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Tuesday
Jul122011

"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.