So I recently ran across yet another of the litany of articles berating “permissive parents” for not “curbing their brats.” I could not be more tired of these rants that insist that it is my job to personally survey (telepathically deduce?) the preferences and tolerances of all adults around me at all times and then to force my children, apparently through corporal punishment if needed, to comply. Worse yet, I rudely transgress by taking my children to such “adult-oriented” venues as restaurants, airplanes and grocery stores in the first place.
I’m not clear when these establishments sporting kid’s menus, child treat bags and a disturbing array of “kid foods” became adults-only. In fact, I suspect that should families become more polite and actually absent themselves from such places, we would be even more proactively courted by those who want our pocketbooks present, even if they are accompanied by grubby little fingers. In fact, I’d love to find the hidden family-only businesses we should be patronizing, or at least those that contain only perfectly coiffed, angelic children who answer all strangers’ nosy questions with an adoring gaze but are otherwise silent and perfectly still or, better yet, invisible.
Now don’t kid yourself, the most judgmental creatures on this planet about how parents are raising children are other parents. Badly behaved kids make me crazy, especially when they are mine. Plus, way more than anyone else in the joint, I often wish my kids would shut up and sit still for more than 15 seconds so that I could chat with other adults and eat my meal in peace. But here’s the thing… kids are people – not pets, not accessories and not toys.
Are there truly overly-permissive parents who allow inappropriate behavior without regard for the feelings of others? Sure. Is that typical? No.
For those of you who gleefully pass these articles around social media outlets to the delight of your childless friends (or those with small enough children to still feel smug), here are a few things to consider and remember:
-- Just like adults, kids have preferences, fears, pet peeves, disappointments, moods, bad days, and in general, just want to have things their way. They also, like adults, get bored, tired and irritated when things take too long, or don’t go their way. They are still learning how to appropriately control and channel their emotions and express their needs and wants. They actually get it “right” more often than they get it wrong, but no one (often including their parents) notices those times. If adults worked on tolerance, manners, consideration and compromise as actively and visibly as children, parents wouldn’t have to work so hard to teach these skills over the bad messaging and hypocrisy our children see daily. There’d certainly be less of these “kids are brats” articles.
-- Your preferences, stranger, mean little more to me than mine do to you. There is basic consideration in this world to be sure. If my kid is actively and physically affecting you, I will get involved. If my kid is in danger or endangering others, I will get involved. But you don’t get to have an opinion, much less a say over every single thing I or my children say or do any more than I do over you. For example, an excited child talking to their parent, even non-stop, on a plane flight while you are trying to sleep (at a tolerable volume, especially given the ear congestion that affects children on planes) is no different than you tapping away on your computer keyboard or chatting with a seatmate if I am trying to sleep. No one assumes they have the right to ask an adult to put a computer away or be quiet in such instances, and you don’t have the right to expect my kid (who, incidentally does not have a “shut down” button) to clam up just because you wish it were so.
-- Learning means doing. How do you suppose kids learn to behave on airplanes, at restaurants, or in grocery stores? Was your first experience with these things at age 18? Do you do most things perfectly your first time out? Most parents I know or see around are actively teaching their children how to behave appropriately in public places. That doesn’t mean children won’t ever “misbehave” in the first place. When my kids forget where they are in a restaurant and suddenly speak loudly and I shush them or remind them to use their indoor voice, even if I have to remind them more than once, your dirty look over them having them exist in the first place doesn’t faze me one bit, so save it.
-- You are in public! Public places mean that you don’t own them. Public means that you don’t get to control every little thing about your world. If you don’t want to have to see anything that annoys you, stay home. Want to increase your odds? Get your groceries delivered. Choose a restaurant with a higher-price point and without a children’s menu. Fly first class (yes, I know, people whine if wealthy folks have the unmitigated gall to put a child in first class, but just to make my point, you don’t get to decide who else is there… the seats are generally based on price, not age, and come with no guarantees of any annoyance-free flight, merely a wider seat and a hot towel or two - if you want to be really sure, hire a private plane). But don’t tell me that places that clearly service kids and families are “adult-oriented” just because you wish they were. Can’t afford those things? Here’s a newsflash, neither can I -- that’s why we are both in the same restaurant and on the same plane.
Frankly, I see lots of things in public that annoy me and negatively affect my children and myself. I’ll make you all a deal… my friends and I will beat our children into the perfect little angels you unrealistically imagine when all adults stop these legal activities which may annoy or endanger others, many of which they fight actively for the right to do:
-- Smoke in public, even in designated smoking areas that rudely waft into the non-smoking areas
-- Talk loudly, especially on cell phones or about your sex life
-- Curse, particularly at *public* places like Disneyland and playgrounds – not to mention in restaurants, airplanes and grocery stores
-- Wear obscene or offensive messages on clothing
-- Let bras, boxer shorts and muffin tops hang out of clothes
-- Carry guns
Getting the point? Children are no more brats all the time than people who write these articles are self-centered narcissists all the time. But we all have our moments… Kids are still learning how to control and express themselves. What I can’t figure out is the adults’ excuse.