My daughter and I walked through the stores today looking for things she needed. For a few minutes we followed a mom with two boys maybe ages 6 and 8. They were fussing and she was explaining again and again that if they were good they might get a surprise, but they had to be good the whole time if they were to get a surprise and that they had to be good, if they were bad they wouldn't get a surprise and..... you get the picture.
We walked silently behind them for a few more minutes and then they turned away from us and we continued on. I looked down at my daughter and said, "Sweetie, when you have kids, just keep it simple. Just expect good behavior as normal, and don't bribe your kids to be good. Then when they are good or do something specially nice, reward them, but sometimes give them surprises just because you love them. But just expect good behavior as the norm, and life will be a lot easier."
We walked farther on, and in the middle of the shopping center was a double wide bench with no back - sort of like a bed, but just a bench. On it were three toddlers, gently wrestling and quietly laughing with each other. We stopped to look because they were so cute. Just then, the mom came by and scolded the toddlers for playing there. "Hey, stop that, all of you! Behave!" They stopped laughing and got down.
We walked on. As we walked out of earshot, I looked down at my daughter again. "Sweetie, when you have kids, remember to let them be kids when you can. There was nothing wrong with where those kids chose to play. A different place in the store and it may have been a problem, but they chose the place well, and they were playing quietly enough to be respectful to those around them. Let your kids play when you can."
She may not be old enough to get her facts of life straight, but when an object lesson on parenting is right in front of us, we are going to use it. I don't know that I was the best parent of little kids. I'd like a do-over on several things, but we don't get those. What I can do is train my children now as we walk in the way.