I try not to be a Judgy McJudgerpants when I’m around other parents. I save all that for when my husband gets home, and then we play two-headed judgmental monster for hours, congratulating ourselves for being so much better at everything than anyone else.
There is one thing that I can’t stand, though, and I will judge you all day and all night if you do it. If you can’t tell your kids no, I am judging you. Can you feel it? I’m doing it right now.
There’s a great article in Time where Robin Berman laments this very thing.
“It used to be that kids were scared of their parents and now parents seem scared of their kids. The pendulum has swung from children being seen and not heard to being heard and perpetually indulged. Parents seem so uncomfortable with setting limits and taking their rightful position as captain of the family ship.”
Now, I don’t want my kid to be scared of me, but on the other hand I am not afraid of her either. I am the boss of her. I thought that being the boss of your kid was pretty much a foregone conclusion but more and more I too see parents telling their kids “no” without following through. Which is crazy to me, because then a lot of these parents will turn around and talk about how challenging having a willful or defiant kid is.
I just kind of gape at them because these are the same people who tell their kids they can’t have marshmallows for dinner and then give them marshmallows for dinner anyway to get them to stop throwing a tantrum before turning to me and saying, “He just has to have his marshmallows for dinner! Picky kids, amirite?”
At the daycare I worked at, we had a child that we affectionately referred to as “Diddums” because his parents treated him exactly like Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series. His mom would come for pick up, tell him he could only go down the slide one more time, and then look on helplessly, wringing her hands as he took 18 more turns on the slide, body-checking his peers if they were unfortunate enough to get in the way. She would look over at whatever teacher was manning the playground and say something like, “I know he’s a handful, but what can I do?” and laugh nervously.
What can you do? Lady, you’re bigger than him. Go up the slide, get your three-year-old, strap him into his $600 car seat and GTFO.
Tantrums are normal, and I get that. But even at a young age, you need to set out boundaries or your kid is going to eat you for lunch. The author in the Time piece mentions that she thinks parents are afraid of their kids, but I disagree. I think parents are afraid of other parents.
We’re suddenly parenting in a world where everything from pacifiers and formula to time-outs and discipline are believed to be destroying the fragile psyche of our little darlings, so much so that one must wonder how any other generation survived the grave abomination of being grounded. So my theory is that parents are afraid of other parents. Afraid of being labelled an “unkind momma” and giving their child the kind of Reactive Attachment Disorder that’s defined by hilarious and farcically broad parameters set forth by the API over on Dr.
Juice Plus Sears’ website.
Berman goes on to tell us just how ridiculously easy it is to not raise a miniature asshole, saying:
“We can acknowledge and empathize with our children’s feelings but still hold the line: “I know you want a new toy, but we are not buying you one today.” Period. And if the child continues to have a tantrum, you have to leave the store. You need to do what is right for your children, even if it means tolerating a brief drop in your popularity polls.”
I had always assumed that this was common knowledge, but I know firsthand that you will get some nasty looks if you escort your screaming kid from the grocery store. I’ve even been told that I’m too hard on my own daughter because, monster that I am, she has to go to bed at eight o’clock even-oh my stars and garters!-on the weekend.
I don’t mind. My kid isn’t scared of me or repressed, and because I have so thoroughly damaged her with all of that formula and discipline, I know that I can trust her at other people’s houses. Also, because she isn’t a Diddums, I have plenty of opportunities to reward her good behavior, which feels a hell of a lot better than rewarding bad behavior.