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Judgemental Journalist: Curb Your Attitude

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I think that I’m a pretty respectful parent. I hope that I’ve taught my daughter good manners. She would never dream of yelling or running around a restaurant. Well, she might dream of it. She is a kid. But she knows that she would never get away with it. She doesn’t stand up in the grocery cart or pull things off the shelves. Her most annoying habit on our weekly grocery trips is wanting to say hello, politely and cheerfully, to everyone she can make eye contact with. And I’m happy to say that she can travel with either myself or my parents without a single negative incident. I believe that its important to teach children manners and how to be polite members of society.

Honestly, I don’t think that my daughter is the type of child that LZ Granderson was talking about in his CNN.com blog post, Permissive parents: curb your brats. But even if he wasn’t talking to us, we’re offended. Or in reality, I’m offended. My daughter doesn’t really know how to be offended yet.

Granderson has a lot to say about parents today and how they are ruining the next generation. I think the damage was started a while ago, because we’ve created a whole slew of people who think that they are so important, they shouldn’t have to be bothered by absolutely anything. It created parents who can’t empathize with someone else’s worst day ever and cut them a little slack. It spawned journalists who feel like its completely appropriate to refer to young children they don’t even know as “brats”.

I completely agree that parents need to make their children behave in public. It’s an important lesson to teach. But it’s also a long process to acclimate our children to polite society. And there’s no way that they will adjust if we never give them a chance. We have to have those first few dreadful restaraunt experiences, the ones that leave us swearing off our favorite food for the next five years, so that we can get to the point where we can dine out as a family without any incidences. We have to have one horrible travel story before our kids can understand what’s expected of them.

I guess that my biggest problem with this article is that even before I had children, I would never dream of telling off a family because their children had a bad night at a restaurant. (By the way, they have child-free restaurants. Just go sit in the bar, smart one.) And if people want to pay more for child-free flights, simply because they think that they are so important, go ahead and spend your money. At least that way, I won’t have to deal with as many rude and snarky people on my flights.

I just don’t understand how a simple passerby can make a blanket assumption about someone’s parenting skills based on a single run-in at a restaraunt or movie theater. Kids, just like adults, have bad days. Kids, just like adults, have to be introduced to the behavior that’s expected of them. We aren’t going to solve the problem of lacking discipline by hiding children away in their houses. (Or by spanking them for an outburst on an airplane, but that’s a whole other post.)

Instead of vilifying children and their parents, maybe we should try modeling polite behavior so that they can see what it looks like. Instead of making snap judgements about a family you see struggling, maybe you should consider that you see a very small fragment of their life. My daughter behaves in public, but that wasn’t always the case. It took time and patience to teach her proper behavior. If a man I didn’t know would’ve called her a “brat” while we going through that process, I would’ve assumed that he was the one who needed more discipline.

7 Comments

  1. Jen

    July 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you! I honestly went into that CNN article with an open mind. It’s definitely true that there are plenty of parents who think their child acting out is funny or cute and who decide not to discipline them at all. But he explicitly complained about kids who had parents who WERE disciplining them and who just were acting out. This guy is ridiculous and you kind of get the impression he also probably hits his children….a lot. He also complained at one point about infants crying on planes. If he thinks ANYONE can explain to an infant that they are not supposed to cry in public he needs his head examined.

  2. Kara

    July 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t think the guy was ridiculous and I agree with his article. It’s unfortunate that the (fewer and fewer) parents who do control their children are tarred with the same brush as those who don’t. It really is.

    The problem is that the vast majority of parents out there are, quite frankly, incredibly self involved and think that everyone else in the world should tolerate their children in every situation.

    When I go to a movie, I shouldn’t have to listen to the 3 year old begging her mommy to “go pee mommy” for 10 solid minutes while mommy ignores her to watch the movie. When I go to a restaurant, I shouldn’t have to tolerate the 8 year old kicking the back of my seat for 40 straight minutes while mommy says “Johnny stop” in a monotone over and over and over. When I’m shopping at the grocery store, I shouldn’t see 2 kids walking down the meat aisle, poking their fingers into every single packet of meat while mommy watches with a wry smile and a head shake and says “kids. what are you gonna do?”

    I could go on for pages of this kind of behavior. For every parent I see who distracts their child, stops them from misbehaving, removes their child from inappropriate situations, and handles things with some consideration for every single other person around them, I see 10 more who seem to think that we should all just accept that “this is the way children are”.

    I chose not to have children for a reason. Not because I hate them – I love children. I chose not to have them because I knew that I wasn’t willing to make the SACRIFICES that are required to raise them to be considerate human beings. That means leaving the movie if your kid is crying. That means not dining out in a restaurant if your kid doesn’t have impulse control. That means abandoning your shopping cart and walking out of the store when your child has a massive meltdown.

    If you chose to be a parent, that’s great. I salute you. Now chose to actually PARENT the child you have. `

    • Jen

      July 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      The problem with his article is he wasn’t picking on those parents who let their kids be out of control and act like you have to deal with it; he was picking on parents who DO discipline their kids, but who just don’t do it in whatever way he thinks is best (again he repeatedly pointed out that hitting your toddler shouldn’t be considered taboo despite what plenty of actual experts say). He had an entire paragraph dedicated to complaining that INFANTS cry on planes and clearly their parents should let them know that they are too self involved.
      Yep, there are a lot of really bad parents out there who let their kids get out of control and think it should be everyone else’s problem, but this dude was not talking about them and he came off like a whiney entitled nitwit who thinks violence is the answer.

  3. MK

    July 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I’m not really offended by the article, but as it usually is with this kind of discourse, by the comments. The article seems lamely incendiary but that’s probably just to get traffic by people writing about it. What i do think is that travel and so many other of the events described are actually horrible and uncomfortable and mind numbing for everyone, so why wouldn’t children behave badly under those conditions? The travel thing is actually its own animal completely and shouldn’t be lumped in with how people behave in supermarkets, restaurants, because once you’re in a line or on a plane its hard to get off. Shocking that all those people were so psyched to kick that poor family off that flight. But what Lindsay is saying I totally agree with. We are all only seeing slices of people’s lives and its best to try as hard as we can to not judge, but to help when we can and try to be sensitive. Its so hard. There’s an incredible essay by David Foster Wallace that I re-read often about this very thing. Its a commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College i think in 2006 or 07 and I always think of it when i’m having a crappy moment with my kids or I see someone handling their kids in a way i disagree with. There’s entirely too much of this “you chose to have kids now deal with it” attitude going on with childless people and or parents who think they have it all figured out. Congrats. Good luck living in a world where everyone is bitter and pissed off at each other all the time. I would again agree with Lindsay that people need to try and model kindness and compassion for being who are having a difficult moment.

    • Kara

      July 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm

      “There’s entirely too much of this “you chose to have kids now deal with it” attitude going on with childless people”

      See, the problem is that there’s entirely too much of the attitude of “children are a part of life so f***ing deal with it you ignorant childless loser” that *I* see going around.

      There are plenty of situations where I agree that it’s hard for a parent to just remove the child. Traveling can sometimes suck with a child (I have traveled with my god-children and I agree that sometimes you’re just stuck with a crying baby or an upset toddler and you just do the best you can and hope people understand). I agree that sometimes it’s faster to just move through the line at the grocery store and get out as fast as you can. I agree that being understanding in those situations is important.

      But, to be honest, I’ve spent too much time dealing with and watching parents who seem to think that it’s acceptable that their child runs around the restaurant screaming, or continually kicks the back of my seat at the movies (at an R rated movie, none-the-less), or that the excited shrieks of a 2 year old are “cute” at the mall because they echo, or whatever.

      There are far too many parents who seem to feel that we should accept their kids in EVERY situation and that if we want an experience free of shrieking children it means we’re “child haters” or “anti child” or whatever epithet they want to throw at us becuase it means we don’t want to deal with their “little darling” acting like a hooligan.

      I’m really damned sick of being called a child hater or a loser or an idiot because I don’t want a screaming child to disturb my romantic date at a restaurant that charges $30 a plate for food. I’m sick of being told that children should be “allowed to experience” things as an excuse to let your poorly behaved child to kick the back of my seat at CPK for 45 minutes. I am really f***king sick of listening to children cry at R rated movies because they’re scared or tired or bored or need to potty and mom and dad are too goddamned selfish to realize that their child doesn’t belong in the movie theater at that age or for that movie.

      If I smoked (which I don’t) and I were to light up next to your child, you’d pitch a screaming fit. But if your child pitches a screaming fit next to me, I’m supposed to be tolerant of that because that’s what kids do.

      And I’m really tired of being expected to deal with other people’s children all the time.

  4. MK

    July 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Kara, that wasn’t at all what i was saying and i wasn’t singling out childless people or calling them losers. I was simply agreeing with the author of this post about attempting to create situations in which children can model good behavior, and giving people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to thinking about what kind of day they are having, what they are going through prior to your encounters with them. I agree with you about people being selfish and taking kids to inappropriate movies. that sucks. I agree with you that some people can be permissive with their kids (though i don’t know where you live but it sounds rather extreme.) I believe there are a-holes everywhere, when they have kids they will be a-hole parents. simple as that. but If a kid is kicking my seat, or an adult is texting excessively during a broadway show as recently happened, I will tell them firmly to stop, or i will move or get an usher. I happen to think bad manners and selfishness are running rampant these days so i’m not surprised you feel it from parents and I feel it from non parents.

  5. MK

    July 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    here’s the link to the piece i mentioned. It has nothing and everything to do with this discussion.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122178211966454607.html

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