by Jay Bender
With the holiday season in full swing, many of you will be spending considerably more time in stores, often with kids or grandkids in tow. And let’s be honest, most children would rather be doing anything other than shopping with a grownup, which can lead to some frustrated outbursts or full-fledged tantrums. Dealing with upset children is one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood.
If you ask just about any cop, they’ll tell you about one parenting technique that usually falls a little flat: It’s when a parent uses you to frighten their children, often by pointing at a police officer in uniform and saying “If you don’t stop crying, that policeman is going to take you to jail!”
Now, a police officer must have a thick skin. We are often the target of vulgar tirades and threats, so while comments like this come with the uniform, there is a deeper issue here than some hurt feelings. When this happens to me, I usually will take a moment and talk directly to the child. I always say “Oh, I won’t take you to jail. We only take bad people to jail, and you’re good, right?” That’s usually met with a shy nod and some sniffles.
I don’t take that time because I want to feel better, but because I think it’s vital that children see police officers as people to be trusted, not feared. Within minutes of the encounter, that child could become lost in a crowded store or mall, or they might need a police officer for an emergency. Do you think that child will go to a person they fear? Or a person they trust?