Is It OK to threaten your toddler with popping their balloons?

I dont know the full news story, but I saw the Wright Stuff talking about a Mum who couldn’t get her 3yr old out of the park, so threatened to pop her balloon.  Apparently the daughter immediately got off the swing.  But the Mum was also seriously told off by other parents who said that she will have permanently scared her child’s life by doing it!

What do you think?  Would you walk up to a parent in a park and tell them off for their techniques?  Has someone done that to you?  Is it going too far to threaten to pop a balloon?

My answer is as always going to be based on common sense, and practicality, which is it depends on the child and the situation.

If that balloon was the most important thing in that child’s life and they valued it incredibly highly, then yes, it was probably quite a cruel suggestion, a bit like if I threatened to put spiderman in the bin.  However, if it was a fleeting attraction, and the child was fully aware that there are more balloons, then it was a just a sensible application of consequences and boundaries to the child; a bit like me threatening that there would be no 10 minutes of ‘strictly come dancing’ before bed!

I totally think that with kids ‘what comes around goes around’.  So bully them and treat them with disrespect, and expect them to do so back to you very quickly.  So whatever method you decide to use to get them to do something, you are best off being respectful.  BUT!  That doesn’t mean you can’t be forceful, and have clear boundaries.

I have no idea how the Mum in the park did the balloon popping threat.  However, if she had attempted to get her ‘little darling’ out of the park with normal methods like, “We need to leave the park in 5 mins”, followed up by “Time to leave”, and then when she was resistant “If we don’t leave the park now we will be <fill in consequence etc late, unable to do something etc>”.  Then I can totally see why she would then have resorted to an offer of a stronger consequence.  Plus it worked ;o)

If she was at her whits end, shouting at her ‘little darling’ and aggressively threatened to pop the balloon, without much attempt to find alternative means, then yes, this might not be the most ‘ideal’ option.  But none of us know whether she was sleep deprived, handling huge stresses at home, or generally just at the end of her tether.  I don’t know any Mum who hasn’t been there!  So no, it might not have been ‘ideal’, but heh, it was all she could come up with at that time.  From the perspective of ‘permanently damaging’ her daughter, then there will be some ramifications if she continued to behave like that for a long number of months.  But I’m not one for agreeing with ‘permanent damage’.  If I can work with people who were abused physically/sexually as children and quickly help them to move on, with great empowered lives, that have no ‘ruin’ in their past, then there is no reason ever for a child to be ‘permanently damaged’.  Don’t fall for our general tendency to victimise people for life in the moment in the UK, it’s really not the best option for these so called ‘victims’.

I’m quite surprised at the behaviour of the parents who tackled this mum in the park.  It’s either come from a genuine concern, in which case, good on them, because loads of us are parallised by being politically correct.  However, I suspect it came from a self-righteousness, and lack of empathy, which is a terrible shame.  As parents, we have a difficult enough job as it is (whilst also being joyful), without turning on each other.  Do you know what I can promise you about those parents?  If they were that enraged by it, I can be 100% sure that it was because it reminded them of something that they have done somewhere in life, or know they could do, and the reflection of someone else doing it, made them feel terribly guilty and hence lash out at this Mum.

I’m kind of in the middle road between the people who think that you should only ever ‘negotiate’ with a child and those who think that you should always rule the roost.

I’m a proponent for finding out the values of the people who are important in your life (I teach how to do it on my workshop and have blogged about it before), and then talking in their ‘language’.  Which could be termed ‘negotiating’, expect for the fact that I also underline the importance of any option working for both parties, whereas for some people ‘negotiating’ suggests that the children have the main control in the situation.  Like I said before, this is the most respectful way to deal with your kids (and anyone else for that matter).  HOWEVER!  All kids need boundaries.  So sometimes it is talking in their values and best interests to teach them that there are consequences for our actions.  If there are no boundaries then we get a pile of spoilt, demanding kids, who will struggle with adapting to ‘real life’ as they grow up.  (Obviously the boundaries need to be relevant to the child’s age and maturity).  With no boundaries, at the very worst we get a pile of kids with no financial sense, all wanting to become famous, probably bullying people left right and centre.  It can even get to the point that they have very little appreciation for what they get in life, so they either end up treating everyone in their lives like dirt, and becoming physically or emotionally destructive.  I saw an example of this in the park this week.  A little boy systematically spat at, kicked, pushed & called my little boy names, and his Mum did little about it.  He wasn’t a ‘contented’ child!  When later one of her group pointed out to her the behaviour and she therefore tackled it, her child mixed with the other children much more happily.  He actually needed and wanted the guidance on boundaries.  (I have another blog enroute about bullying, so you’ll find out how come I didn’t step in soon!).

Anyway, I’m off to pick up my ‘little darling’ now from nursery, so gotta end there.  I’d love to know what do you think?

12 comments

  1. I can’t believe that people had the nerve to say something to her for such a little thing like threatening to pop the balloon. The worlds gone mad. I would have probably gone crazy at them if they’d dared say that to me! I don’t take kindly to other people telling me what I should or shouldn’t do!

  2. Geez, that was kinda rude in my opinion. How dare they? They don’t have the right to mouth off like that. That poor mum, she was probably stressed out or something.

    If I was that mum, I would have told those self righteous parents off. Grrr!

  3. ‘Funny’ they said something when a mum told off her little girl. I feel parents remain rather silent when kids bully other kids. I told a big boy to stop beating up a little one and one mum on a bench was so shocked, she almost let the cigarette slip out of her mouth.

    1. I know – it’s outrageous isn’t it! I watched 4-5 boys systematically call my little boy names, spit at him, push him and kick him in the park (I did have a reason for standing by – there will be a blog on it in the next week, I’m just ‘polishing’ it!). Eventually, I stepped in, when one hassled Mum told her little boy off, when in fact I had been watching and knew he had been very cleverly framed by the ring leader. At that point little mr ring leaders mother stepped in, and things improved, but not one word of apology to me!

  4. Isn’t it funny how strength comes in numbers…in terms of giving opinions and bullying!

    I think that it is ridiculous that the child would be “scared” for life due to the balloon incident. If the mother was threatening to wallop the child that is a different story. Sometimes we parents aren’t perfect (shock horror) and every moment we are not always as careful as we should be with our words. Clearly the mother felt the need to threaten a punishment (bursting her balloon) to get her off the swings as she had probably not obeyed before.

    How did the other judgemental parents get their children off the swings I wonder…it is wrong if they offer to buy their kids an icecream? buy them a treat? watch their favourite TV programme or play their favourite Ninento? Now if those children seemed substantially over weight would your answer be any different?

    Would you step in and tell them they shouldn’t give their child an ice-cream as the child doesn’t need it?

    1. Really good point re the icecream’s etc, it can be ‘crueler’ to be ‘treating’ your kids too much, because it sets their expectations for life, plus makes them spoilt brats and can be generally unhealthy. People think being ‘nice’ is better, but not always!

  5. I am shocked that those parents did actually say something to the mother. In my experience around here that would never happen. I think you are right, children do need boundaries. They can exploit them a bit when you are out and about, I have been guilty of saying I will take Bun Bun away, it works everytime! Sometimes you have to be somewhere and negotiations just are not going to happen.

  6. Hi Everybody, I absolutely hate Balloons. I can´t stand the sound if my kids rub them on the floor or their clothes, i hate it when i´m working in the kitchen and every minute a balloon is landing on the table. If my kids have balloons at home, every evening i´m going upstairs to their rooms and talk to them, the balloons have to go, because they know, every balloon has to go before sleeping. Mostly i take a small pencil or a pin that works best. Call me a balloon murderer, but i have to do it 🙂

  7. Hello Mommy – lovely to hear from you on such an old post of mine! You know your children are going to grow up to be clowns who do balloon modelling don’t you lol! Totally understand – they can last for DAYS!

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