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Poorly Behaved or Poorly Parented?

Posted by Kristen on June 11, 2009 at 6:33 AM in Raising Boys
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I live in this fantasy world that the reason my children are so poorly behaved in public is because we are "old" parents. I tell myself and everyone else that will possibly listen that I'm sure I would be more strict if I had had kids in my 20's. I wouldn't be so tired. I wouldn't be so cranky. I would have more patience.

Guess what? Here it is. The honest to goodness truth. I imagine that I probably would have allowed my children to continuously throw each other over the side of the booth if I had them ten years ago.

Derek and I sat across from them on the 80 minute ferry ride. They did the best they could. We let them run around and around and around and around. Then we gave up because they have more energy in one pinky than we have in our entire bodies. So we sat inside at one of these booths and we watched in horror as they took turns shoving each other over the side of the booth. I looked around and no one in the Saturday crowd was even paying the slightest bit attention.

I was all geared up for my false apology for the behavior of my kids. My kids who were having the time of their lives. My kids who were doing no harm to anyone or anything.

And I just let them do it.


Becky writes...

Don't worry, that's what picking your battles is all about. If they were having fun and not disturbing anyone, nothing wrong with that. But I totally agree, unless childbirth sent us back to being age 5ish physically there is no way we could ever keep up. I try to be cool and hip, keep up and be wild, but in the end, it only lasts about 10 minutes and then I'm done. "Let mommy sit here for a few minutes (or hour) and go have fun - I'll watch". There should be a magic energy pill!!

The Other Laura writes...

I'm a great believer in letting kids be kids as long as they're not getting all in some other adult's space. Good for you!

Amber writes...

I think that people are too often bothered by kids having fun, and harming no one. Yes, we need to be considerate of others. But that doesn't mean we can expect to go out in public and find the atmosphere one would expect in a spa.

Which is to say I often let my kids run around, too. There are certain situations in which I lay down the law, but these are kids and not robots, you know?

Jess writes...

Oh, but you DO have patience! It takes a lot of self-restraint to allow kids to be kids and not to snipe at them or "correct" them constantly. Kudos to you! The only people I raise an eyebrow at are the ones who think all children should be quiet, orderly little automatons. Glad to see yours enjoying the freedom to be their exuberant selves. :o)

Dominic Joelson writes...

I've never had kids. But my friend who's got kids in their late 20s are really strict. I've got friends who are really good and well-behaved in public and I've heard their mother gave birth to them at the age of 22 and their father was 33

Amy writes...

As a teacher, I think it can be both. It all depends on the child and the parent. I have seen kids who are out of control with wonderful, concerned, and involved parents. But, I have also seen kids who have parents that give them no attention and discipline and are also "poorly behaved". Sometimes it just comes down to the child. :)

M. Milsap writes...

Surely they should play they learn during play. But let's remember about train up a child in the way they should go! I don't like being to strick on them. But teaching obedience will save us from writing letters to detention centers,or visting graves, and help their future teachers. Our children must be taught they have to listen to others in authority, and have respect for elders in public- we were taught. Please pray for all the teens in Chicago during the Summer months, and their Parents Training. Thank You!

mom writes...

Parenting is tough. However, "loose" parenting or thinking others find poor discipline "cute" is another thing entirely. If your kids were near me I would think nothing of them playing. But throwing one another over a booth is not only indicative of poor parenting it would not be funny when one ends up in ER. Play to me is not the same as play to you. This let the kid do anything mentality is disgusting to people who do parent their own kids. Nobody here is brave enough to tell you though as it might "offend". Truth hurts though. Deal with it.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

I would just like to point out "mom" is not our mother. (mother to jen, kris and patience)
thanks, patience

jen lemen writes...

hi "mom"! thanks for being so honest--if you knew kris in real life, you would know that she appreciates honesty a lot and is a straight-shooter when it comes to giving (and receiving) well-formed opinions. you wouldn't even need to be anonymous--and i encourage you to be brave and say your name, because then we can have a real discussion.

kris posits the question "poorly behaved or poorly parented" and then owns the fact that she would parent this way under different circumstances. i think it's totally fair to come down on either side of the question when it's put like this.
everyone's entitled to their own opinion, right? less fair to attach our own judgments about the choices we've made about where the line is between poor parenting (nurture) and poor behavior (nature), but that's the beauty of the comment section. you can say (almost) anything you want!

so let's have at it. here's the line for me: i would let them run around but probably not let them throw each other over the booths--not because of safety--but because i have this horrible noise thing and kids that are "too loud" (which in my case includes any kid talking above a whisper) makes me crazy.

Earth_mommy writes...

I would like to respectfully point out Kristan did not say how roughly the boys were going over the booth. "Throwing" may not mean hurtling in this case. And though I may not personally know her, I am confident if there were anything but sqeals of delight she would have intervened. And I also do not agree that people are afraid to critize her. However, some people like to stir up trouble for their own giggles without consideration that there is a real person behind the pixels on their screen who have equally real feelings. And shame on those trolls who do so, for that is nothing short of malicious. Mommy have their own insecurities of their parenting skills, there is no need to point out nonexistant ones for your own kicks.

Jess writes...

It's very true that what looks like play to a parent doesn't necessarily look like play to an onlooker...which is why it's so important that we let a child's own parents be the best judge of where the line between play and dangerous/disrespectful behavior exists. Children have different capabilities and needs, and their parent is likely to be most familiar with a kid's limits.

This is not to say that other people's boundaries should not be respected. Two things we should absolutely model for our children and help them to observe: respect for firm rules in other's territory, such as those posted in businesses, and to avoid harming others. If a child is doing no harm, let him be a child! Expecting adult behavior from a young person is ridiculous and developmentally inappropriate. It takes many years for a three-year-old to grow into an that they will get there and allow them to be where they are in this moment, rather than struggling against it.

Carmen writes...

I agree that children should be allowed to play rambunctiously and enjoy themselves - in the right times and places. It is just as important that they learn early to differentiate appropriate behaviors for varying situations. Self-discipline is as important as self-expression in any healthy person.

My children are healthy, in shape, often loud, and energetic. But they also knew starting at a young age what was and was not acceptable behavior in public. Not only out of concern for safety (though that comes first), but out of consideration for others. My oldest two are teenagers now, and while we do have days when we really do not enjoy each other's company, they continue to be pleasantly insane and popular with their peers, as well as complimented by adults on their politeness and understanding of how to interact appropriately.

They had similar compliments as toddlers and all throughout their growth, and I'm no super-mom. It's a matter of determining that this is an important lesson for their future. At least that's my opinion.

Never, ever, EVER would I have allowed my children to throw each other over anything, especially in public. I don't mean any personal offense, but I find that kind of behavior unbelievably obnoxious. There is no reason for it; even very young children can - and should - be taught how to behave appropriately on a playground as opposed to on a ferry or in a store.

Carol writes...

Here's the thing. If you had the kids when you were younger you might be tougher on them, or stricter, but that doesn't mean it would make you a better parent. I am both, a mom at 20, and a mom again at 34 and 38. I'm much nicer to my little ones than I ever was to my older child. A much more relaxed mom now. Even if it's just because I have no energy left to deal with it.

Carol writes...

Wow! I just went back and read the comments after posting my own. I can't believe how judgemental these people are. Makes me feel sorry for their kids. How you do anything is how you do everything and if you are that judgemental with other people you probably are with yourself and the people close to you. Lighten up. Kids grow up in spite of us not because of us. I'm sure she's a great mom. The most important thing, according to my mom and I'm sure she's right (7 kids worth of experience), is that your kids know you love them. If you are all critical and judging and mean, how are they supposed to know that.

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