I read this article, No Brats Allowed!, and wondered...
What came first? The adult or the child?
The article discusses how the public is becoming more and more non-child oriented. People think children are acting increasingly inappropriate in stores, restaurants, airplanes, museums, etc. Is this true? Are we really seeing a rise in misbehavior, or has it been there all along?
I had a high school teacher who brought this subject up. He joked about it, but put it in perspective for me, saying, "Even the Romans complained about their youth. Back then adults complained about teenage chariot drivers running over pedestrians."
Since kids naturally do act up and always have, then why does a growing number of people think child misbehavior is getting out of control? Are adults getting more uptight, or are we letting our youth run amuck? Maybe it's a little of both.
Children should be allowed to run, giggle, scream, jump, and wonder. Using all of their senses, they are learning about the world around them. Parks, playgrounds, back and front yards, beaches, and gymnasiums offer bountiful opportunities for them to explore. At the same time, children are usually thrown into the mix with other people, peers and adults included. That's when rules have to be observed. Now they have to be considerate of others (as much as they can for their specific ages). Toddlers may have difficulty sharing and controlling their voice level, but they can understand not to hit or bite others. Preschoolers know how to use an indoor voice but are still learning to not interupt when a conversation is already in progress. (Alright, so I'm making a guess on that last one since neither of my kiddos are that age yet.)
Yes, when in public, children should be expected to be among the mix, within reason that is. We parents are responsible for keeping the needs of our children in mind. It just doesn't make sense to take a toddler to an adult oriented museum or a fancy restaurant. Some parents justify such actions saying they work and want to spend time with their children. That's understandable, but they need to go to a place where a Kid can be a Kid. Zoos, family style restaurants, malls, parks and youth museums are better alternatives. I don't expect my toddler to sit still at a coffee shop while I enjoy my Frappuccino. However, I can enjoy said beverage while I watch him play at the park.
Once the family is in a child friendly location, that doesn't mean we let our children have free rein. Being out in public gives parents the opportunity and obligation to teach social etiquette one skill at a time. Today my toddler is learning to stay with mommy and not run off, tomorrow he'll learn to use an indoor voice. It takes time and patience, and won't happen overnight. In fact, it won't happen at all if parents don't take the lead, and lead we must!
Children tend to mirror their parents' behaviors. If mommy cusses, her son probably will too. Daddy is rude towards others, his daughter is also. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, has a lot of truth in it. Our children are constantly watching and learning what we model for them. That's how they learn most of the rules in the game of life. If we expect our youth to display manners and respect, we need to start with ourselves.
What about the ever dreaded airplane scenario? The best of parents can have difficulty keeping their toddler happy in such a confining space. Some passengers are understanding, some not so. If parents are doing their best to help their child cope, then anyone with a complaint just needs to suck it up. An airplane is definitely a public place, and not always a pleasant one at that (delays, security, delays). I realize there are passengers trying to work or get some sleep, but you know what, children are people too and have rights. Toddlers' needs are different from adults, but they are still needs and not just wants. If letting a child walk/toddle up and down the aisle keeps him from crying, then let him. If a child reaches a point of crying, be understanding. Criticism and dagger looks only teach inappropriate behaviors, not solve them.
So, what came first, the adult or the child? Definitely, the adult! As parents, we have the responsibility to model and teach our children what behaviors are acceptable, especially when in public places. Those of us who are not parents also have the responsibility to model appropriate behaviors. We are all citizens of this world, age does not matter. Eventually, we interact with one another. Treat others as you want to be treated, not just a cliche, it's LIFE!
Edit note: the following was added Tues., Aug. 22 9:45 p.m.
Thanks for the responses. I thought I needed to add some clarification to my thinking:
I taught various grades (2, 3, 4, and 6) at an elementary school for 11 years before becoming a SAHM. I didn't think behaviors got progressively worse year to year. Some of the toughest classes I taught were early in my career. Maybe I just got better at disciplining and it reflected in how the students acted in my class. I had high expectations of every student and was very consistent with rules, rewards and consequences. My students knew the rules, rewards and consequences, and knew I was consistent in dealing with behaviors, both appropriate and inappropriate (I'm not going to use the words bad and good). I had students with extreme behavioral problems (ADHD, bipolar, depression) that could function and behave appropriately in a mainstreamed classroom setting. I took the time and was consistent in order for that to happen. Not all teachers do that, although in my opinion they should. Then again, so should the parents. Were my students perfect? By no means NO. Whenever someone took a step backwards, we would try again, maybe try a different strategy, but never give up and just let them continue misbehaving.
Out in public, I think I see children, and adults for that matter, acting more and more inappropriately. One reason I feel this is happening, is because people are always in such a hurry and don't care who they run over while they are trying to get things done. Hello, everybody, let's be a little more considerate of others. Another reason, is many parents drag their children around everywhere they go; the grocery store, the post office, department stores, restaurants, even to Starbucks! It is not reasonable to expect toddlers, or even older kids, to remain calm when they've been sitting in a shopping cart, stroller, and a car for hours on end. Parents need to keep themselves in check and not let this happen. Kids need opportunities to run and play.
Those of us concerned with this topic, can't exactly go out there and tell others how to parent their kids. I do my part by: (a) being a good role model to my children, and maybe even to other adults; (b) having high, but reasonable expectations of my children (Ian can walk through a store without touching things); (c) keeping my children's needs in mind and not expecting the impossible out of them (I'm not taking my two year old to see The Marriage of Figaro); (d)reinforcing my children's appropriate behaviors; (e) minimizing my children's inappropriate behaviors through positive disciplining and using natural consequences; (f)teaching again once my own children are school age.