Why Are We Scared Of Our Children?
Who knows when things got quite so out of hand? Was it when we decided that it was a good idea to become our children’s best friend? Nauseating at best, down right creepy at worst.
I cringe inwardly when I overhear parents asking their toddlers permission to do things: parents who have become so scared of ever upsetting their offspring’s feelings that they rarely assert what needs to get done that day. Since when do three year olds run our lives? Quite frequently it turns out in 2017.
Well little wonder that a backlash of sorts has begun. Should we be worried that today’s society seems increasingly willing to introduce kids’ free zones or is it something to be embraced? Restaurants where buggies (and consequently children) are verboten and the news, okay then, the uproar last October that a budget airline would be introducing kid free flights.
NB Virgin’s Richard Branson has also mooted exploring the feasibility of ‘kids’ class’, Eurostar already has family-friendly coaches on its trains, and China Airlines and Air New Zealand also have ‘family couch’ zones, where seats convert into contained areas for children.
Even as the mother of two little people, I can see the merit of having kid free flights or at least child free zones: no pressure on the parents to keep them quite so buttoned up and the chance for others to enjoy some peace should they choose too.
Of course I’m not advocating that children should sit robotic during a five hour flight but I’m constantly astonished by the extremes of behavior (partly what moved me to write this in the first place), where six and seven year olds, big enough to know better, will yell for the entire journey and children who continue to kick the back of my seat with not a murmur of reproach from the parents sat besides them.
Why are we apologetic or deemed ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘out of touch’ when we expect kids to behave appropriately in public spaces when they go out. Janet Street Porter might be a divisive personality but as she wrote in her column, she is entirely justified in wanting to enjoy a meal in a restaurant or café without being subjected to a torrent of tantrums from the table next to hers. One of the best parenting tips I was ever given as a new mother in the event of a baby melt down was to remember who the parent was. Blindingly obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people forget given the children I see who are allowed to talk back, snatch, whizz around a restaurant on a scooter sending drinks and plates flying (yes really!) with barely a murmur from their parents.
Is it because we’ve become too lazy to reprimand them, or are scared of being perceived as the bad cop (you might have to get over yourself here). Perhaps we are worried that we will be deemed as being too strict, something that harks back to our parents’ generation? I know, me neither. Even with the rise of social media where adults are parent-shamed, I find it baffling that adults actually give a fig about what a verbose 14 year old thinks of them on Snap chat.
I have seen parents trip over themselves complimenting their children and yet not one word when their children are rude or out of line. There are children’s activities or sporting events where EVERY child is a winner which is frankly, quite ridiculous and I don’t think I need to spell out to you why.
Recently my seven year daughter wasn’t selected to be part of the gym squad. For someone who spends every breathing second (and driving us mad in the process), trying to do a cartwheel or the splits, she was understandably a little crushed.
It was tempting to tell her that clearly her gym teacher hadn’t understood quite how agile she was, or seen her potential, when I thought better of it and stopped myself. Instead, I told her that she might be good but she wasn’t good enough this year, as the standard was high and that perhaps with a bit more practice or considering joining an out of school gym class, she might try again next year and be selected. Did she have a break down? Nope she thought about it and is now more determined than ever.
Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator and author of “Duct Tape Parenting,” says, “Allowing children to set the guidelines is not conducive for their healthy emotional development.” Clinical psychologist and relationship specialist Dr. Jeanette Raymond agrees, noting that “Maintaining a sense of caring authority at all times makes a child feel safe.”
Capitulating to their demands because it’s easier than dealing with a temper tantrum confirms to children that you’re afraid of them. And once they sniff that fear, believe me the manipulative tykes will run with it! As parents, it’s our responsibility to set boundaries and be consistent.
Of course everyone needs to be tolerant too of children when they are learning to behave in a new environment or a new situation, but I think it’s really obvious when parents are patiently trying to teach them how to behave and when they are let loose to please themselves.
It’s time to stop being afraid of your children’s reaction: Love, affection and nurturing along with disciplining your child are all qualities that are bound together. Taking a stern approach and disciplining your child doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Actually, far from it. On the contrary, it spells out that you love them too much to let bad habits or anti-social behavior prevent them from forging meaningful friendships, relationships and getting on in the wider world and the work place. Really, teaching them to be aware and consider the people around them is going to equip them with the qualities that will allow them grab all the opportunities life has to offer.