Sunday, November 27, 2005

Kids Gone Wild

Recent article in the NYT suggests a number of reasons for the explosion of rude children. "Last month, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans said they believed that people are ruder now than they were 20 or 30 years ago, and that children are among the worst offenders. (As annoyances, they tied with obnoxious cellphone users.)" LOL

""Most parents would like their children to be polite, considerate and well behaved. But they're too tired, worn down by work and personally needy to take up the task of teaching them proper behavior at home," says Dan Kindlon, a Harvard University child psychologist. "

Amen on the personally needy part, although this sounds like it's apologizing for parents' lack of responsibility, which I absolutely don't agree with. Children need two things to learn how to behave in society: They need to be treated with respect and they need to know what the rules are. You don't let the little darling hit you four times with a roll of wrapping paper and then yell, spank and send to time out the fifth time. What does that teach her? You can hit Daddy four times, but not five? Dad's got a hair-trigger temper and you never know what's going to set him off? Does it depend on what she's hitting with and what Daddy is doing when she's hitting him? You bet it does, but a two-year-old can't keep track of that many variables in the behavior equation. Nor should she.

If the rule is "no hitting", then one is too many, not matter what the implement or the social situation. Yes, this requires some active parenting at the very beginning. But if the first time she hits, you say, "No hitting" and gently take the wrapping paper roll away then go back to what you're doing, you don't need to progress to yelling, spanking (aka hitting back), and time outs. (And yes, for those of you who were wondering, I am referring to an actual event during my Thanksgiving.)

If the rule is "When Mom asks you to do something, you do it right away," then Mom needs to be ready to enforce that no matter what the child is doing at the time she asks. This kind of rule is where the treating children repectfully part comes in. Yes, I expect my boys to do what I ask them when I ask them. But I don't abuse this power by giving orders left and right or by interrupting whatever they're doing at my whim. Unless I need them to drop everything (i.e. an emergency, not a power trip), I tell them, "When you get to a stopping place I need you to..." or "When this show is over, I need you to..." I'd be mad if someone came in and demanded I drop whatever I'm working on for someone else's whim. Just because they're children doesn't mean their time is less valuable than mine.

[Sorry, I lost my train of thought here. I had to stop to take Klaus to work and then meet with the other Webelos leader to plan the next two months of Cub Scouts meetings.]

The article makes the point that we get mad at kids for behaving like kids and that's when we think they're rude and obnoxious. I'll admit that sometimes I have to remind myself that they need to run around screaming and shooting each other. But at home, not out in public. The example given in the article of a child roller-skating around the table at a four-star restaurant is a failure of the parents to control their children, not a failure of the children to control themselves. After all, what kind of parent can't prevent a child from bringing roller skates to dinner?

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