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The Right Answer Was the Wrong One

Sometimes, as a parent, I have to assert my I know I’m right and you need to do what I say right now powers.

You know. You’ve done it, too.

Busy streets, crowds of people, dangerous predicaments.

There are times when it’s vital for my child to do what I say, usually for her safety but sometimes for the respect of someone else or their property.

This was one of those times.

I thought I was preventing her from falling into a fishpond.

Turns out, it was my asserting my way that made her fall into the fishpond.

We were eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Harrisburg, a restaurant with a large tiled fish pond in the lobby. We eat at this restaurant at least once a month; we meet Nana and PopPop there because it’s in between our houses.

Allie climbed up onto the low wall surrounding the fish pond. She sat carefully on the ledge, swinging her feet and splashing them in the cold water. The fish hid under a statue.

Believing that she should not be sitting there nor splashing, I grabbed her.

“No, Allie!” I said, pulling her backwards, off the ledge, feet onto the floor.

She squealed in anger and lunged toward the water, up and over the ledge in a single motion.

Into the water.

Fortunately, she didn’t get hurt; she didn’t go in head first. Her entire body from neck to feet went in just as quickly as she lunged.

The water was very cold, and Allie was very unhappy.

Before she could even stand up, I was pulling her out, stripping off her wet clothes, and shaking her off.




She wasn’t in the water for more than three seconds; her diaper didn’t even have time to swell up.

I couldn’t help but think about all of the staff and patrons in this restaurant who must have been looking at me and pitying my deplorable parenting.

Only after I got home, I realized, So what? So what if they all thought I was a lousy parent?

What exactly does that do to me?

Nothing, that’s what.

That kind of parenting, the because I said so method, has never worked well for me. My kids are too smart, too spirited, too headstrong for it. I don’t do intimidation. I don’t do fear. I don’t do punishments.

Sometimes, it is necessary.

I aim for logical consequences, for the natural aftermath of a behavior to follow the behavior itself.

In this case, Allie insisted upon being on the ledge, and she fell into the water. Perfectly logical. No punishment required.

She did try to climb up onto the wall another time or two, but they were halfhearted attempts. She didn’t really want to sit up there any more. She wanted to lean, to put a finger into the water.

The thing I’m left with is this.

I had to intervene, and my intervening caused her to fall into the water.

Sometimes the right answer is also the wrong one.

What do you think?

© 2012 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “The Right Answer Was the Wrong One”

  1. Maybe it wasn’t the wrong answer? Maybe this is going to be one of those funny stories that is repeated throughout family history and you’re all going to look back on it and laugh. You can relive the event and talk about it every time you go back to eat there and reinforce the lesson you meant to teach and the kids will definately know to keep their feet out of the fish pond – or risk falling in! And really…. it’s kind of funny, so laughing about it is perfectly okay! 🙂

  2. Your parenting did not make her fall in the water. Her disobedience did. This may be an opportunity to laugh later. It is also an opportunity to reenforce that you love her and try to protect but as hard as you try she needs to do her part to be safe by obeying. I struggle to see what I could have done differently as a parent sometimes and sometimes the answer is they have to learn to obey. She may have scared you also and it may help to tell her that. When my kids scared me is when I was the most likely to over react.
    I hope you have a good day.

    • Yes, go look for the sign that says “NO ZIEGMONTS ALLOWED” 🙂 I’m not sure of the name, but it’s the big Chinese buffet behind the Olive Garden and Giant grocery store on route 22. It’s near the K-Mart and across 22 from Red Robin and Target. Does that make sense? It’s a good place to eat. They have all sorts of foods (including seafood, sushi, and hibachi). That might be the name of it, actually – Hibachi Grill. There’s another Hibachi Grill by the Harrisburg Mall, but we didn’t like it as much. The one on route 22 is the best one.

      • Is it the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant? It is where Karns used to be. I could only find the Hibachi Grill near the Harrisburg Mall. Not really good with the names of the restaurants in Harrisburg we normally only go to the Applebee’s by Bass Pro because my brother is the manager there. But I will definitely be looking for it to give it a try and I think my girls would like the pond! Thanks.

  3. I think you’re over thinking this one just a tad. You just should have snuck up on her and grabbed her instead of using your voice to warn her that she was about to get snatched up. Saves on conflict if you get to them before they know what’s happening.

    As for the no punishments thing, I think we’ll just have to agree that we have different ideas of human nature. 😉 In this case, I doubt parenting styles have very much to do with it.

  4. I’m not a parent, so I feel I have no right to offer an opinion on whether you did the right thing or not. I do, however, feel comfortable with how I would have felt viewing that scenario. I wouldn’t think you’re a bad parent. It’s absolutely natural for young children Allie’s age to not listen to her parent and to do the exact opposite on occasion. That’s just part of growing up. It’d be like being shocked that a teenager wants to sleep until noon or that a preteen feels embarrassed to be around her parents. Children go through stages, and it seems to me that Allie’s just working through a normal developmental stage. 🙂

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