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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Permissive Parents: Beat your Brats

Okay, so maybe LZ Granderson said "Curb your Brats" in the title, but if you read even a bit of his obviously enhanced-for-web-traffic piece, you'll see that I'm not so far off.

Granderson says he has an issue with parents unable or unwilling to discipline their children. If this were really the case, I'd back him up 100 percent. But that's not what I got from his unsubstatiated, anecdotal diatribe. No, what I took away from this piece is that Granderson has an issue with the existence of children.

Granderson has some news for parents.

"I do not love your child," he says. "The rest of the country does not love your child either."

Mr. Granderson, here's a news flash for you. We don't love you either. Our presence in your vicinity has nothing to do with a fondness for people who dislike children.

He goes on.

"The reason why we're staring at you every other bite is not because we're acknowledging some sort of mutual understanding that kids will be kids but rather we want to kill you for letting your brat ruin our dinner. Or our plane ride. Or trip to the grocery store."

Well, thank you for clearing that up. All this time, I thought the hatred-filled stares thrown our way when one of the kids had a breakdown was really just a mask hiding the overwhelming waves of love underneath. I was convinced that each heavy sigh and eye roll was a gesture of kind understanding and sympathy.

Oh, wait, no I wasn't. I know you hate us in that moment. I assure you, I am doing everything in my power to fix it, be it leaving the restaurant, ditching the cart in the grocery store, or taking a bathroom trip on the flight.

But, really, we need to come to a compromise. What would you have families do? Stay holed up in their homes until their child rearing and discipline training is complete? Because that "look" you mention doesn't just work overnight. "The look" takes time, skill and practice. My three year olds are just now getting the look. Should I have stayed in my living room all this time, so as not to step on your toes?

While Granderson may have a handle on how he disciplined his child and what worked for him, I do not believe that gives him the right to assume that all other parents who may do things a bit differently don't discipline at all.

"And we know you don't discipline them at home because you don't possess "the look." If you had "the look," you wouldn't need to say "sit down" a thousand times."

How smug of him.

Look, when I didn't have children, I didn't like children. They're loud. They're obnoxious. I simply did not care for them. In fact, I'm positive I'm guilty of saying five years ago, "Why are they here? Do they think the Starbucks is a Chuck E. Cheese?" As if they didn't have the right to get a coffee. A coffee they probably needed 100 times more than I did, since they were undertaking the admirable and difficult task of acclimating their children to the world. Still, my experiences didn't affect me further than that because if it went on for too long and the parents refused to leave my coffee shop, I could very easily go to the one on the corner. Which I did. No harm, no foul.

I understand what Granderson means. I understand the small section of parents to whom he is speaking. But he's not speaking to that small section of parents. He's speaking to all parents. Who hasn't had a normally well-behaved little one turn into a puddle in public randomly? And when that happens, who hasn't had onlookers ogling them and their children, hatred dripping from their eyes? As if our children are always this bad because we didn't use "the look." As if we're purposely trying to ruin everyone's night, including our own. As if we think the world owes us for having kids.

No. We want to disappear. We are mortified. We feel like bad parents (even if we're not, which is usually the case) and we want to get out as fast as possible.

"I have seen a small child slap her mother in the face with an open hand, only to be met with 'Honey, don't hit Mommy,'" Granderson laments.

I say, good for her! What would you have had her do, Mr. Granderson? Hit the child back? Yell at the child in public? Grab the child's hand in a threatening manner? Make more of a scene using negative discipline techniques to satisfy your perverse need to discipline someone else's child by proxy? I'm open to your suggestions, but you didn't give any. To me, a mother capable of being calm and controlled when her child slaps her in the face in front of people while still being able to show that child the incorrectness of the behavior is a hero. To be able to do that, to show positive discipline under such duress and embarrassment, is a strength not many know.

Like I said, we all need to come to a compromise. If you don't want a screaming child in your face while you eat dinner, well, I'll do my best to keep my kids from acting up. If that, for whatever reason, doesn't work on any particular night, you could stop eating at the Cheesecake Factory and go to an actual adult restaurant. If you really need the peas-in-a-can directly opposite the baby food in the aisle, I'll do my best to thwart any upcoming tantrums. If I fail, perhaps you could go get your bread first while I try to control my child, instead of subjecting yourself and me to your discomfort.

My biggest problem with this piece is how sure Granderson is that all parents think they should be treated in a special manner with an excess of understanding simply because kids will be kids.

"Parents who expect complete strangers to just deal with it are not doing anyone, including their children, any favors. They are actually making things worse."

But I don't know any parents like that. There are some out there, but I haven't met them yet. Have you?

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  1. I thought about addressing this article as well but I couldn't do it in less than like, 1 million angry words.

    I'm not really sure what people think; the person who is most horrified by a tantruming child is the parent that has to deal with it and the embarrassment at the moment. There are places that are child-free and people can go there if they hate kids. Unfortunately everyone needs groceries and to take an airplane every once in a while. People who don't have kids should just feel lucky that they are a step into another room/aisle or a pair of earplugs away.

  2. This guy reminds me of the guy that took his date to a FAMILY restaurant on Valentine's Day and gave us a dirty look when we walked in with a toddler an an infant. It's not my fault that he was too cheap to take her to a decent restaurant. I chose the family restaurant so we wouldn't be a bother to anyone in the restaurant I really wanted to go to.

    I'm convinced that the author is not around his children much, because he seems to know nothing about what it's like to raise them.

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  4. Well said! I absolutely loathed Granderson's article. I was unaware that beating my child would make him magically behave in public. I thought that since he's, you know, two, he was just still learning how to behave in public. It's jerks like Granderson that make it hard for me to take my kid out because I can't stand the evil looks people give because my two year old doesn't understand that he can't ride the Curious George bus ride at the mall for an hour. Because he's two.

    There are crappy parents out there who don't try to teach their children lessons. However, as an educator, I can tell you that's not the main problem in my classroom. My students have had lots of discipline in their lives. Some of them had the discipline of being beaten by their parents, who Granderson probably would enjoy. Of course, CPS didn't see it that way and removed those kids because sometimes they ended up in the hospital with broken bones from their "discipline".

  5. Did he think he was a perfect angel when he was a kid? My husband used to say he "never was punished" as a kid. I asked his mother and she laughed. Hard. When we spent a summer in Barcelona with our then 9 month old, there were little children and babies everywhere and no one expected them to be anywhere else. There were women breastfeeding in literal 4-5 star restaurants and no one seemed to think there was anything odd. Once my daughter started getting upset in a restaurant and an older woman from another table came over and picked her up and started playing with her, cooing at her in Catalan. It took some getting used to, because no one seemed to think that was odd either. Yet, it was fairly easy to get used to being so accepted and empathized with.

    I think that compassion and self awareness of the fact that we were all children driving our parents crazy once, and not thinking that we popped out perfectly disciplined would be helpful for everyone involved. Kids aren't going away. Everything in our culture from media and holidays, everything pushes people toward coupling and having a family.

    So, what we just abandon them at that point? Grow up, find the love of your life, and procreate. Then don't leave your house? Kids just aren't that scary.

  6. It's not just with kids, you get this kind of BS ALL THE TIME with anything as far as I'm concerned. I don't expect mothers/fathers to get treated with 'special consideration' or empathy Mr Jerk, I expect EVERYONE to be treated that way. Patience is a wonderful virtue. Learn some.

  7. Attitudes like Granderson's are exactly why I make sure I let mom or dad know that it's OK, I've been there when I see them with their kid losing their shit in public. It's a secret handshake that I think we should all practice.

    Also, my toddler open-handed smacked me in the face and when that didn't have the desired effect of going back to the park she reared back and headbutted me. Frankly, I'm amazed I had enough poise and dignity to not drop her on her ass and keep on going home.

  8. A blogpost that i am glad i caught and an article i think i am glad that I missed. He sounded like a sanctimonious idiot tho, so glad you called him on it.
    Perhaps one day he will have the world's most obnoxious grandchildren ... and his life will be more miserable ;)

  9. mam you know tantrums just happens and you have to compromise a little, my four year old daughter IS developmentally behind in her speech and social interactions. We were out at walmart for a little shopping and did fine until we left and passes by the Subway, we had no money and didn't go in but she doesn't understand that and just starts screaming so my husband takes her and we passed by a couple who understood, the lady said it's why she leaves her three year old at home, I said we don't always have a choice when all of us are out, she was doing fine till we passed by the subway shop. She fell asleep after that episode, usually the bigger the fit the more tired she is. Young children do physical things to get your attention to MAKE you do what they want, they don't have the words for it. My girl is smart she just doen'st have all the vocabulary there. But she doesn't go and grab for everything she sees, she likes one or two things that she wants, Munchies, and maybe watermelon or something like that. My parents spoiled me and gave in all the time, that took a bit to outgrow that myself. I am not making their mistakes.



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