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"Curb Your Brats" - Commentary

LZ Granderson wrote a piece called Permissive parents: Curb your brats and whoa, Nellie, did it provoke a zillion comments around the Internet.

He writes (in part):

“Children are wonderful but they are not the center of the universe. The sooner their parents make them understand that, the better off we all will be.

This is the part of child-rearing people don't like to discuss, because socially, it's not OK to dislike kids. The ugly truth is it's the spineless parents who parade their undisciplined children around like royalty that make people dislike kids.”

He offers examples of children’s misbehaviors that are not corrected by their parents, including screaming in public, slapping their parents and the catchall general disobedience. I encourage your reading the piece before reading the upcoming comments.

<Offering a moment of silence so you can go read.>

When I shared the link on my Facebook page, this is what transpired. My comments to the comments are in italics… and were not written in the thread, but being written here on the blog.

I accompanied the link with:

“I know this is making the rounds and will surely spark a LOT of noise here. My prejudice up front: I agree 100% with his comments.”

And the commentary begins!

S: I agree, too.

A: His arguments are just so obnoxious, though, that he obscures some otherwise valid points. "Curb your brats." "I don't want your kids ruining my adults-only public space." "Spank them already. They're awful!" I don't like shitty, bratty kids either but this guy just comes off like a dick.

NgM: Your paraphrasing is so interesting. I don’t hear what he says like that at all!

B: Agree 100%, too! (with the article)

A: Totally agree. He sounded like a bratty adult. (with A’s comment)

M: I think this position is the result of a patriarchal society - one which favors adults over all others. Life happens for everyone - children can't always keep those things behind closed doors the way that adults prefer them. I'm a bit surprised to see this here.

NgM: First, look at what a great discussion this provoked! I strive to bring discussion here and this certainly was that. Second, I think there’s more to birth than just a baby coming out of the uterus; that’s just the beginning. Talks like this can be fabulously helpful for parents to help them clarify where they stand on controversial issues and I really try to keep the lines of communication open enough that all sides are free to share without judgment and mean-spiritedness.

N: My kiddo is almost 2 and if he throws a fit, it's time out. I don't care if it's in the pasta section of the grocery store… I'll wait. If it's melt-down city... we are outta there! I can much better deal with the situation in my car or at home than in a public place.

S: Every single time I am in public with my children I get compliments on their behavior. Including plane rides... in fact mostly plane rides! Where other children on the planes were screaming, crying, bad mouthing... mine were not and the people around me always thanked me and were grateful. And I have never flown with my husband; it has always been just me and my two boys. This summer will be our first "family" flight since he is going with us! Anyways... it is possible to keep your kids in line. My kids aren't always angels but if I prep right, make sure they are rested, not hungry and have something to do wherever we go, then they are behaved. And if they do start trouble we leave the situation immediately... no matter what I'm doing. I have children and I brought my children and it needs to be about their happiness for the sake of them understanding proper manors, respect, and generals social skills. And no I don't need to spank my kids to accomplish this. I just need to be a good mother who understands my own children and cares enough to parent them.

NgM: Bravo!

L: I will make the same comment as I did on another friend's posting of this article: Just because children are acting up, doesn't mean their parents don't discipline them. Children are not robots; you cannot push a button to make them behave.... Parents should absolutely remove children from anyplace where they are having a tantrum/meltdown until they can behave more appropriately. But the child-hating needs to stop NOW. We were all children once, we all behaved poorly at times as children and we cannot expect that children will be perfectly still and silent at all times in public spaces. Children need to learn how to function in wider society and the only way to do that is to take them out in public and teach them what is acceptable and what is not. Are there parents who don't discipline their children? Yes. However, I resent the implication that any child who acts up at any time is a "’brat’ who is "undisciplined."

NgM: I don’t hear the belief that any kid that acts up at any time is a brat who’s undisciplined at all. The man’s a father; I am sure he gets that sometimes kids can be a pain in the public area. What I do hear is there is a way to gauge whether it is the kid that’s having a rough time or a brat by watching how the parents act/re-act to their child’s misbehavior/meltdown. The whole piece to me isn’t about kids as much as it is about parents.

A: If there is a manual on parenting, I would gladly accept it from him, or from anyone for that matter.

NgM: I highly encourage all parents to read How to Talk So Kids Will Liste& Listen So Kids Will Talk. It transformed my parenting and, from the years I know of parents reading it, it has transformed theirs as well. How to Talk creates the line of positive communication, from toddlerhood to teenager-hood… and apparently, there’s now a How to Talk So Teens Will Listen! How I wish I’d have had that one, too. There are several books that are along those lines and you can see them in the place on Amazon where “People also bought these books.” In my world, with my kids, the reading list from La Leche League was a godsend. I would have been an angry, frustrated and spanking mom had it not been for LLL. In fact, I was until I joined LLL when pregnant with my second. I still apologize to my first for my ignorance and my subconscious following of my own parents’ crappy parenting style. Hope these ideas help!

L: By and large I agree. We are an AP family and we set limits and have very high expectations. My children do not run amok; they are respectful or we leave. It is simple. But, hitting a child is NEVER ok.

J: Ick, I don't like his attitude. My son is usually great but has moments, sometimes in public. We do our best with him and hope to minimize disrupting others, but sometimes, kid noise happens. They're learning how to behave and sometimes that learning is visible and audible to others. Finally, do strangers know which children have autism or some other invisible issue that might affect their behavior?

NgM: Again, it’s so interesting that people are seeing this as a critique of kids’ behavior when it is really a critique of how parents react to the behaviors. If a parent is actively working with the screaming child, that’s one thing. If a parent is ignoring their kid grabbing silverware off the table next to theirs, that’s another completely.

L: He never claimed he thought kids should be perfect angels 100% of the time. He was calling out bratty kids and ineffective parents. I enjoyed the read, I chuckled a bit, and I didn't take it too seriously. We've all had parenting fails so I try to have mercy on other parents in public, but like this author, sometimes I find it hard to look the other way when plain old disciplinary avoidance is in progress.

A: I can't agree with anyone who advocates corporal punishment, no matter how seriously or "jokingly". Physical violence teaches physical violence and/or fear. Not proper behavior.

NgM: First off, I smacked the heck out of my first kid until I learned better coping skills. Secondly, I was smacked with hands, hairbrushes and wooden spoons as well as hit with a belt my whole kid-life, but I used those experiences to create a better parent than the ones who did the smacking. (My mom has since apologized, by the way.) But, just like with most absolutes in my life, I’ve gotten some softer about when I know parents smack a kid’s butt in moments of safety crisis… a toddler running out in the street, for example. I wouldn’t do it, but I reserve the harsh judgment I used to heave their way. What the author writes about a spank doesn’t bug me at all whereas it used to would have provoked a massive angry reaction when the kids were younger. Interesting that I hadn’t considered that until reading the article and then reading your response (and others like it) here. I wonder why I’ve changed my attitude.

D: One of my best friend deals with this hatred and prejudice on a daily basis. Her 12-year old daughter has autism and while she is the BEST parent I know, her daughter is sometimes socially inappropriate. It is unbelievable to me that people can be so callous and selfish to think that her and her daughter should be locked away in their home so as not to "inconvenience" others. If you don't want to hear or see children, then stay home, because I don't want to see the ugly faces of hate you make at my kids. (This is a general "you" not directed specifically at anyone. Well... I guess it's directed to those people who have given me ugly looks when all I really needed was a hug and reassurance that it gets better. To those asses, I give a big F you.)

S: I disagree, actually. Not that I think it's okay for kids to be terrors in public, but there is a lot of assumption in this article. Each child is different, and what works for some doesn't work for others. Just be thankful that all of your children were the easy ones. I have two children. One that I can take to restaurants, fancy outings, super grown up affairs and have not a second's worry or trouble out of. Not so much, the other child. Short of gagging him and tying him down, he will express himself, no matter how I discipline (and I am a firm "look", spanking mom who always follows through). Also? This society doesn't belong to the adults among us. Airplanes, restaurants, public places and services in general, are just as much the right of our young as of our old. My child cries when on an airplane. Get the eff' over yourself. It doesn't mean I'm a bad parent or that my child is evil, it means he's scared/upset/unsure/uncomfortable being on an airplane. You're the adult, deal with it. Same in restaurants. Now, do I allow him to run around and throw things and scream? No. But he's going to get wiggly beside me. He's going to get loud. He might hop off of his chair and be put firmly back in his seat for the millionth time. "The Look" doesn't work on all children every time. My child being in society inconveniences you? Then go somewhere that children aren't allowed.

S: I agree with him, but at the same time I must wonder if he even has his own kids? If not, he needs to shut up. One adult lesson I learned is that prior to having children, I really knew nothing but I somehow had tons of parenting advice. Parenting is humbling... you realize you don't know everything!

NgM: He does have kids.

S: I often don't love how he comes across in his articles, but I do somewhat agree with him. I work with children and whenever we have problems with certain behavior (and believe me - I expect certain childlike behavior with kids - this goes beyond that and doesn't include atypical children with special needs) and we try to talk to the parents about it we are met with resistance and insistence that the behavior is ok. It's not. Even my child with special needs understands it's not ok to hurt other people or be rude or disruptive in certain circumstances.  Also - I don't think it's ok to physically hurt other people - especially children. I disagree with his spanking ideas.

K: I agree with him, by and large, although his framing sucks. But I disagree that a tantruming child should always be removed from a public space. When my 4-year old was 2 or so, she would frequently throw screaming fits because she wanted to leave the store. If I'd left, I'd have taught her that screaming gets her exactly what she wants! Plus, at a certain point, you know what? I need to get diapers, I need to get milk, we need to go to the store and you are going to suck it up and come with me, screaming at the top of your lungs or no.

M: My two cents? Children are people, too. We shouldn't have to hide them unless they're perfect all the time. Are we perfect all the time? But parents should be parents. When parents aren't doing the hard work of choosing to be the grown up in their children's lives, then they are actively ruining their kids and their kids' futures. Also, my lunch/commute/shopping etc. What bothers me, honestly, is not the kid's behavior, but the parent's response. So, Danielle and Sabrina and others... you won't get any funny looks from me. You (and your friend with the autistic kid) are busy being the grown up. Yes, kids act up or have difficulty dealing with things. But it's when the parent ignores it, is completely ineffectual, etc. that my temperature rises. Kids can be stinkers. As long as the grownup is dealing with it even semi-appropriately, shrug ...no skin off my nose. If anything, I might give you a wry grin that says "been there!"

NgM: Finally! Someone who gets the article! Exactly, M.

D: The problem here is that sometimes you can't tell if I child has special needs or is just being a "brat". That's the problem with making snap judgments; you don't know the whole story.

D: “We’re so preoccupied with protecting children from disappointment and discomfort that we're inadvertently excusing them from growing up." Looks like he never learned his own lesson since his whole article is based on the idea that he should never have to experience my children making him feel disappointed or uncomfortable out in public. I'm done with this one. Yuck.

R: Hmm, I don't agree with spanking and don't use it... but I do agree at some point you have to pull your kid out of where they are acting crazy, take them home, put them in time out, and then discuss with them why what they did was inappropriate. After using this method a few times my 3-year old now understands the look. I do agree though, you never know if a kid has special needs or something so you should always give a mom that understanding nod because we have all been there... even the best behaved kid has the occasional melt down.

C: This is my bitch about folks who share Mr. Granderson opinion; kids are people and are not owned by their parents. I am not saying don't parent, I am saying you have to give allowances for children being children and having needs outside the scope of what is acceptable for adults. Folks like Mr. Granderson also have issues with strollers, diaper changing and breastfeeding, except as I said, kids have different needs than adults; where is the line? Should we really expect them to behave like adults or within what should be normal for their age group? I want my kids in church, this means the congregation has to make allowances for them being kids, because, gosh, this is my legacy that I am passing to them and how are they going to learn except by participating? Well, some churches can't stand normal (quiet) baby noises and the service should be as quiet as possible, this is unreasonable.
I am not saying I let my kids go nuts, there is outside and inside behavior, public and home behavior, but still there are and should be allowances for their age.

NgM:  I also believe it’s the parents’ responsibility to make allowances for their kids’ ages. If the child is too young to understand church and is bored to tears, it’s too soon to bring them in. If they’re able to get the gist of what’s going on, great! Bring ‘em all. But, Sunday School was invented for a reason… to have a place for the kids to be happy and learn. If you’re wanting to share in that experience, you should be hanging out in the Sunday School area.

V: The obnoxiousness is humor! I agree, too... I run into this a lot in the "AP" and homeschooling community in which I circulate. It is okay for kids to (be) below parents in the hierarchy of the family... parents are here to set limits and (be) examples to help their kids make sense of the world. It really seems like AP has come to mean a completely different thing than it did when I became a mom 7 years ago.

R: Remember: "You are raising a human being, not an inconvenience."

T: I liked this post countering Granderson's post: LZ Granderson Needs a Hug. He's Having a Tantrum.

T: "If I'm sounding a bit judgmental, I assure you I am not alone in my judgment." And so this makes it okay?

B: It cracks me up when moms try to give a command by turning it in to a pansy question and then get exasperated by an answer in return. "We don't poke the the baby's eyes, okay?" To which the kid retorts, "NO!" Duh, mom! You asked him a question! "Do you want to put your shoes on?" "NO!" How about, "Do NOT poke the baby's eyes." "Put your shoes on." Short, simple command. I'm also utterly shocked at how rude to some of the teachers some of the kids are at my daughter's preschool! No one I know behaved like that, especially as 3-yr olds!

NgM: It's hard for me to write as a mom with fantastic adult kids because it's easy to dismiss me: "Well, you were lucky." "You didn't have an autistic child." "You're just bragging." Any number of things, but I've been parenting for thirty years and am now 50... have been experiencing parenting for 50 years. And to sound like a complete old fogey, parenting sucks compared to how it used to... in too many ways.

Permissiveness is pervasive. This writer is not speaking about the average kid; he's talking about the brats that live among us... and the brats' kids, too. I'm really surprised any of you are having a hard time grasping what he's talking about... who he's talking about. Is the topic too close to home to see it accurately?

Zack and I didn't tolerate crap from the kids E-VER. First, we didn't take them "adult" places until they were old enough -and "trained" enough- to handle them. And I know the word "train" has dog written all over it; I read those AP books, too, remember? But what is learning if not training?
Secondly, if they didn't act appropriately while there, we left. Whether it was Red Lobster or Disneyland. One of Zack's fave stories was when he took his (then 3-year old) son (our youngest) to Disneyland and he kept jumping in the puddles, even after being reminded how he hated his socks wet and was going to cry over it when the fun was over. He was warned they would be leaving if he jumped in one more. He looked at his mom and jumped right smack into another one. Zack grabbed his arm and marched his ass right out to the car... the kidlet whined, cried and then begged to be taken back to the park. "I'm sorry! I'll be good! I won't do it again!" (He was quite verbal for his age.) Then, when they got into the car, the histrionics really began.

Driving the 90 miles home, Zack repeated to his son, "I don't know why you're crying, it was MY day that was ruined."

Kidlet never had to be told anything more than once again because he knew there was weight behind the threat.

No, you can't leave the airplane with a crying child, but you can snatch a running-through-the-aisle kid up by the scruff of their neck and make them sit down. If they scream then, the question to the adults is: Which do you prefer: the bouncing off your lap? Or the screaming like a banshee.
The preface: I know I am not the Be-All-And-End-All to parenting skills, but when we went on the airplane, each kid had a backpack filled with supplies to keep them occupied and comfortable. I didn't depend on the plane to provide entertainment for my kids; I was responsible for their activities and keeping them occupied.

How many times do Zack and I look at each other, totally baffled, when we see kids in our home or in others' homes with nothing to do. Why don't parents bring things for their kids to do anymore? Is there the assumption that everyone has Wii and that their kids will be permitted to play it while they visit?
This article might not be speaking to you in particular, but there are great hunks of information herein that would behoove many parents to listen to.

I wanted to add about the one plane trip in particular I took, alone, when the kids were 5, 3.5 and the two youngest were 2 and still nursing. We flew, non-stop, from Frankfurt to Los Angeles. After the bazillion-hour trip (where there was always at least one kid awake so I didn’t sleep), as people de-planed, over and over, I was told they didn’t even know there were kids where we were sitting, they’d been that well-behaved. As in life, I tried to anticipate their needs so they didn’t have to cry to get what they wanted. And those backpacks were the best thing ever.

L: The back pack thing is actually now my kids’ responsibility. The big kids must pack things to keep them occupied while we are going places (clearly I have some tricks up my sleeve in my own bag), but they really liked taking over that role. If they complain about being bored I remind them they must have not chosen wisely. It works!

NgM: I really like that, L… and they are learning their own set of “self-soothing” skills to boot… essential life skills for sure.

C: Well said Barb! We are raising human beings; it's our duty to raise likeable human beings who know how to act in public. Childhood is short? Damn straight! We have a few short years to teach them how to be functioning human beings; don't waste them on letting them run amok. Our kids are the most precious beings in our lives, absolutely, but there’s no reason to think the couple at the table next to us has to like my kid who is throwing mashed potatoes on the floor or screaming at the top of his lungs. There is no reason why the server at the restaurant should smile indulgently at my kid while she opens all the sugar packets, dumps the salt on the table, throws her food around, and splashes the table and nearby diners with her sippy cup, and leaves a huge mess behind for the server to clean. There is nothing cute or likeable about a kid who is running willy-nilly, knocking stuff over, bumping into people, screaming "NO!" and throwing food around. Nothing.

NgM: Must insert here that my mom is a server at Walt Disney World and she has some amazing stories about what permissive parents let their kids get away with. Of course, she sees the kids after far-too-long days in the parks and when the poor dears are starving to death, but there are still ways to parent properly, even when you’re also exhausted and starving; parenthood isn’t part-time. Not even at Disney World. Now, my mom loves kids dearly or she wouldn’t have worked at Disney for 37 years, but it can be trying when the kids talk to you (the server) like you are a servANT. Nuh uh.

C continues: Being an attached parent doesn't mean you don't discipline. At the birth center where I used to work, there was an attachment parenting group that eventually got kicked out because those little monsters would tear the place up. He's not exploring, he's not learning, he's not asserting his independent nature, he's messing up (and disrespecting) someone else's space and belongings!

NgM: Oh, oh! Must interject again. (Sorry, C!) When I had my holistic healthcare center, we had all sorts of meetings there, too. Generally, kids were great (and they were AP groups there, just like where you were), but some groups… oh my god… the parents paid so little attention to the babies (yes, sometimes babies!), toddlers and kids, they would go and open the practitioners’ doors… help themselves to the computers behind the desk or go play in the trash in the kitchen. At first, it was uncomfortable asking parents to please keep an eye on their kids. I mean, I really have to say this? But, I got to being bold about it… announcing it at the beginnings of meetings and then taking wandering kidlets by the arm back to their mothers. Over and over again. With a report on what they were doing. It was stunning how oblivious some women were.

C continues (again!): Now, my kids sure could press my buttons at home, but they knew from the time they could walk not to try me in public. if it meant getting a to-go box, or abandoning the grocery cart and walking them out, so be it. My kids did not go to adult oriented places, which often meant I didn't get to go either, until I knew they had gotten some basic manners down.
Like it or not, children have to learn how to interact with others in public and private. And it is our job as parents to teach them how, even if it means going home early (or not going at all). Kids are people, not animals, right? Well, teach them how to act like people and not like wild animals and I guarantee you, more adults will like them and enjoy having them around when they're out on public.

M: Didn't read everyone else's comments, just wanted to say my autistic child is often misinterpreted by others as misbehaved. I have been told by others to get her under control because she was reacting to loud noise we hadn't anticipated. It is physically painful for her, not something she can ignore. I hate to think how many people think of her that way. Maybe people should leave their unnecessary judgment at home instead?

R: Yep, F & I agree with him and you as well! I don't like some of his language but I agree with the overall idea.

L: Barb, there are parents like the ones you speak of. I just don't know if they are a majority, or even a significant percentage. After all, when kids behave well, we don't really register it, but we sure as heck notice the ones behaving horrifically. And we don't even see the kids that parents leave at home, or stay home with, to avoid public behavior mishaps. I don't disagree with you that kids have to be "trained" in some ways. I disagree with the author of the article that spanking is a way to discipline.

L: The article could be written better, but the video - can't argue with anything he said in that interview. I bet all or most of us  younger ones have had bratty classmates (who) teachers couldn't discipline because of laws/rules catering to parental permissiveness (and I'm not even thinking of children - I'm thinking of high school - math classes in particular).

A: I agree with the comment that the author sounds like a real asshole. I agree with some of the article and know I enjoy being with kids who are well-rounded more than those who are not. But, how about a little compassion for the parents? It is hard hard work being a parent in a patriarchal society with little to no support or time to raise children. And let’s not forget, children are children, not little adults, if they were, we wouldn't have so many child labor laws! He has valid points; I think they could be presented with a little more compassion and attention to the overall picture.

NgM: That is so wild. I thought he was extremely restrained in his speech and style! I didn't get asshole from him at all. It's always so amazing how each of us reads through our filters, isn't it?

“But I don't believe making a child's wishes top priority is a demonstration of love. Nor do I believe I, or the rest of the world, should act as a surrogate parents for somebody's bad-ass kids.” And if there’s no time to raise kids (and this is an excuse?!), then what in the world did you have them for? If you discovered there was “no time” after they got here, perhaps some priority changing is in order.

“You wanted them, deal with them.”

So, there you have it. Kids and their parents. And the judgment of the masses heaped on top for good measure. I wonder if I would have answered this post differently when my kids were between birth and 16? I doubt it.

Aimee Isabel -about 16 months old.

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    [...]- Navelgazing Midwife Blog - "Curb Your Brats" - Commentary[...]

Reader Comments (20)

It's funny all the comments from people who feel child-hating is pervasive. like we live in a child-hating society.....I have never experienced dirty looks, or had anyone feel the need to speak to me about my kids behavior (except to praise them) when out with my kids. At restaurants, they had coloring books and crayons, or small toys to play with so they didn't need to play with the condiments to keep still. They said Please and Thank You when ordering and receiving their food. If they spilled, they (or we, depending on age) cleaned it, and if a busser ran over to help, they apologized and thanked him/her. On airplanes, we brought games and toys, and I always asked the flight attendent if after everyone was seated, we could move to an empty row to give the kids some leg room. Kicking the back of the seat was a no. Grocery trips were ALWAYS after naps and lunch. It only takes a few times of marching their screaming little butts outta there and into the car for it to stop.
I know mamas NEED a few hours and some multi-syllabic conversation at the coffee shop with friends, but it's not the staff's responsabilty to watch your kids or clean up after them while you klatch, nor are you entitled, by virtue of your long-suffering parenthood, to have complimentary day care services provided by your barista. Buy your coffee and head to the park if you want to let your kids run amuk. (and I couldn't agree more, being a servER is not the same as being a servANT)

My youngest just turned 12 (yesterday!), and my 5 grandchildren are between 2 and 9, so I'm still in social and public situations with young children. I clearly remember what it is like to have little ones out and about, and LONGING desperately for some sort of adult activity. It's so much more pleasant doing such things, for everyone involved, EVEN the children themselves, when they have good manners, the outings are planned and prepared for, and the people around you actually LIKE your kids and compliment them on how well they behave.
I was so pleased when my 9 y/o grand-daughter smiled brightly and said "Thank you!" with such sincerity when given a cookie at the grocery store bakery the other day. And her little 2 y/o brother followed suit! Both without prompting by their mother.
Contrast that with a former friend of mine who let her kids tear clothing off the racks in department stores, knock items off the shelves in supermarkets, scream for, and GET, candy that she didn't pay for (because they ate it before they got to the check out line) and terrorize other diners at restaurants. Her reasoning was, SHE, and her kids, had just as much right as everyone else to be there, SHE needed some adult time, and she was spending her money, so they should be GLAD to pick up after her kids. She also used the "they just hate kids!" excuse when someone felt the need to point out her kids behavior to her. *I* couldn't stand her kids!
Parenting doesn't stop when out in public. It doesn't stop when you want to talk to your friends. It doesn't stop when you want to enjoy your meal at a restaurant, or when you want to watch a movie in a theatre. Teach them when they're little, and before you know it, you'll have a 4-5-or 6 y/o who is a joy to be around.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColleen, LM

My husband and I just had a discussion about this when a child (who I guessed at about 8 months old) was crying in a restaurant and the mother was doing her best to calm her down and get the rest of the family to hurry up so they could leave. My husband was bothered because we had left our own children at home with a sitter so we could get away, and then we were interrupted by crying anyway. My opinion is that, yes, parents should know their children and make every effort to keep them well-fed, well-rested, and well-trained before bringing them out in public, but on the other hand if someone goes to a public place, he/she takes on the risk of being bothered by the public. It may be a crying child, or an obnoxious adult on a cell phone, or an arguing couple. If you want to be guaranteed a bother-free time, don't go out in public.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

But Jen, that's the whole point......the family you described aren't the ones that are the problem. The mother clearly understood the crying baby needed to go home, and was doing her best to resolve the situation. The problem is the parents (and yes, there are too many, IMHO) who let their kids wreak havoc on an establishment and act oblivious to the effect they have on everyone around them. Little babies aren't socially ready for all that external simulation, they WILL freak out at some point, and I think most people have some tolerance for a crying baby whose parent is clearly getting ready to leave. Now, if that was a 3 or 4 year old screaming, or running through the place, and her mother was sitting there pretending not to notice, THOSE are the folks that the article is talking about, and I agree with him.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColleen, LM

I understand the defensiveness here, because I certainly have dealt with people who didn't understand that I was dealing with the behavior appropriately, but for some kids, that means dealing with it every day of their lives. Meaning, they think my kid ought to be able to behave that way without reminders at age (fill-in-the-blank). If you'd told me I'd have an 8 year old who behaves like mine before I had her, I would've told you I'd have raised her better than that and she'd know better by then. Well, yes, actually I have raised her right, and she does know better, but she's impulsive and screws up sometimes b/c she's human. (So much for my pre-kids idea of consistency and discipline erasing misbehavior.) I've actually lost a close friendship because I couldn't handle the criticism of the friend who thought I was permissive parenting based on my child's imperfections/impulsiveness when I was actually working my tail off every day of my life to keep my daughter as close to societal expectations as I possibly could. So, I agree both with the people who find permissive parenting different than having a kid act out and dealing with it, and I understand the defensiveness about the article. And I understand the feeling that others must have easy kids if they don't understand - heaven knows if I only had my secondborn, I'd be sky-high believing I was the best parent on earth. Nothing like seeing both ends of the spectrum with the same parenting to get some serious perspective on what parenting and discipline can accomplish and what they cannot.

That said, *actual* permissive parenting chaps my hide.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I think the problem a lot of people are having with the article is they think he is talking about any kids who misbehave in public. I read it that way at first, too, but after re-reading I realized he is really talking about the kids who are misbehaving and not being disciplined, so he is really addressing the problem of parents not disciplining their children. And I get that, and I agree. Children NEED discipline, teaching, and guidance from their parents. NEED it. By not giving it, parents are doing their kids a huge disservice. But like I said, I at first read this as criticizing any parents whose children act out in public, assuming that means they don't discipline at home, and I got defensive. I bet that's what a lot of others did, too. I think it's understandable, because their are "child-haters" out there who tend to be very vocal and they don't care what you're doing to try to get the kids in order, they think your kids are brats and that you are unqualified to be a parent. I was once at a grocery store where a couple of checkstands over there was a mom with four kids. The kids were being noisy. Not terrible; I didn't have kids yet, and the noise wasn't bothering me at all. In fact, I didn't even notice it until the woman in line behind me drew my attention to it by saying, "She needs to put muzzles on those kids." I was shocked by the comment, especially considering the mother was at that moment occupied with paying for her groceries, and that the kids were just making some noise. So, basically, I'm taking a really long time to make the point that I think I see where some of the comments against this article probably stemmed from.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMissy

Yes, yes.

Megan: We have 4 kids and I often say you would never know they were raised by the same parents, experienced child-led weaning (3 of them), vegetarian, carried, no spanking, etc. You'd think all 4 had different parents. One's parents would have been Ivy League scholars, another's a professional dancer on Broadway, another a country music star and the last's parents would have been wolves in the wild. I laughingly joke that they probably wouldn't have turned out any different if we spanked them or raised them in evangelical Christian compounds. So, I totally understand the same parenting/different child aspect acutely.

What I learned from it is that kids don't change (and if they do, it's rarely) from their toddler-selves to their adult selves. The same kid that hated waking in the morning and was awake into the next morning's light is the one (at 25) that doesn't get up until 3pm and then is down by 5am. Regular school was impossible for him and once we homeschooled, he was able to tap into his amazing genius and graduate from high school. The daughter who was the Director, the School Teacher... from when she was 2 years old! became the Sorority President and the owner of her own highly successful business at 22 years old. Use what they tell you! Let their behavior be your guide. You won't go wrong with their lead.

Missy: Child noises *never* bother me. I always praise kids when they're laughing or talking in public. I was in Costco the other day and a kid was squealing laughing and his mom was trying to shush the toddler. I was bold and leaned over and told her the baby's noises were beautiful! And I always love hearing laughing and playing kids in stores; that it's harder when they're screaming. She said she just didn't want her noisy child to bother anyone and I praised her good parenting (her kid's good mood?) that she laughed *with* her baby and I was sure others would never be bothered by lovely laughter. I could see her visibly relax and she didn't shush the kid again... while we were in the same vicinity, at least. And I am also one to offer assistance to moms having a hard time... wrangling kids, juggling things... if I can help, I'm glad to be there with and for them.

I'm so glad to know I'm not alone on that front.

Thank you both for writing!

July 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Missed the Facebook discussion...but one thing people often don't realise is that a child's "bratty" behaviour is not always the fault of the parents. My daughter is autistic, and until age 5 or so, she would run into the street, throw huge screaming tantrums in public, etc. Normal disciplinary measures did not work, because she didn't speak or understand language. She had no fear of danger, no understanding of consequences, and expressing displeasure to her had no effect at all.

I guess I *could* have spanked her, but she was already sometimes violent even though I *didn't* spank, and I can only imagine how much more violent she would have become if she had been spanked. And other punishments such as time out were also useless, since I was unable to communicate to her what the punishment was for, what she had done wrong, or what behaviour was expected.

She *looks* completely normal, so anyone observing this could easily think that I just didn't discipline well. I cannot count the number of dirty looks I got and more than one person told me she just needed a good spanking. And for a large part, I became nearly housebound, because taking her out was such an ordeal. I would not have *dreamed* of taking her to a restaurant during those years, but sometimes I had to take her to the supermarket or whatever.

Things are much better now- my daughter finally learned to speak and now she is polite and well-behaved in public 99% of the time. But I will never, ever again judge a parent whose child is melting down in public, because I don't know their situation, just as all the people who judged me had no idea I was dealing with a developmentally disabled child.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLili

Yes, autism was brought up many times. I'm so sorry for the looks and nasty comments. How did you respond? Did you say, "She has autism!" In a loud voice? In an apologetic voice? In a stern voice? How did they respond back?

I'm glad things are easier for you both now.

July 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

As a disability advocate I feel that tolerance is a better answer. I do my best with my kids and don't feel I should *have* to reveal my child's diagnosis to every stranger who misinterprets her behaviour. It's none of their business. Just imagine if a person in a wheelchair had to reveal the exact cause of their disability to anyone who asks before being allowed to use ramps into a shop or a handicapped public toilet stall. The idea outrages you, I hope, and my child likewise has the right to public access without me having to discuss private matters with hostile strangers.

However, sometimes I would glare back and inform people that my daughter is autistic, but more often I was too busy trying to calm my daughter and keep her safe- that took every ounce of energy I had.

Over the years I've been shocked by how many people don't understand what autism is- many people have never experienced severe autism- and worse, there is a large contingent who think that the "autism epidemic" is actually *caused* by overly permissive parenting (I seem to remember some famous American radio host saying that publicly a couple of years back). :-(

Also, autism can look very different in different kids. My son is more mildly affected, and as a preschooler he was obsessive about following rules, and so was extremely well-behaved. At the time I attributed that to my own awesomeness as a parent. Now I have been knocked right off THAT high-horse!

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLili

Many of my friends and family members have children. Those who are most successful as parents seem to practice social events with their kids. For example, we just hosted a party with live classical music (some of our friends are professionals and wanted to run through pieces for upcoming competitions) and invited a couple with a 2yo son. He ate some crackers, appreciated the music, clapped tentatively, got a little fussy, went for a walk outside with his parents, came back in, spilled water on the floor (we have a dog - no worries), enjoyed some more music... this was all okay in this venue, and much better than if his parents brought him to his first formal sit-down concert as an 8yo and never explained what was going to happen!

Similarly, my brother's kids have been going to restaurants since they were babies. By the time they were around 3yo, they were capable of saying "please" and "thank you" to the waitress. They aren't perfect, but their parents go to restaurants armed with coloring books, etc.. Again, they didn't start with 5-star restaurants for evening multi-course meals. Their first restaurant trips were to the local diner for brunch, on a weekday.

My brother and his wife (and many of our friends) would totally leave DisneyLand after giving fair warning. I salute Zack for being an exceptional parent, and "getting it".

Then there are the permissive parents. I dined out with one friend, her husband, and her two kids, once. Only once. My friend was peeved we were seated in the back, near an exit, but I understood completely. Those kids are badly behaved all the time, BTW, which is why I saw my friend on neutral territory - her home is a free-for-all!

Oh, yes: another couple we know has a teenage son who is both severely autistic and developmentally delayed. They're also professional musicians. When it's an informal dinner with friends, he's invited, and participates as best he can. It it's a student recital, or a formal concert, they do not bring him - not because they're ashamed of him, but because it's not an appropriate situation. It's not fair to the performers or audience, either. Again: it's the parents' response to the child, not the child's behavior, that is the problem here.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPD

I have a lot of thoughts about this (but of course! I have no kids yet-- I'm an expert! ;P ) but I think the sticking point for me is something akin to... what's the psychological principle called? The belief in small numbers?

(Quick disclaimer-- I'm talking about the issue generally, not necessarily the specific commentary that started the whole discussion.)

What I'm talking about is this-- many people say they make allowances for screaming kids with autism or other disabilities. Well, as has been said-- how can you tell? You can't always... perhaps not even often. And I know that the focus is (or is supposed to be) on parents who don't "do" anything about the kid's behavior (vs. the behavior itself), but that's another thing that can be gray to determine. Not to mention that perhaps a parent MAY not be responding ideally in that particular case we witness... but we cannot always (perhaps not often) know if they usually do-- if this is an aberration for that parent because her mom just died and she's practically catatonic or if she is just an entitled jerkwad.

The thing is... People will concede that kids with disabilities should get some sort of pass/partial pass, but as in so many of these arguments about "personal responsibility," they turn around and say, "But we know that MOST of these kids are just being raised by terrible parents." Because our human brains say that only (guesstimating) 5% of kids have disabilities that would make these outbursts more likely, so "clearly" the "vast majority" of kids who behave this way and seemingly cannot or won't be controlled are just "not being raised right." But while kids with disabilities may comprise 5% of the general population, they may comprise 30% of the kids you see "acting up" in public and 50% of those you see having major meltdowns. YKWIM? So if one were to randomly judge 20 meltdowns and give a "pass" to 1, one would have decided that 9 kids with disabilities are "brats." Just thinking...

Of COURSE we all know people personally (and well) who we are 90% certain really are just entitled or self-absorbed folks with terrible parenting skills. But that doesn't mean that we can extrapolate that to the majority of the population at large.

The other side of this... as it so often happens when we talk about mothering (because mothers are ALWAYS the hyperfocus of any "parenting" debate)... or anything a woman does, really...

I know you (Barb) are talking about people who just don't seem to respond to the child's behavior, not so much the child's behavior itself. But lots and lots and lots of women have the experience of being harshly judged for the child's behavior itself-- look at that lady you encountered with the laughing baby, for goodness' sakes! It's just the nature of these kinds of conversations that such women-- especially those who have borne more than their fair share of such criticism-- are going to feel defensive and frustrated (and understandably so). It almost doesn't matter if the writer was talking about them-- when they're constantly treated like terrible parents... enough, already!

Say you're someone with an "invisible disability" who has handicapped plates and really needs to park close to the store at least half the time in order to minimize your pain. You get a dirty look what seems like every time you park in a handicapped space... maybe it's only 1 time out of every 5, but that's enough to put you on edge and the defensive and get you to park elsewhere if you possibly can-- even when it probably would be better if you used a handicapped space. (Kind of like a woman who is harassed on the street-- perhaps not literally EVERY time she goes out, but it's plenty enough for you to put on your "armor," isn't it?)

Someone comes along with a rant about people who use handicapped spaces when they really shouldn't-- people out driving their elderly parents' cars or whatever.

They may even EXPLICITLY not be talking about "you"-- and you probably could not more strongly agree that those misusing handicapped spaces suck eggs-- but I can bet you take this opportunity to share your experience and warn others against judging who is and who is not entitled to use those spaces. YK?

I hope that didn't come off condescending... It's just something I've been thinking about, and meant as a general musing.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDreamy

There will always be the people who are so self-centered that they don't want anything intruding on their activity be it someone else's child, a hard of hearing person speaking loudly or a new waitress in training. This article isn't about people like that but about frustrated adults who just want parents to make an effort.
There is a world of difference between a parent trying to manage an autistic child having a meltdown in the checkout because the bagger used the wrong bags and two children running full tilt up and down the aisles while the parent cluelessly chats on their cell phone. *All* children have their moments, it is all about how the parents deal with them. I don't buy the folks that say their children *never* misbehave in public. They must not go out much or what they consider misbehavior must be different from my definition.

I have 9 children and they are far from perfect but we, too, have gotten compliments on their behavior in public but only because I am constantly 'on'. It can be exhausting to teach children how to behave in restaurants and movie theaters etc...but it pays off. We can go to restaurants now and aside from little things like cutting food up for the baby I don't have to be on my toes. I've got enough big kids modeling good behavior that the littles just follow along.
My days of having to go to the store with 5 children (one in the cart, one in the sling and three holding the sides of the cart) are over but I remember them all too well and at the very least offer the frazzled moms a smile of understanding if not a real offer of help (like the mom with the autistic child-I asked if we could push her cart to her car).

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I'm really offended by the comment. Actually, although I'm loyal reader, I'm questioning your judgment for agreeing with it. Sure, there are those kids you see around, behaving horribly, but whenever I see them, their parents are grabbing them up, spanking them, threatening them, calling them names, and then releasing them to go right back to it. It doesn't seem to me that we should call for more corporal punishment, more of "the look," whatever the hell that is, or more "child-free" places. I agree wholeheartedly with the blog post linked by "T," from Demand Euphoria, and in addition I would add that when the original author says:

"Responding to complaints about crying babies keeping people awake, Malaysia Airlines decided to ban infants from first class in some of its flights.

I don't know about you but I would gladly support an airline or restaurant that didn't make someone else's yelling, screaming, kicking offspring my problem."

I start to wonder if he truly has any sense that an infant can't be disciplined into silence. I wonder what he would have us do with our infants? Not be allowed to fly? Drug them? Simply stop having children?

It makes me ANGRY. And I don't think it helps. Parents who don't know how to effectively and compassionately discipline their children need parenting HELP not judgement.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Jen: It's unlikely that we'll agree on *everything*, don't you think? This is the first time you're questioning my judgment? Lucky you!

See, I don't see the same parents as you do, smacking kids. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw *any* kid hit/smacked/spanked/slapped in public. Either San Diego is extremely non-corporal punishment or it happens and I'm just blind to it (which is impossible because I *would* speak up if I saw that happening!!).

You say: "Parents who don't know how to effectively and compassionately discipline their children need parenting HELP not judgement."

And what kind of "help" do you propose? We carry around books to give them? We tell them to take parenting classes? The truth is *we* can't "help" them at all EXCEPT leading by example.

Be the example you want others to follow.

One of my oft-repeated mantras.

July 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I agree with the pp who say it is the parent's behavior which annoys me more than the children's. I have worked very hard to teach my now 5 year old "public behavior" from a very young age. I don't need to spank her to get compliance. Now I am not always perfect, in fact I know I terrified a lot of people in the Denver airport one day as I raced from gate 23 to gate 85 to make a plane with a screaming child in the stroller with the front wheels propped up so she couldn't drag her feet. We didn't have time to deal with her behavior right then, but when we got to our gate and coud breathe, she had a time out in the airport. I have spent a flight saying "don't kick the seat" and trying different methods to distract her. I also upgrade our seats to he economy plus for the extra leg room if possible.

Part of having a public behavior expectation is that I must be prepared. It is incredibly unfair of me to expect her to sit still with nothing to do. I bring crayons, a small happy meal toy, and a snack bag to church. When we fly, my backpack is loaded with a lot of things to do. Mess less markers, play doh, and the iPad loaded with videos and music for her are a start. I often go to the thrift store before a trip and buy cheap toys to entertain her, toys that don't matter if we leave a trail of them as we go. It also means that I must be aware of what she is doing, which means I might read 2 pages of my book on a 2 hour flight. Such is life. I am the mom, and it is not fair for me to inflict my child's bad behavior in others without my taking an appropriate intervention. I do my dangest to not travel alone with her, so I can switch off with my mom or husband on who gets to play iPod, and who has to parent or grandparent.

What ticks me off a lot more than a naughty child is the lazy parent ignoring said child. Sucks to be you, but dang it parent your children. Pull your ears out of your iPod and hear what everyone else is hearing.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWendyLou

I have to say, I rank among those who was offended by the original article (the curb your brats article). Not because I don't believe in discipline (I do!) and not because I don't see permissive parents who don't react appropriately to their children's behavior in public (I do!), and not that I don't think that entitlement/discourtesy of all kinds is on the rise in our society (I do!). But mostly that article just set my teeth on edge because it's part of this on-going relentless media coverage of poorly behaved children (aren't they awful!) and their horrible mothers. I'm happy to participate in a conversation about discipline and dealing with children in public (I like to think my 3 yo cherub is a joy, but I do *not* take him to restaurants unless I absolutely have to for some reason), but only if it's produced in a framework that also acknowledges these fundamental points: 1) the right of children to exist in public spaces and be treated with respect and dignity; and 2) that in fact the vast majority of children on the streets, in airplanes, eating in restaurants, shopping with their mothers, are actually very well behaved/have responsive parents. We don't always notice them, of course - we tend to notice the ones engaged in destructive/disruptive behavior. While the Curb your Brats author might be making a fine point taken in isolation, it reads to me - and many of your commenters, I think - like he's adding his voice in a chorus of "Oh, those badly behaved children and their terrible parents!" Whereas really, I truly believe that the majority of parents are responsive and disciplining and working working working. So, for me, it's okay to talk about frustrations and ideas about working with kids in public spaces/socializing them, but I'm not so keen on presenting the "problem" of parental discipline as part of a head shaking self-righteous media barrage like it's some vital/dire new trend.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

He looked at his mom and jumped right smack into another one. Zack grabbed his arm and marched his ass right out to the car... the kidlet whined, cried and then begged to be taken back to the park. "I'm sorry! I'll be good! I won't do it again!" (He was quite verbal for his age.) Then, when they got into the car, the histrionics really began.

Driving the 90 miles home, Zack repeated to his son, "I don't know why you're crying, it was MY day that was ruined."

Kidlet never had to be told anything more than once again because he knew there was weight behind the threat.

I've done this. And done it again. And done it again. And done it again. We've left the zoo in tears. We've left the pioneer farm in tears. We've sat on the sidewalk in 95 degree heat while the rest of the family finished their meal in the restaurant. There's weight behind the threats, but he pushes and pushes and pushes because that's the kid he is. And when he cries all the way home, he doesn't just say he's sorry. He says he's bad and he hates himself and it's all his fault and he's going to kill himself. And he's five.

I bring toys and snacks. On long trips, he packs a backpack with things to do on the flight. His choices, plus one or two special new surprises. I make sure he doesn't kick chair backs. I make sure he says please and thank you. I clean up the messes we make. Sometimes, it's fine. Other times, he runs away from me in the airport, and I'm chasing him with a baby in a sling. Or he'll be drawing quietly and then let our an ear-splitting shriek because a line went astray and messed up his drawing.

You have a lot of experience parenting. Parenting your kids.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchingona

You're right.

July 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

"I've done this. And done it again. And done it again. And done it again. We've left the zoo in tears. We've left the pioneer farm in tears. We've sat on the sidewalk in 95 degree heat while the rest of the family finished their meal in the restaurant. There's weight behind the threats, but he pushes and pushes and pushes because that's the kid he is. And when he cries all the way home, he doesn't just say he's sorry. He says he's bad and he hates himself and it's all his fault and he's going to kill himself. And he's five."

Two of my sons used o do that too, it turned out they both had ADHD, now they're meicated and both alot happier. Medication wasn't about making them behave for me, it was about the hating themselves and wanting to die when they realsed they hadn't.

I agree with the article, I have four children, oldest has aspergers as well, I don't expect the world to accomodate their behaviour. I DO however expect tolerance when they react to something and I am actively dealing with it. That's where brattish adults come into it! I don't expect to have to accomodate their rude behaviour either!

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterniam2810

Thank you, niam. Over the last year, I have started to think there is something going on besides just my failures as a parent. At three and four years old, I thought it was just a developmental stage. Now, I'm watching him with other kids and thinking he's not like them. I'm planning to talk to his pediatrician about it, and I also wouldn't be surprised if entering kindergarten this fall leads to some referrals. It's helpful to hear that medication isn't just about making my life or his teachers' lives easier. Again, thank you.

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchingona

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