By Kathy P. Behan
There we were at Burger King, just finishing our meal, when in walked two mothers with four children between them. Granted this place is not known for its ambiance, but it had been reasonably quiet. That soon changed.
The two mothers sat near a window, but set their children up at a table in the middle of the restaurant. The kids, left on their own, immediately shifted their energy from eating, to chasing each other around the table. The chase expanded with the kids running around the whole place, laughing and shrieking while they weaved in between tables and other diners.
The mothers interrupted their meal just long enough to tell their children to “stop that” as they ran by.
Not surprisingly the game continued, completely unabated. When the kids eventually tired of this, they began to climb from stools to the top of the condiment table. Once there, they would take turns jumping off and shouting.
At long last, one of the mothers got up and told the children not to do that anymore because, “one of you could get hurt.”
The kids stopped for a few minutes, but then resumed their climbing, yelling and jumping. The mothers continued their “ignoring.”
Another time, we went to see a local production of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Soon after the play began, a girl (probably about 5) jumped out of her seat and ran to the foot of the stage. She alternated between running, dancing and jumping right in front of the performers. For obvious reasons, her antics were incredibly distracting to the audience, and also to the actors.
After an unbelievably long time, the mother hauled her daughter back to her seat, but not before the child issued a series of bloodcurdling screams. Less than 15 minutes later, the girl was back. This time an usher had to remove the child.
At a Boston Pops performance a beautiful, velvet-clad, little girl stood on her seat singing, dancing and clapping to the music. The people around her were noticeably annoyed by her behavior. Both her parents just looked on adoringly.
What do these three instances have in common? If you guessed “bonehead parents,” you’re right. These people allow innocent bystanders to be bothered by the loud, impulsive and obnoxious behavior of their children, without any regard for those around them. They can’t — or won’t — control their kids, so the rest of us are subjected to their offspring’s rampant misbehavior.
Why would children ever be allowed to act in such a selfish, annoying manner? Maybe these parents think they’re doing them a favor. After all, life is full of rules and regulations, why not cut the kiddies some slack? Or perhaps their little psyches will be damaged by someone saying, “Sit down and be quiet. You’re bothering people.”
Even though I’m not sure of these parents’ motivations — laziness, fear, cluelessness — I am positive of the result it’s going to have on the child. He or she will grow up to be a Spoiled Brat. These kids are getting the message loud and clear that they’re the center of the universe, and they can do exactly as they please. They don’t have to think about anyone else.
Any time I see this sort of conduct, I immediately think of my parents. They would tell my sisters and me (endlessly) that they always wanted us to be the kind of kids that other people would like to have around, so we’d better behave.
Growing up, we were routinely hauled out of grocery stores, restaurants and churches for behavioral infractions. My parents’ method worked. We all grew up to be quite nicely-behaved adults.
Now, as a parent, I try to put the same principles in practice. The bottom line is that if my kids are not under control, we’re out the door. I wish all other parents would do the same.
Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer, specializing in health and family issues.