TIP TUESDAY: The Importance of Being Parents

A little while ago, an article circulated amongst the parenting set I roll with regarding kids’ behavior in certain public places, situations, and scenarios (restaurants, airplanes, stores, etc.). Here’s a link to it:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/05/granderson.bratty.kids/index.html

To be blunt, I 100 percent agree with the overall sentiment summarized by L.Z. Granderson at the end of his article: “You (parents) wanted them, deal with them.” As far as I’m concerned, and even though the author doesn’t go there, I believe this even applies to those parents who might not have absolutely planned to have kids but oops, there s/he is; you chose to keep them, deal with them. Yes, I went there. Deal with it.

However, despite my general agreement with Granderson, what I feel he leaves wide open to interpretation is just HOW parents are to deal with their kids in these situations. Other than spanking or corporal punishment for the younger set (really?!) and throwing “the look” around when necessary, he doesn’t offer any other specific, step-by-step instructions. He vents a lot about how undisciplined children are not cute, how they are the reason for a growing societal backlash against kids in a variety of public spaces (certain airline routes, many restaurants, etc.), and how parents need to get the brattiness in check before they enter school and cause not just a societal disruption but an educational one for every other child in the classroom. In sum, the general lack of any sort of guidance in the area of manners and proper behavior is showcasing a generation of self-centered, lazy parents raising a next-generation of spoiled, self-centered punks.

Again, I agree about all the self-centeredness and such – but what is a parent to do to prevent this exactly?! Or did I just fail to get my how-to DVD when we discharged with T from the hospital when he was four days old (and if you got the DVD, email me the info, please!)?

We all know even before we decide to have kids that a great deal of parenting revolves around teaching children all kinds of concrete facts and figures and how-to’s: the ABCs; the 123s; colors; days of the week; zoo animals; peeing in a potty; and anything else that a preschooler can find a song about to sing and dance to, quite honestly. Even still, despite all the singing and dancing, what I think is very overlooked today – again just as Granderson refers to – is a concentrated parental focus on social norms and manners, and it’s very sad for sure. It’s sad for all of the outside public who doesn’t know and love our kids, but also quite a disservice to the kids themselves.

I realize most parents are just overwhelmed and exhausted by the daunting task of managing kids in public places, and I totally get it; I am, too. Admittedly, there are many public places I absolutely choose to not go with T. One example is the mall. While I have a lot of mom friends who have absolutely no trouble strolling stores with kids in tow, the very thought of that outing makes me ill. As a result, I only go on casual shopping trips when T can happily be somewhere else. When I head out to browse my favorite shops, I consider that experience a large part of me-time, so the thought of integrating child management into this experience is not my idea of a fun time, at all. Thus, I deal with it by making it a kid-free zone.

But sometimes there’s just no choice – you’re out of bread, milk, and the kid’s favorite juice boxes, and it’s time to go to the store. Or Grandma is having a family birthday lunch and you are not even asked to attend – you are automatically RSVP’ed. Or – and perhaps the most fun one of all – you’re about to leave on a plane for that family vacation you signed up for months earlier thinking ah, it’s months away, we’ll all be more than ready by then (whoops). These situations, unlike the mall example, are not kid-optional, yet while the very thought of some (or all) of them might make you ill, too, they are things that in truth are pretty damn normal, regular, and are most likely routine outings for your kids. So to this I say sit down, buckle up, take a deep breath, and get ready-get set-go.

I am dedicating my next three posts to three specific scenarios called the “Kids and…” series: Restaurants; Grocery Stores; and Travel (airplane and car). I’ll base the posts on our own experiences thus far into parent- and kid-hood, so if you’ve just not gone there yet, or not gone there yet successfully, perhaps some of what I write can fit into your parental toolbox that you go to when things just aren’t working as smoothly as they could. I’m going to try to break down, step-by-step, ways that we’ve approached each of the three situations and found the most overall success. I define success not just as us thinking T did great (because he always gets an A from us, right?!), but I’ll also take into account validation from outsiders (yes, strangers) that our child actually has the ability to behave like an actual little gentleman versus that article-referenced, average, self-centered 3-year-old brat that most folks have become familiar with in their daily interactions.

So stay tuned, because tomorrow, we’re going out to dinner. Yes, I just RSVP’ed you, and you’re going – with the kids.

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