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Judgemental Journalist: Curb Your Attitude

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I think that I’m a pretty respectful parent. I hope that I’ve taught my daughter good manners. She would never dream of yelling or running around a restaurant. Well, she might dream of it. She is a kid. But she knows that she would never get away with it. She doesn’t stand up in the grocery cart or pull things off the shelves. Her most annoying habit on our weekly grocery trips is wanting to say hello, politely and cheerfully, to everyone she can make eye contact with. And I’m happy to say that she can travel with either myself or my parents without a single negative incident. I believe that its important to teach children manners and how to be polite members of society.

Honestly, I don’t think that my daughter is the type of child that LZ Granderson was talking about in his CNN.com blog post, Permissive parents: curb your brats. But even if he wasn’t talking to us, we’re offended. Or in reality, I’m offended. My daughter doesn’t really know how to be offended yet.

Granderson has a lot to say about parents today and how they are ruining the next generation. I think the damage was started a while ago, because we’ve created a whole slew of people who think that they are so important, they shouldn’t have to be bothered by absolutely anything. It created parents who can’t empathize with someone else’s worst day ever and cut them a little slack. It spawned journalists who feel like its completely appropriate to refer to young children they don’t even know as “brats”.

I completely agree that parents need to make their children behave in public. It’s an important lesson to teach. But it’s also a long process to acclimate our children to polite society. And there’s no way that they will adjust if we never give them a chance. We have to have those first few dreadful restaraunt experiences, the ones that leave us swearing off our favorite food for the next five years, so that we can get to the point where we can dine out as a family without any incidences. We have to have one horrible travel story before our kids can understand what’s expected of them.

I guess that my biggest problem with this article is that even before I had children, I would never dream of telling off a family because their children had a bad night at a restaurant. (By the way, they have child-free restaurants. Just go sit in the bar, smart one.) And if people want to pay more for child-free flights, simply because they think that they are so important, go ahead and spend your money. At least that way, I won’t have to deal with as many rude and snarky people on my flights.

I just don’t understand how a simple passerby can make a blanket assumption about someone’s parenting skills based on a single run-in at a restaraunt or movie theater. Kids, just like adults, have bad days. Kids, just like adults, have to be introduced to the behavior that’s expected of them. We aren’t going to solve the problem of lacking discipline by hiding children away in their houses. (Or by spanking them for an outburst on an airplane, but that’s a whole other post.)

Instead of vilifying children and their parents, maybe we should try modeling polite behavior so that they can see what it looks like. Instead of making snap judgements about a family you see struggling, maybe you should consider that you see a very small fragment of their life. My daughter behaves in public, but that wasn’t always the case. It took time and patience to teach her proper behavior. If a man I didn’t know would’ve called her a “brat” while we going through that process, I would’ve assumed that he was the one who needed more discipline.