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Kids Will be Kids So Parents Should be Parents

Why are we so afraid of upsetting our children that we indulge their every whim?

I may live in THE BEST neighborhoods around, where we have a ton of kids around and they all come out to play.  Recently, weather permitting, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming various neighborhood kids to my house, all of them looking to play with my son, daughter, cat, and even me (well, they come to talk with me – I love that). 

Junior has been foregoing his winter diet of video to go outside and shoot hoops with the neighbors’ kids. Diva has been visiting some of the girls in the 'hood. Most of the children who visit are gracious. They say “please” and “thank you.”  One or two, unfortunately, have the manners of monkeys.

A little girl who was playing with my then 4-year-old once demanded, “Got any FOOD!”  It was not a question. It was an order. It was not obeyed. When she wanted to know why I didn’t bring her any FOOD, I explained that I do not respond to demands and suggested she go home to get her own FOOD. 

She didn’t get the point, because a scant 15 minutes later, she stared at me and said, “You KNOW what I want.”  Sure, I did.  But I was not going to accept that kind of behavior.  I wouldn’t take it from my kid and I definitely was NOT going to take it from someone else’s.  This kid has subsequently labeled me “The Mean Mom.”  Good. Don’t bring that kind of attitude here again, kid.

Then there was the urchin who walked into my garage, when I had my back turned, and started helping himself to some of the snack items I store in there. He looked surprised when I told him to put them back. 

This shouldn’t surprise me since he was one of eight children I once found in my backyard, playing on our swingset, while my kids were inside watching TV. The entire gang of kids under 10 years old (some of whom live in the neighborhood, others who were friends of the kids in the ‘hood), descended on my backyard and started playing with my kids’ toys. They had not been invited. They just saw what they wanted and went for it.

I have to wonder at the parental models for the inconsiderate behavior in these and the many other kids like them I will meet this Spring/Summer. Are we, as parents, so afraid of upsetting our children that we let them make limitless demands of us?  Are we so afraid of hurting their delicate self-esteem that we’re afraid of correcting them?  And why, then, are we surprised when a neighbor or teacher reprimands them?  If we, as parents, don’t do it, I don’t think we have the right to object when someone outside the family does it. 

Sure, kids will be kids.  They’ll test the limits and will see what they can get away with just for the heck of it.  But parents need to be parents. We must correct inappropriate, rude language. We have to teach them manners. It’s essential that we set limits and enforce them. We need to stand up for ourselves and not allow ourselves to be treated like the slaves of these little people, indulging their every whim. 

Yes, children have to be cared for, but they also need to learn that sometimes they're not going to get what they want when they want it. Children, as a result, will be mad. Hopefully, they'll learn how to deal with frustration and, in some cases, delayed gratification. As parents, we're just going to have to deal with that anger.  It's uncomfortable for us, but the lesson learned is essential for them. 

No, my children are not perfect. But they do know the words “please” and “thank you.”  And if they don’t use those words, gently correct them. They are adults in training and, as such, must be guided and encouraged to behave well … because I’m raising people; not primates.

L. Klonsky is a writer who blogs about life and raising children in New Jersey. She lives in Livingston.

yarge1 April 24, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Dear Editor, This completely obnoxious "opinion piece" should be removed from the site promptly. What's the point? Is the Patch now just a place to complain? Additionally, as far as I can tell with a couple of simple on-line queries, this L. Klonsky does not live in any of our BEST neighborhoods (her emphasis, not mine)
teaspoon April 24, 2011 at 03:24 PM
Right on yarge1! This sucks.
O.W. April 24, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Unless L. Klonsky is writing under an assumed name and unlisted in every online directory, she does not live in a Millburn-Short Hills neighborhood. Why is this on our Patch? Who is vetting these opinion pieces for relevance? Please remove it. You continue to alienate your readership. O.W.
Laura Griffin April 24, 2011 at 05:22 PM
My apologies. In the process of posting, the identification sentence about her was inadvertently left off the bottom. She's a writer and blogger who writes about life and raising children in New Jersey. She lives "next-door" in Livingston. I have put that back in. As for the column, I posted it because I felt it dealt with a universal theme -- raising children with good manners. Sorry to offend.
sms April 25, 2011 at 01:32 PM
How about the author modeling polite manners and inform the child that if he/she asks politely, she would be happy to get her some food or "please ask me before taking any snacks from the garage." The kids are kids and need to be taught manners; she has no excuse. If she keeps it up, no one will play on her unused swing set, invited or not.
newleaf April 25, 2011 at 02:09 PM
The problem with this piece is that it's tone is judgmental. A four year old is capable of some basic manner. Taking one to task, in writing for the whole word to read, for not politely handling her hunger is......kind of intolerant. It's not that I approve of bad behavior--but the idea that the author used that as a way to feel better about herself is a sad commentary. I agree with the people above that she is not polite herself and it sounds like she is looking for this behavior in the kids that visit. FWIW--I know plenty of cheeky 4, 5 and 6 year olds that have emerged into delightful, thoughtful young adults--it just took them a little longer to get there. A kind person, a truly good mother, would have modeled good behavior for the child and then reminded herself that the FOUR YEAR OLD was just that, a child. The author may think she's setting some kind of a standard but from where I sit, there is more than one way to accomplish a goal. Sounds like she's earned that "mean mommy" moniker--and she's not doing all that well in the neighbor department either. I'd hate to have her as a neighbor! I much prefer my neighbor. We swap kids back and forth, we try to model good behavior, gently correct when it doesn't happen and then--with kindness and support--we laughingly report back on what we saw. We know it's a work in progress and we don't see each other's kids as "urchins." I did not like this--it really rubbed me the wrong way.
newleaf April 25, 2011 at 02:17 PM
PS. Just to reiterate in case it did not come across---I am not against correcting children, I just hate to have it done by some smug mother who thinks she's somehow figured something out that others have not. In the case of the swing set incident, I might have gone back there and in a kind, loving, fun tone told the kids "hey, my kids are not free and I am not all that comfortable having you guys playing here unsupervised. Does mommy know you are here? Why don't you guys go play next door?" all this assuming my kids were not free...... Same for the snack. My point is not to avoid correction or redirection--that is necessary. What is unnecessary is the judgement that these kids are not being parented simply because they are not following whatever standard of manners the author is applying to that age group. I always assume all kids mean well and if they are being cheeky, or not using their manners, it's because they've forgotten them at that moment and mom or dad is not around or focused at that moment to reinforce. I try to treat all kids with the same kindness I'd want extended to mine if they were ever in the same situation. Certainly my kids are not above being presumptuous or over eager.... Also, I don't hold anybody else's children to the same standard I do my own because I recognize I am raising my kids in my way and everyone else is doing the same with theirs....
Kyle Harrow June 16, 2011 at 10:35 PM
No need to apologize Laura. I did not find this offensive at all. I can relate to many of the examples she gives. I don't think there is anything wrong with expecting and asking for manners from kids. I love the line "adults in training." Expecting common courtesy from kids is the least we can do to prepare them for adulthood.

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