritatively, and decisively. Your child's future is at stake. He has to live in the real world someday.
Article © Tedi Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-09-29
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