LNWA (Little Negroes With Attitude)

I coulda choked a child this week. Sike, y’all know I’m just playin’. But for real, my five-year-old could of really made me catch a case this past week. It seemed like all the patience I’ve ever had to muster I mustered this week.

How could this sweet face, the face of the baby boy who made me a mama, suddenly start talking to me like he’s the massa and I live in the slave quarters down the road?

Him: :: opens the refrigerator ::

Me: “Boy, you better close my refridgerator.”

Him: “But I’m hungry. And you need to make me something to eat.”

Me :: staring, trying to figure out where this little monster came from ::

Him, staring me dead in my eyes like he’s as tall as me: “And anyway, it doesn’t belong to just you. We all live here.”

:: You know, in all fairness, I agree with him. We all do live here, and I believe in sharing. But it was the way he said it. Hands on hips, little neck shake, eyes all wide,  like he was doin’ somethin’. Did this little nucka just put forth an argument, I mean really tell ME that he can open the fridge when he feels like it? Oh Hell Naw! ::

Me: “Like hell it don’t. Do you pay any bills? Do you have any money? :rant really begins: Do you know what electricity is? Every time you open that refrigerator, you are using electricity. And that costs money. :voice really raises: Do you have any money? huh? I can’t hear you?  If you don’t pay any bills, then it doesn’t belong to you! And anyway, I’ve told you about talking to me like that!  Look at me, boy! Don’t tell me I have to cook you something to eat! I cook for you because I love you! Ask for what you want, but YOU don’t tell ME anything! I don’t HAVE to do anything but be black and die!”

As you can see, the attitude this child displays annoys me to the core, making me take the conversation way off base, and probably not addressing the actual issue. It would be a lie of me to say that I don’t know where they are getting this behavior from. I truly believe its the influence of the bad-ass kids they are around all day. I see how these other children at nursery school treat their parents, and I get embarrased for the adults. It reminds me of Bernie Mac (RIP) and his act about punk-ass parents. These parents who negotiate with their kids as the kids are hitting them, speaking in a soft, soothing voice as the kid is steadily yelling and hollering, chasing a child who is running around a store. I suppose I should be happy that my children have the God-given (and wooden-spoon enforced) sense not to act out that way in public. I’ve even had parents come up to me asking how do I get my kids to behave. I guess we go through these episodes at home just so they can get it out of their systems so they won’t act like monsters when we are out in the world.

But still: if I hear “I want” or “I told you” or “Get me some” or “I don’t want to” another time, y’all might have to come get me. Especially for my 5-year-old. It’s one thing when your child is practically cussing you out in 3-year-old babyish talk. But this nice-diction-full-sentences-ish….SMH.

9 thoughts on “LNWA (Little Negroes With Attitude)

  1. LOL! LaToya, you are in for it because when he turns six it gets worse. I really believe that six is more trouble than what they call the terrible twos. My five year old is going to make me catch a case for real. His two older brothers both were a complete mess of sass and too much attitude at six but this child has started early. THANK GOD that the good lord made our boys so cute or else. lol! Hang in there he will be back to his sweet self when he turns seven.

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  2. I know I’m not supposed to be laughing but I can just see you at the refrigerator, looking in his face talking about electricity! LOL

    My kids choose to show their verbal brilliance at home as well, and I am thankful for that; it has kept me off the radar of Family & Childrens Services. I have had to remind them, even the 15 year old who looks down on me, that their wittiness had better have some limits becasue my ass kicking might not. Perhaps I overstate…but punishment is available for the disrespectful, belive that!

    I agree with you that permissive parents and their offspring influence children who don’t lead rule-free lives to test the boundaries. Young parents who don’t know how to discipline or care to try. Older parents who dont have the energy and/or want to be their kids’ friend. Doing everything possible parents who read every article, book and blog on children and parenting so as to perfect the art…and subsequently (I assume) have perfect kids.

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  3. Okay, I know this was supposed to be funny, but in defense of the “punk-ass parents,” there might be something to be said for modeling the type of behavior you want (i.e. speaking in a soothing/calm voice even though your kid is acting crazy) or allowing kids to negotiate with you. Just because I’m in charge doesn’t mean I’m right, and kids who are allowed to negotiate a little at the edges often have an enhanced internal locus of control. Willingness to negotiate–an assumption that no is not the final answer, or that with good logic you might be able to get someone in a position of power over you to change their mind–comes in handy later in life, and can often significantly impact the quality of your life.

    There are many different ways of disciplining, and unwillingness to use harsh language and/or use physical punishment does not mean that a parent can’t–or won’t–discipline. I also hesitate to assume that just because a child is acting crazy, it means that their parents are not disciplining correctly or at all. Not only have I seen siblings who behave very differently (one and angel; one not so angelic) despite the same discipline by their parents, but as a mother with a strong-willed child of her own, I know it’s a fine line to walk between disciplining her without dampening that fiery spirit I love so much and nurturing my own ego. I spend a lot of time asking myself, “does this rule matter?” and, “am I caught up in a case of because I told you so,” which has less to do with disciplining her and more to do with my own personal validation.

    Just a few (serious) thoughts…

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    1. At the end of the day, in comparison to parents of my parents generation, I am a punk-ass parent. I hardly hit my children, although as you all know, I will. And I am not against negotiating and having rules that make sense. But I will say, “because I said so” and don’t really see anything wrong with that. Sometimes I don’t feel like explaining. Sometimes they are too young to really understand. And sometimes, it’s because, as I tell Big A, “I’m the parent, and you are the child. I tell you to do things because I love you and I think I know what’s best for you. I try to keep you safe and healthy. So you need to listen to me.”

      Yes, kids act crazy even when you are doing effective parenting. But what I am talking about, I think, is a little madness that looks like ineffective parenting.

      I’ve seen children hitting their parents with no consequence. That’s not “a different kind of discipline”; that’s no discipline at all. And while I’m all for negotiating *sometimes,* I will not negotiate every. single. thing. I. say. It’s time to go in the morning, at the same time every morning. I say, “Please go downstairs and put on your shoes.” And I do say, “please” – we try to be polite to the children to model that behavior. But I will not tolerate, “but I want to play with this toy” or “why do we have to put on our coats” or “i want to eat something” when we have this conversation every morning, when our routine is the same every morning, when the consequences of not eating your breakfast before you started playing is explained every morning. I’m not going to explain why he has to put his coat on. Absolutely not. Every request will not be a negotiation. I’m the parent for a reason; I might not always be right but I have more experience in this thing called life and due to that experience I have more wisdom. God gave me these children to use my wisdom to bring them up and raise them. We can’t operate as equals because we are not equals. I admit to my children when I’m wrong but I go into a situation presuming that I am right. I don’t think I could parent effectively if I didn’t believe that. I take the stance that what I’m asking them to do is the right thing. I’m not yelling, I’m not abusive, but I’m not listening to every “Why?” and after a couple there are more serious consequences than me just not listening.

      As far as acting crazy, yelling and screaming, I think I’m coming from the experience of my child. Little A is the queen of drama, tantrums, all that. I don’t think talking to her in the midst of it makes any sense at all, and I guess I generally don’t think it makes any sense with any young child – at least I’ve never seen it work. I put her in her room and let her know that when she’s calmed down and relaxed she can join the rest of us. But we don’t want to hear all of that.

      I also just think in general parents talk too much. I’ve talked to a psychologist about this too. Kids can’t process all this talking. Not young kids – 5 and 3 year olds. Even me with the whole rant about electricity – that was too much. It should have been – don’t open the fridge without asking – and that’s it. If you want something, ask for it, don’t demand it – and that’s it. Short and sweet so they can understand the rules. I’m not trying to take their fire away, but I am trying to teach them respect, manners, and boundaries.

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      1. I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said. It was more a reflection on why I choose and enforce the rules I do, and when I decide I need to let it go. I can’t comment on hitting w/out consequences. For sure, consequences must ensue, although it’s hard from the outside to definitely conclude that none have. It’s also an age thing, no? At 20 months, my child doesn’t get “time-out” yet. So, like you said, we just wait out a tantrum (she’s a bit young to wait it out on her own); if we’re in public, we go somewhere quiet, and I say, “I know you’re mad at Mommy; I understand, but the answer is no; we’ll go back out when you’ve calmed down.” She is currently testing her boundaries, and sometimes she pinches or hits; she thinks its funny. Usually, the consequence is she can’t sit or play with Mommy; I leave, after telling her its inappropriate, not so much to punish her–because she doesn’t get that yet–but to teach her that socially, it’s not acceptable; I’m trying to teach empathy, not fear of me. From outsiders, however, it might look like there were no consequences. In any event, I’m sure I am, by all accounts, a punk-ass parent. LOL.

        I also sometimes just think the way we talk to children is not all that great; and by “we,” I might (have to think about this more) be suggesting cocoaparents. Using the beginning of your story, for example (and this was not, btw, what I had in mind when I originally replied, but since it’s come up), why “boy, you better close my refrigerator door,” instead of “what did I tell you about opening the door without asking,” or even “please close the door, now”? I don’t know; seems to me that if he gives you some sass back, he’s in good company.

        Finally, just curious–how come he can’t open the fridge w/out asking? We’re now trying to figure out what the kitchen rules for K will be; we can’t keep her out of the kitchen forever! Is it a safety thing?

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  4. Part of me “teaching” my children AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), Black English, etc. is in how I talk to them. It’s pretty intentional on my part. So part of the “boy, you betta…” is modeling that talk for them. They are in all white environments except for our playdates with black friends and at home. And it’s hard to convey in writing, but it’s lovingly said – it wasn’t yelled or said harshly. And it’s true – both of my children’s sass comes directly from me – I hate authority. I’m getting exactly what I deserve (except I wasn’t allowed to question parental authority when I was growing up, so I still find this incredibly unfair!)

    I do keep my kids out of the kitchen totally, and yes, it’s partly for safety. I don’t want them opening drawers with sharp things in them – the only drawer they can open is the one with the eating utensils. The fridge really is about electricity – I want them to have a sense that things cost money, that the house doesn’t just magically run. Mommy and daddy work for the things we have. Food doesn’t magically appear, the fridge isn’t magically cold. I don’t let them touch the dishwasher or the washing machine or the dryer – again, because they push buttons that make things run, and that’s wasteful. We try to be eco-friendly in our house, so there’s little standing in front of the fridge with the door open just looking for anyone. If there is something that they want, I will allow them to get it from the fridge, but they have to know what they want and ask first. And, they have a habit of not closing the door all the way – if that’s not caught, that could ruin a week’s worth of groceries. There are some weeks where all we can buy is groceries! I just want them to grow up understanding that everything costs something, and they should be grateful for everything. I can only say that I do it this way because that’s how I grew up, more out of necessity than choice. Even though my kids have more, I just think that’s a really valuable lesson. I’m definitely one of those parents walking around saying, “you know, there are little children who don’t even have a refrigerator and can’t have cold juice! be grateful!” I know they don’t understand it yet, but I want them to hear it. Big A is starting to catch on.

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  5. Yes; my daughter is currently just not allowed in the kitchen. It’s pretty comic to watch her come right up to the line, and then just stop. But the bigger she gets, the more silly it seems, although maybe a lot of people prevent their kids from entering an entire room of the house??? I don’t know; I figure eventually, she should be able to walk to the pantry and pick out one of the fruit pouches she likes so much…

    This is probably better a subject for a future post by you, so feel free to ignore my question, but what’s so terrible about authority? Why do you “hate authority”? What does that mean? Do you mean you don’t like arbitrary exercise of authority, or you just don’t like it when anybody is charge??? LOL

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    1. Hmmm, I think it’s about situations when authority seems illegitimate to me, or authority for authority’s sake, or another grown person trying to tell me what to do simply because they have a title. I think I do have a problem with hierarchy that doesn’t have (to me) a rational basis, of course “rational” as determined by me, LOL. The parent-child hierarchy is rational to me, but I agree – pulling the “I’m the parent” too much is a delegitimatizing as a child gets older; the rationale that I alluded to above no longer makes sense.

      I hate the idea of people having to “pay dues” or being hazed as a ritual. I also think I am rebellious and contrarian by nature; I walk to my own beat and I don’t like feeling constrained. I tow the normal line most of the time because I want to, I’ve been socialized to, but not because I feel compelled to psychologically; as soon as I feel like someone else is trying to *make* me do anything, I feel the need to buck. I get angry, sad, upset. I really value my independence, my ability to make my own decisions, my control over my time, my control over how I look and what I say and how I say it – all these things that in my experience “authority” tries to control for you. I chose to take a job that paid me half of what i-banking did because I hated the constant control. So I guess when I say authority, I really mean control. I think I can take someone else being in charge, as long as it allows me to have a lot of control over what I do. I can work toward a common goal, but I have to be allowed to get there in my own way, in my own time, and have my own voice.

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