Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Full Grown Brats

My response to Permissive Parents: Curb Your Brats.

If you think the worst thing to see in public is a rambunctious kid and that the answer to the problems in society is hitting children for not meeting your standards in public, I have news for you. You sound like you are exhibiting the same selfish, bratty behavior you so vehemently criticize in children.

The reason some kids scream "leave me alone" is because they have learned this behavior from adults just like yourself. They have learned that if you don't like what someone is doing, you call them names, hit them, and try to exclude them.

Most grocery stores, restaurants and airplanes are people-oriented places, designed for the enjoyment of the civilized, not screaming neanderthals or social boars or homicidal daydreamers. While children might sometimes scream like neanderthals at least they are doing it because they are literally 25 years away from full brain development. On the other hand, I've seen a mother with a presumably fully functioning and developed brain encourage her older children as they all yell at a younger child for "being a baby" and try to embarrass him by telling him that "everyone thinks you look stupid crying like that." Maybe if she had just hit him enough in the past, she could have just given him "the look" to shut him up, but in civilized society a lack of empathy for another hurting human being is generally considered anti-social behavior and not something we want our children to mimic. It's likely that there were people watching this display having homicidal daydreams like your own ("we want to kill you for letting your brat ruin our dinner"), but hopefully they don't mention these to their own children because mimicking such behavior could get their kids suspended from school or even arrested.

Permissive parenting is rarely the cause of the most disturbing public behavior. I have seen a parent slap a barely walking child only to be met with approving nods from those standing by. I have heard parent call their child names that would make the devil's ears burn.

A parent slapping a young child's hand is not parenting, it's disrespectful bullying. Any kid with half way developed logic (which is all they have, by the way) will give their parent more than "the look" and slap them back. Some people are so preoccupied with making sure other people's kids are behaving in socially acceptable ways that they don't even recognize the irony of hitting kids for hitting or throwing temper tantrums over kids' temper tantrums.

If I sound a bit judgmental, I don't mean to be. I have been that frustrated mom who plunked my toddler down in her carseat too hard and I've been that tired, pregnant mom who decided that even though letting my kids stand on the restaurant seat is a social faux pas, it's not hurting anyone or anything. The things that have helped me along in my journey to be neither an immature, violent bully or a passive doormat are good measures of grace, education and time to learn, which I am grateful to still be receiving from some sources. The thing that has made this journey so much more difficult is judgmental, narcissistic adults.

See, adults are wonderful, but they are not the center of the universe.

This is the part of raising children that can be confusing for many parents. It's not socially acceptable to like kids. It's not common to be around people who understand normal developmental phases, who actually want to spend time with their children, who see the joy in kids learning and discovering who they are- even the messy parts.

The sad truth is that it's the people who cringe at the sight of an exuberant child or huff and stomp at the sight of a frustrated child, that contributes to people not wanting to be around children. They take a perfectly normal moment and project something ugly onto it. Kids will scream when they are upset, just like they will poop in their diaper when they have to go. Neither one is about you or the parent and neither one is a transgression against the greater good. It's about their needs and their inability to handle those needs in any other way. Just like they can learn to use the toilet without being shamed or punished, they can also learn to handle their emotions, use things without damaging them and act in socially acceptable ways by having these things modeled for them.

This modeling needs to come from mature, patient, respectful adults. Adults who see a child struggling and offer to help. Adults who understand normal developmental stages and walk kids through them. Adults who recognize when a parent is overwhelmed and undereducated and provide support and resources. At the very least, adults who mind their own damn business unless the kids is actually affecting them or their things in an more tangible way then simply being in the same vicinity.

Making the wishes of random strangers in public places the priority is not an expression of love. It does not help kids internalize why to act properly in public or how to respect other people. It only teaches them that everyone else's opinion is more important than their own and that their priority should be to please everyone around them for fear of disapproval or pain.

There are actually adults who don't like to see children so scared of their parents that a simple "look" will make them fear getting hit and instantly conform. Some adults actually enjoy watching toddlers explore, hearing preschoolers stand up for their own boundaries, and talking with older children who have their own opinions.

Given a choice between seeing a parent hit their child and hearing a child be too noisy in a quiet place, I'd much rather listen to the noise. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be one or the other.

If my child is damaging something I stop them and I also help them find an acceptable way to satisfy their curiosity. If they are bothering someone, I make a judgement call about whether what my child is doing is actually disrespectful or if the person just needs to own his own feelings. If my child is screaming and crying, I remove them from the situation, not so much to cater to easily annoyed adults, but to find a quiet place to help my child learn better coping skills. If my child is acting inappropriately for the situation, I model appropriate behavior and walk them through it as well. None of this requires hitting or the veiled threat of "the look" and all of it has resulted in compliments on my children's behavior.

If you have children, deal with them and yourself. Take the time to actually learn how to model appropriate behavior and teach your children actual skills instead of just how to conform out of fear.

If you don't have children, get over yourself long enough to realize that you acted the same way when you were a kid. And if you think that your parents did such a great job never allowing you to act up in public, why are you now an adult who responds to annoyances by throwing a fit or calling people names or demanding violent means to assert control?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, I needed some solid real life examples of how to parent the loving way. It doesn't come naturally for me in the least and it is my biggest struggle every day at almost every moment :)