Our family's recent activities have reinforced an ugly pet peeve of mine: misbehaving kids whose parents are nowhere to be found or who choose to do nothing about it. I've come up with a term for this type of parenting style: ostrich parents. Whether we've been at the park, sports practices, or even standing in line, I've seen the situation countless times of late. A kid misbehaves and his or her parent either isn't there to see, or doesn't want to deal with, the transgressions. What's really sad is these kids aren't learning how to get along in the world and they wonder why kids don't want to play with them.
Just this morning we were at a park and there was a kid throwing sand at everyone within reach. He was about 3, cute, definitely curious, but made kids three times his age run in fear of his sand wrath. I looked around, expecting his parent to tell him to stop. Who was watching this kid?
My blood pressure rises slightly at our indoor swim lessons when all of the kids huddle around three showers to rinse the chlorine off after lessons. There is one girl who must push the automated nozzle, which runs for about 30 seconds, 20 times at least, despite many other children waiting. I used to look around, waiting for her parent to say, "That's enough. Give someone else a turn," but it never happened. I have said things to her a few times, but really wish I didn't have to. Plus, she ignores me anyways.
Standing in line just last week to buy movie tickets a 5-year-old pushed an older boy, who was standing behind him, in the stomach. The older boy had no escape. His mom stood there as helplessly as I did during the sand escapade, looking around for the child's own parent to intervene. Later, when the same little boy yelled at his mom, making a scene as they made their way into the theatre, she smiled and tried to soothe him, having a patience threshold that was much higher than most moms I know.
Life is much more fun and a whole lot easier if we face it when our kids are out of line, correct them, and move on. They learn better social skills and over time we can take them anywhere and everywhere (well just about) and they know how to behave.
Not that my kids are perfect angels and never misbehave, but I supervise them and the minute I see them doing something that is not considerate of others, I intervene. This helps everyone in the long run, including them.
Doing the discipline work and being consistent hasn't always been easy. I remember having to follow through on a threat to leave a birthday party when my son was younger. As much as I wanted to stay and socialize, we left 10 minutes after arriving.
Having to do that a few times early on, and following through every time, has made life much more peaceful and fun. We were able to leave all 4 of our kids with another family who has 5 well-behaved kids over night this past weekend to attend an adults-only wedding. The parents said they couldn't believe they had 9 kids because it went so smoothly. "It was a pleasure," the mom said, "Really, anytime." And I know she meant it.
I would much rather watch 9 well-mannered kids over 1 who is not any day.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom to 4 young children and the founder of Kid Focused, a site for children and family issues today. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter, delivered weekly to your inbox. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com