Monday, December 05, 2005

Putting Parents on Notice


Here's the situation: the owner of a cafe is tired of kids misbehaving in his store. He puts up a sign that says "Children Must Behave and Use Their Inside Voices." Sounds pretty darn reasonable to me. Despite being called a 'hero' by some supporters, notably from Down South, many parents in the neighborhood where his shop is located are hopping mad!

What? Is it too much these days to expect your brood to conduct themselves reasonably while in public? Heckfire, even I remember gettin' a whoopin' for my public behavior (several, actually) when I got out of line, and I had some pretty lenient parents in the 'act like an idiot in public' department. (Please See Peter Pat Pan pg 1989 & see also 'alt rock' Pat pg 1995)

Reading this article makes me indignant and angry at folks who will just let their kids get away with anything. I've known enough well behaved kids and ill mannered younglings to see what makes a good parent and what makes a bad one. Heck I've been a well behaved and an ill mannered kid.

People mad at a business owner expecting kids to behave? Why don't the parents expect their kids to behave? My question.

Why is there any objection to this? Parents. Lazy parents who don't want to be bothered by their kids. That's right. If you don't want to raise your kid, you shouldn't have a kid. Or two or three. I am so tired of the parents who act like their kids are 1) accessories to the modern suburban lifestyle, like a 72" TV and Ford Excursion; 2) inconveniences; or 3) both.

Want the answer to Columbine? Parents. Kids having sex at school? Parents. Kids doing bad in school? Parents. Kids on drugs? Parents. Kids drinking at age 15? Parents. Kids being spoiled with Everything They Could Possibly Want so that when real life doesn't give it to them they throw a tantrum? Parents. Childhood obesity? Parents. ADD? Parents. The V Chip? Parents. Schools being crap? Parents.

Even as lenient as my folks were, they still popped me when I got out of line. Or hollered at me so loud I'd almost pee my pants. There was never any question about when I had done something they didn't like. I was made well aware of it quickly.

(Whether they were justified in not liking a thing is something else entirely.)

Anyway, just thought I'd share.

(My brother will be along shortly with a memo as to why I am wrong, incorrect, off base and hypocritical by saying all of the above.)


patsbrother said...

I suppose I am not one to mess with settled expectations...

The term "whoopin'" conveys images of some roudy Southern homestyle, middle-of-red-clay pastoral childhood we cannot claim. Its just too earthy and informal to acturately describe the few formalistic pops we received from the attitude adjuster in our formative days. While I freely admit I was a worthless pissant in my preteen-midteen years, I feel it appropriate to note the following.

When we did misbehave in public such that we received said "whoopin'" (the sole instance of this I can recall is the foot-stomping in the communion line Ed will never allow us to forget), paT would begin wailing and crying at the mere apprehension of the (in retrospect) benign administration of said attitude adjuster. I, on the other hand, in all my passive aggressive glory, would not permit either parent the satisfaction of a single whimper.

Further, "wrong" and "incorrect" are, the last time I checked, the same thing. Besides, if you had opted for just one or the other, you would have one of those appealling rule-of-three lists to make your tongue-in-cheek disdain all the more snappy.

petallic said...

While I agree with Pat's statement that too many children are treated like accessories, I am not willing to alienate all families simply for the joy of sticking it to the parents who aren't doing their jobs.

At the risk of being labeled ambivalent, I can understand a myriad of camps on this one. As a childless spinster/teacher, I am often annoyed by inept parents for a variety of reasons, but also as a teacher, I am a huge fan of childhood and a child's right to make noise despite adults' inclination to be annoyed by it. Rather than thinking of it as noise, I prefer to think of it as the atmosphere of children.

Conversely, as a child of a strict mother and rage-a-holic father, I was made to behave, and it didn't hurt me n'airn. I'm better off for it (I still can't stand being embarrassed in public...even Kevin's singing in public makes me blush). As a future parent, I will probably crush the creative spirits of my children into submission and silence since by then my teacher persona will probably have murdered any loving tendencies I may have ever had. On the off chance that my children aren't perfect angels, however, I would hope that the general public would make allowances for children and the "noise" they create.

Most importantly, however, is the message implied by the focal argument. Coffee shops, restaurants, etc. must remain child-friendly/family-friendly environments, so that mothers are not forced to live as shut-ins. Every single mother I know has a hard time getting out of the house. Making a mother feel bad because she cannot keep her baby from crying is ruder than any baby unaware of its own actions. Even rolling your eyes at a running child is unforgivable. I always, always try to smile at struggling parents. I do my best to convey to them that they are welcome and their children are not nuisances, but just children. To do otherwise would make me a callous person.

Children make noise; they're messy; they're annoying. Mothers (and yes, fathers) require social time. As a non-breeder, I'm willing to tolerate and even revel in their social outing just as (generally speaking) they're willing to understand my decision not to breed.

To criticize the presence of children is to criticize motherhood and family, which is simply unacceptable.

Patrick Armstrong said...

First of all criticism of children is not a criticism of the family.

Criticizing children's behavior is a criticism of children's behavior and the parents who allow their kids to run wild. We're not talking about the occasional outburst here, we're talking about those parents who let their kids run all over them in public places, do damage, cause liability and harass others in the vicinity.

As a 27 year old, I cannot run up to another person's table in a restaurant and "thbbbbthhhttt!!" all over the patrons and their food. The consequences would be severe, and the expectation is that I know better. How did I learn better? My parents tried to keep that stuff from happening.

The expectation of children to use their inside voices and behave when the situation calls for it is nothing new, and was never considered an attack on the family in years bygone, it should not be considered as such now.

Parents with manners have no problem taking their kids outside if they are crying, telling them to leave breakable things alone and to not run around in a place where that is not acceptable.

There are reasons we have Chuck E Cheese and Mc Donald's Playland. There is a reason we have a Kid's Seciton at Borders. There are a reason we have parks. That's why the Catholic Church my grandparents went to had an entire seciton seperated by plexiglass and speakers. It was the babies' and small child seciton.

All my little cousins, ages 2 - 8 know how to go to a restaruant and sit in a seat and use their inside voices. These aren't 4 star places (for the most part) but even in the diners and cafes they know how to behave. Hell, they even know how to behave when their parents aren't around to hawk over them!

And this "kids will be kids" thing is a little too much like the "boys will be boys" excuse. Kids can act like kids, that's fine. But I'm tired (and I get the impression there's a bunch of us who are) of dealing with someone's little monster. There is a difference.

I know plenty of kids who know how to behave themselves when appropriate. Those aren't the kids, or the parents, we are talking about.

Dante said...

From the article:
"“Don’t get me wrong. As a parent, I have an arsenal that includes the deadly stare, loss of privileges and ‘We’re going back to the car, RIGHT NOW!”’ said Angela Toda, a 38-year-old mother of two small children in College Park, Md. “But the bottom line is, there are certain moments that all kids and parents have — and sometimes your kid is going to lose it in a public place.”"

One thing I've learned in my short stint as a parent is that actions speak far louder than words. Don't sit there for five minutes trying to calm the youngster down (even with threats). Take them immedeately out of the situation. Get them calmed down elsewhere and bring them back. Repeat until they stay calmed down. That's about the only thing I've ever learned in these newer namby-pamby-don't-spank-your-kids-and-breastfeed-wherever-you-please parenting books I've really taken to.

More than one threat doesn't do a lot of good anyways. If you tell them no and they don't immedeately stand down, odds are you're going to have a situation on your hands. I do make it a point to always explain why I say no but I really don't know if that sort of thing is sinking in yet.

Most onlookers don't even get bothered by the actual disturbance. They get bothered by the parents' refusal to take care of the situation.

I don't think that this cafe owner is "alienating all families" as petallic suggests. I would have no problems going to this cafe family-in-tow if I liked it to begin with. I might not go on a day when my daughter is especially in a bad mood, but we typically get food to go on those days. I'd make sure to do my best to keep the youngun in line, but I'd be doing that anyways.

petallic said...

I think we merely see children in a different manner. I don't think they should be put in soundproof plexiglass cages. I don't think moms should necessarily have to spend fifteen years of their lives at Chuck E Cheese. Perhaps this is due, in part, to my exposure to European living, where children are a much larger part of the culture than here. The states seem to have relegated children to second class, albeit privileged second class, citizenry. Children are an integral and loved part of European culture, and I adored that while living there. You didn't TOLERATE other people's children; you enjoyed them.

You and I both came from families where children were expected to behave, and so we did. You and I will probably both raise our respective children in such a way that they will know how to behave. As a woman, however, I am loathe to stand in judgment of parents whose children don't conform. I've seen too many wonderful parents with absolutely insane children. My best friend's child was biting other children at the age of 16 months; it took them a year and a half to get her to stop. One of my colleagues, who is a wonderful teacher, gets called at least once a week to go discipline her child at the elementary school. I am simply unwilling to state that I would do it better 'til I've put up and shut up. Even then, I'll probably keep my mouth closed 'cause as a rule, I'd rather be tolerant than exclusive.

Do I get annoyed at parents who let their children run wild, while the parent sits on her/his cell phone in the middle of the aisle at Wal-Mart? Sure. When I worked in doctor's offices, did I get annoyed at parents who let their kids color on the walls and tear up magazines? Absolutely. But I would never suggest they should leave their kids at home.

Should children behave? Yes. Should children use their inside voices? Sure. Do most of them? No. Why? 'Cause they're kids. You're absolutely correct that you wouldn't be allowed to run up to a table and "'thbbbbthhhttt!!' all over the patrons and their food." We do not want adults acting like children, but out of fairness, nor do I want children acting like adults.

dadvocate said...

This story certainly has wings (saw it at DrHelen) and is improving Dan McCauley's business, which shows how much people think bratty children a problem at restaurants. Ever sit in a booth with the kids behind you banging the seat back, etc.?

A woman I know let her kids, when they were in highchairs, throw food every where. There would be a 6-8 foot circle of food on the floor around her kid. Very embarrassing. She said kids needed to learn to enjoy food. I quit going to restaurants with her and her kids until her kids got older.

S.A.W.B. said...

I have said it before, and I'll say it again. Violence, does, in fact, solve everything. Am I advocating beating the noise out of your child? No. Am I advocating what one firm swat to the ass-end of an obstinate child can do? Oh hells yes.

In my short stint as a parent, I have yet to discipline my child, as he not yet responsible for his own actions. However, in my 5+ years as a lifeguard, and my 5+ years in retail/service, I can not count the number of kids, aged between 4 and 16, who openly defied their parents, solely because they knew there was nothing substantial to back up the threats of timeouts, privlidge revocation, icy stares, or harsh words. These kids, as most have these days, had learned that if they acted up enough, for long enough, that they would eventually get their way, no matter how Machiavellian their route was.

The kids who I've seen who have shown good behavior when out in public suffer from some fear of tangible retribution for poor behavior. Three generations behind ours were disciplined at the end of a switch, or a paddle, or a hand, and from what I can tell, they turned out pretty well...perhaps it's time to move back towards that era.

patsbrother said...

I was speaking to a friend of mine on the phone yesterday and I believe her family's situation is pertinent, if not strictly on topic.

My friend has an accident sibling, as so many Atlanta families do (no idea why). Sixteen years the younger. The boy is the walking embodiment of spoiled ADD dementia. I'm not sure if he still vomits each time the idea comes to him, but I would be shocked to find if the child has yet to express an intelligent thought in all his 11 years. He doesn't socialize. He has problems learning. If he doesn't have half a diet coke each morning before school, he can't stay awake (so they tell me). He does nothing but play videogames (this is to be taken as practical fact, not hyperbole). It seems his mother doesn't want to be the mean parent this time around (she was the disciplinarian last time around; not that my friend is at all a model of kosher responsibility); his father can't say much, as all he does on the weekends is similarly play video games.

My household: our mother took offense at her friends' "do as I say, not as I do" schtick, and, for us, came up with "do as I do, if you can", picked up the moral imperative and ran. (Admittedly, she never told us not to smoke.) I was 22 before I saw her ever have more than one drink, and I have never seen her take a sip of alcohol and drive before the next day. I recall one New Year's at the Wenzka's when Wendy had her phone set on 'call' so that when I got into my car at 2 am the car phone rang immediately.

"Have you been drinking?"
"Other, than a sip of someone else's drink, no." (seriously.)
"Well, you really shouldn't be driving."
"Has Patrick been drinking?"
"No. Well, I saw him drink one glass of wine about 10 o'clock."
"Tell him not to drive home."

So yeah, little bit crazy that woman. Perhaps more important, she was never "afraid" or "concerned" to be the mean parent. It pissed her off when our friends' parents refrained from so behaving, as without the ability to be the mean parent one is nothing more than a biologically-acquainted wet-noodle.

Crazy, yes. Ineffective? No.

petallic said...

"But I'm tired (and I get the impression there's a bunch of us who are) of dealing with someone's little monster. There is a difference."

Hm, I have no idea what you're talking about. I've never experienced that feeling of being tired of someone else's little monster. Eight years of teaching in two different countries hasn't afforded me that experience. Drive-bys, school knifings, rape, sodomy of a boy with profound mental retardation, a mother who brought her son more drugs to sell during lunch because he ran out, a girl who came to class with cum in her hair...and I had to MAKE her wash out her trophy. Tip. Of. Iceberg.

And still, I have more faith and patience in children than you. Ironic, or just indicative of your gender's incapacity for anything beautiful or more complicated than black/white?

(Oh God, I love a good generalization, especially when it's fairly accurate.)

I see abused children everyday, and I was once one myself. I will never pine for the good ole days of switches...or for the day my own father was tied to a metal bed while his dad burned him with hot light bulbs. You go right ahead and glorify it if you want, but I'll err on the side of caution. I tell my students all the time, "A man who will hit, will hit harder next time... A man who fights isn't picky about the target." I discourage violence in every form except self-defense or defense of a loved one. Maybe that makes me "what's wrong with America today." Maybe I'm teaching them to be namby-pamby crybabies who will be too weak to beat their children and their wives as God intended, but oh well. I'll just have to live with that.

patsbrother said...

Okay. There are extremes and there are extremists. Let's not judge large classes of people by those on the fringe.

Else as Georgia alum we will all be regarded as rabid raccoon-eating alcoholics.

S.A.W.B. said...

You bring the raccoon, i'll bring the moon pies, rc coler, and beam!

Dante said...

HEY! Don't knock the RC and Beam. It's my second favorite mixed drink behind RC and Mark. No joke.

petallic said...

Mmm. Moon Pies.

petallic said...

Apologies if yesterday's post seemed hysterical, in either sense of the word. I must attempt not to post at the end of a school day; it makes for erratic and overly emotional opposed to more logical/Armstrong-friendly ones.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Good thing I held the trigger on my response then. It was like, two pages of pithy. Sprout may have had a coronary. SAWB may have peed himself laughing. You would have responded in kind.

But we try for discussion here, not pithy back and forths. No one 'wins' those back and forths, whereas everyone takes something away from discussion.

I had to learn all of that long ago.

Because of the impersonal nature of the internet, posts and email can always sound a little colder and more unreasonable than actual human voice. It is also very easy to respond defensively at the end of a day of work (eg: my response).

One very good operating proceedure I learned long ago in e-communication is to always re-read what you just wrote, and anything that begins with the line: "listen, ****nut..." your point may be better served waiting a few hours and cooling off.

petallic said...

Yes, Kevin was afraid of something along those lines...a battle of who's crazier, his brother or his friend? 'Twould have been unfortunate and messy.

And true, it doesn't help that Kevin is the only one here who knows how to take me. Nary a callous word passes these lips.

Again, my bad yo. Let the witty banter continue.

patsbrother said...

paT: what is your definition of 'pithy'? Am I just not up on the slang?