Last night I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone. She had just finished putting her two girls to bed (5 and 3 years old) and was annoyed at her youngest.
“I didn’t realize how spoiled she was,” she said.
Now, normally the younger girl goes into the bedroom the girls share, and while the oldest drops off pretty easily, the younger messes around quietly, playing with a doll or “reading” a book or whatever until her parents go to bed. My friend has decided to put a kibosh to that practice, however, and has started sitting in the room so that the younger girl stays in her bed and actually goes to sleep. (To explain: normally it’s not a big deal if she plays around, as long as she eventually goes to sleep, but they are moving this week, and the girl has been crabby. Kids are usually less crabby when they get enough sleep, thus the enforced bedtime.)
According to my friend, the conversation during that time goes something like this:
“Mommy, I want water.” “You just had a drink.” Cry. “Mommy, I want to go upstairs.” “No, it’s bedtime.” Cry. “Mommy, I want to read a book.” “No. You need to go to sleep.” Cry.
I can understand how that would be tiring on a person. Part of me, however, wanted to say something to the effect of “Maybe if you would have done this at an earlier age, it might have been easier,” but I held my tongue. I’m not a mother. While I have extensive babysitting experience, and have done many of the things mothers get to do on a daily basis, I am not a mother. I haven’t been there, truly. I am in no position to criticize my friend for her parenting when I haven’t truly been there.
However, I do feel I can criticize some parents. While I have never worked in retail, my other friends have some interesting stories.
One of my friends worked at a jewelry store. One morning, a mom and her little girl walked into the store. Partway through their browsing, the little girl started licking the glass cases. Yes, licking the glass. My friend tried to say something to the woman, who halfheartedly told the girl to stop. The girl continued a minute later, and my friend had to make up an excuse – she wasn’t sure if the cleaning chemicals they used on the glass were healthy for a child to be ingesting – before the woman made her child stop.
Another of my friends worked at Lowe’s. One day she saw a child playing on one of the ladders they use to reach the top of those tall shelves. Now, it’s store policy that only employees can be on the ladders – for safety reasons – so my friend politely told the child that he couldn’t be on the ladder. The mother – who was a few feet down the row – came rushing over and demanded to know what right my friend had to tell her child what he could or could not do. The ensuing conversation – through which I’m sure my friend was polite enough, though I’m not sure how she could be – ended up having to have the manager called over. Now, the manager supported my friend, since it was Lowe’s policy, but the woman left in a huff, swearing she’d never shop at Lowe’s again.
All I can think of when I hear stories like this is “Really people?” One trend I’ve noticed is that no one younger than my generation (and some in my generation of 20-somethings) are really held to account or are holding their children to account for their actions. It couldn’t possibly be their child’s fault that they got a D in biology class; it must be the teacher’s fault. My child was just expressing himself when he punched another student’s mom in the stomach. (True story.)
I could go on for thousands of words, but the point of this blog post is to mainly say that I’m disgusted, sometimes, with how parents are raising their children and what they’re letting them get away with. If I had tried to run around a restaurant, yelling and shouting and generally making a nuisance of myself (during which time I would have been completely ignoring my parents’ orders to sit down and behave), I would have gotten taken out to the car, and I would thus not have been able to sit down very well for a little while. I learned very quickly that in certain situations you can enjoy yourself while still behaving.
Children don’t learn anything if boundaries aren’t set for them. If you don’t set boundaries for right and wrong when they’re very young, how do you think they’re going to react when they have to obey boundaries and rules later in life? Some children respond well to conversation – if you explain why to them, they’re fine and understand and will do what’s right. Other children (like me growing up) sometimes need a slap on the butt to make them behave.
When I do have children, I will spank them. It will be reserved for outright defiance, but if I deem it necessary, it will happen. Actions have consequences. Inaction – as in not disciplining your children – also has consequences, some more long term than others.