The title for this post is a rhetorical question, but one I find myself asking often of late. Children, anywhere from toddler age to early teens acting inappropriately in public right in front of their parents. I will admit to being a curmudgeon (I’ve considered myself an old man since I was sixteen), but children wailing like a banshee at the top of their lungs to get their parents attention and garnering nasty looks from all around proves it’s not just me. Teenage girls dressing like they are meeting up with their pimp; teenage boys with their pants/shorts so low they waddle around like penguins (they may as well just go out in boxers). Children bullying other children at the park. Using other people’s toys/sporting goods without asking. Kids in a crowd of people talking on their cell phone as loudly as possible (oh wait, that’s adults too).
Admittedly, my first inclination is to be annoyed with the child. Again, I am a curmudgeon. But I quickly remember that children, of any age, are almost always a product of their environment. ALL children will whine, scream, plea, beg, cajole (add your verb of choice) to get what they desire. Often, all the kid wants is their parent to acknowledge them in some form or fashion. When the child is ignored, the behavior escalates, often to the detriment of those in the immediate vicinity. Because most parents now days are more concerned with being their children’s buddy than being actual parents, the mildly annoying to abhorrent behavior is ignored.
I know I am more strict than many other parents. I’m not my grandfather (children in his day had to be seen and not heard), but I do think children should respect their elders and be considerate of those around them. When my special-needs child is better behaved than most typical kids I see (doesn’t scream at me or others, doesn’t make a scene, listens to my directions/requests), I have a hard time understanding why other parents can’t do their job. I don’t have anything against corporal punishment, although that is not necessary. Just say no. If your kid throws a fit, make them stop. If you tell your kid to do something and they don’t do it, follow through and make the kid do what you told them to. If the child keeps fighting you, you stick to your guns.
It can be difficult. It can be downright painful. The worst I have ever felt about myself, my oldest son was three years-old and made me feel as worthless and horrible as a person can feel. He told me he hated me and how horrible a father I was. I wanted to crawl up in a ball and die. But I didn’t. I persevered. And that is what parents have to do. Stick it out. Deal with being the bad guy. It’s actually easier if you start when the kids are young, but it is never too late.
Please. Just do the job you signed up for and stop taking the easy way out.