Wednesday, July 22, 2015

You Want To See Parent Trauma?

It's been a while since I shared a Sherism with you. So here's to one from my mommy files.

Now, as you read this please keep in mind that I am 1. no expert and 2. the mother of four children - both male and female, currently ranging in ages from 11 years old to 21 years old. I've experienced ... well ... as much parent trauma as the next guy. ;)

Some of you may recognize this image. It's of a restaurant owner from Portland, Maine - my home state and city I lived in while in college. You may have already heard about the incident linked with this image - this woman (said restaurant owner) yelled at a screaming child after the child's parents allegedly did nothing to control (or console, depending on how you look at it), her.

It's been on CBS & NBC News, all our state's larger newspapers and news programs, all social media, and even a subject of debate within Consumerist.com. But unbelievably, it's not on YouTube (or at least I couldn't find it). Thus I can't share the video feed with you. You can click on the links above to get that, though.

Communities at-large have numerous opinions about how this woman - running a business - chose to handle the situation. Some praises for her actions could be heard from the top of the Appalachian Trail. These voices claim it's about time someone took a stand against young children acting out in public - which is really a cry for their parents to set boundaries for their kids - aka Sherism #1. Other voices firmly condemn her for verbal abuse of a young child and crossing the line.

Now I'm not saying she was fully just in the manor with which she yelled at the young toddler. Nor am I here to judge the child's parents in any way, shape, or form. I do not know anything about these young people. But in general, there must be exercised decency and delicacy when bringing young children in public. 

Is there an invisible parental line in public in today's society?

I grew up in a small town within the confines of close-knit, nearby communities. No one would bat an eye if a child was scolded by an adult other than the child's parents. I'm not talking about yelling at a child to degrade him. But those times when mom and dad were either absent or distracted and didn't notice Little Jimmy stuffing a piece of candy in his pocket. In my youth, the adult would tell the child to put it back or even give a simple evil eye. And guess what? The child would comply. More importantly, the child learned that society is a whole and we are all in it together. Thus, if we all want to enjoy it, we must respect it. And the real kicker here is that the parents would thank the other adult for helping them out. 

It takes a village to raise a child. Yeah, that's where that probably came from. A village. Not an overly, abusive, condescending, belittling, or accusatory village. But a village that guides for the betterment of all.

I will not lie. In today's world, this social ideology is much harder to achieve. There is deceit and crime all around us. The news is the most depressing and negative entity out there, spreading the hate and discontent of the few instead of nurturing the connected concern for humanity among most. Stranger danger is a norm in our children's vocabulary. You can't ride your bike to the playground with your buddies anymore and make a pit-stop at the corner store. Not everyone is out for the betterment of another; sadly, most are not. And honestly, if tomorrow another adult bellowed at my child, my gut reaction would be to swipe at the person with my momma bear claws.

The key: don't allow yourself or your child to be in that situation - if you can help it. Give them the tools right from their beginnings and be there to exercise those tools for them when they can't. 

Parenting nightmares are well within my personal mothering lineage. Please, I have an ADHD kid with the high achiever let's-drive-myself-crazy gene, the Evil-Knievel kid with more broken bones and medical expenses then you want to know, the tomboy girl with a gift for athletics yet has suffered setbacks because of major foot-reconstructive surgeries on both feet, and the generation internet kid with no idea how to hold a conversation without a controller in his hand.  

Let me use my ADHD kid as an example. (BTW - he's a senior in college with a 4.0. Keep your chins up, ADHD parents.)

Child #1 was label ADHD, when the label was only two years old and most people knew nothing about it. I had people telling me that if I spanked my son often he'd eventually learn to listen. People just didn't get it. We could have beat him with a bat and it wouldn't have helped. His brain didn't work that way. 

Now let's gear this conversation to the incident above. Going in public with this kid for the first eleven years of his life was like going grocery shopping and bringing a pack of lions along. My head was on a constant swivel. My arms were windmills tugging, pressing, and keeping items on the shelves. He was always getting hurt or touching things.  

One day when he was two years old and still our only child, he and I went to Church alone. After struggling to keep him in the pew for over half an hour, feeding him Cheerios and reading him books, I was exhausted. The straw that ripped the coat off the camel's back was when he pulled a shoe off the lady in front of us and threw it. I knew Church was not for him. At least, not for some time. Why? Because it wasn't fair to the other people trying to spend time with God. I was a pretty faithful Catholic, so it pained me to stop going. But I had to adjust. So, I set a boundary.

Going out to a restaurant was unheard of in my family until he was nine years old. Before that, he couldn't sit in a seat at a table, on a stool at a bar, or in a booth. He'd go limp at a table and then slide beneath until my poor husband would have to crawl under there to pull him out. It was way too much work for us and it was too disturbing to other patrons. So, I set a boundary.

I could go on and on with these experiences as well as others from my motherhood arsenal. That would just be redundant, because, in the end, they all revolve around the main theme of this post - setting boundaries - Sherism #1. 

Setting boundaries for our children is not always pleasant, and it sure as heck is rarely convenient. Nonetheless, it MUST be done. Boundaries are teaching tools. There's nothing wrong with using them.  

 photo Sheri2.png

34 comments:

  1. Most parents don't do that these days. They let their kids act as wild in public as at home. I certainly wasn't raised that way. I learned quickly to behave and be quiet. If I got out of line, my mother just removed me from the scene.

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    1. Me, too. That's how my parents handled it. And see, what happened to accountability as a parent? Seriously. I think that's what bugs me the most. It's not this little child. She didn't know any better because no one is teaching her. (Honestly, I'm not trying to judge this young couple. But I can only contemplate the actions they exercised in that restaurant.)

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  2. I read about that incident and from what I gathered, the parents were oblivious to both the child and the other patrons. I think that woman was right to yell at that kid (altho perhaps she should have spoken to the oblivious parents who of course, were the real cause of the disturbance). If I'd been in that restaurant I think I might have cheered.

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    1. See, Marcy, just another reason I heart you. I understand how difficult some children can be, but it's up to the parents to deal with it. Period. It's common decency toward other people and patrons to take care of any public disturbances your child creates. Geesh...

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  3. I agree with you here. Boundaries aren't punishments for a child. They can be set in ways that make that child feel safe and loved, and more often than not, they never come down to punishment. And yet at the same time, people other than the parents usually don't need to do the shouting either. Neither would the parents, for that matter.

    I know this, because that's how my parents raised me.

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  4. Great thoughts and really insightful points you've raised.

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  5. Thoughtful post, and yes, I saw the post about this woman on FB yesterday. I am against disciplining other parents' kids. That said, I lightly spanked my son's "friend" when he was at our country place and he: chopped down one of our young trees, broke the garage window, and more stuff I can't even recall. In short, he was a little horror who had an anger issue.

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    1. That's a tough situation to be in, Catherine. Having as many kids as I do and our house being 'the house' they all hang out at, I've encountered similar behavior from some of those visiting kids. It's a tough call what to do. I mean, how many times can you mention it politely to the parents before you say enough? I lost a friend over it, but I saw her kid try and drown my kid who didn't know how to swim. Not kidding. I watched this kid (and his buddy) hold my kid under the water. I waited to see if they were just playing and fooling around. They weren't.

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  6. My daughter has always been good in public, but I can remember one incident when she was in her terrible twos. She acted out in Borders. I promptly put down my shopping items, picked her up, and left the store. I didn't think other shoppers should have to be subjected to her meltdown over not getting something she wanted, nor was I going to buy her side item to quiet her. That's just me though.

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  7. I think some people think I'm letting my daughter misbehave in public because I let her scream tather than give her what she wants. But I don't want to teach her she can scream to get what she wants.

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    1. No, that's a valid point too. Giving in to a child's misbehavior simply to 'shut them up' isn't the way to go, in my opinion. I'm sure you're not in the realm of what happened in this restaurant.

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  8. I don't think I would ever reprimand a child in public when the parents are right there. I've seen what looks like really bad parenting when shopping as in completely ignoring the child to the point where I fear the child is in danger. We never had the problem with our children in a restaurant because we really couldn't afford to take them out to eat when they were little.
    Susan Says

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    1. Personally, I wouldn't say anything to another parent's child in public either. However, when you're running a business and someone is being disruptive, you kindly try to help the situation or ask them to leave. In this case, the disruption happened to be a child. If I were the business owner, and if the situation was truly bothering my other patrons, I might have addressed the parents.

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  9. Yelling at the kid doesn't do any good - yell at the parents. They're the ones doing a crappy job of parenting.
    Funny, this week Brandon and Bryan at A Beer For The Shower covered this topic. In a humorous way, of course.

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    1. Ooh, I'll have to check out Brandon and Bryan. And yes, you're totally correct. I'd address the parents.

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  10. There no longer seems to be a uniform way that communities work these days. My urban neighborhood is one of those old-fashioned type ones where kids from multiple families can play together outside with a parent nearby. That grown up is the person in charge and no one questions his or her authority to break up fights or put an out of line kid on a bench for time-out.

    But we all live on top of each other in row houses. In the burbs, everyone is so very deeply individualistic, you'd be likely to end up in a fist fight if you said anything to the kids who are misbehaving OR their oblivious parents. So everyone ends up calling the cops or protective services, which is like using a bazooka when a flyswatter would do the trick. I wish I knew the solution.

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    1. Fantastic observation. I come from your first paragraph. Frankly, I still live in the same town and we still live by a similar parenting motto. Everyone kind of looks out for everyone else. I can, however, visualize your second paragraph. #sighs

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  11. I haven't heard of the incident you mentioned, but I can imagine it. I don't think anyone should yell at a child, but I also believe that adults need to set boundaries and teach children what's right and wrong and how to act in society.

    I used to think I didn't care much for children. There were some good ones, but the rest acted like... I don't know. I would say wild animals, but that's being degrading to the animals. But while at Panera a few weeks ago, I realized it's not the children's fault for acting the way they do but the parents. These two kids, probably ages 4-6, were playing with the soda fountain machine. They'd get drink that they could barely reach, take a sip, and then pour it out in the fountain tray. Then they'd repeat what they did. One would sometimes run over to where the parent was (not visible from the drink area) and then run back over. I stood there for a minute or two trying to get my drink until they moved so I could do so. I wanted to say something, but I didn't know what to say. Really a parent should have been watching the kids. We were near the bathrooms and not too far from the exit. Anything could have happened to those kids while they were playing in an area they shouldn't unsupervised. It was wasteful too. Now I might say something, but I wouldn't yell at them. There's no point in that, but yeah, children definitely need boundaries.

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    1. OMGosh! Thanks for sharing your experience. That is a great example of what I'm talking about here. Like I said. I'm no expert on parenting. But I have four kids and have always taken responsibility for them and their actions. It's my job, not the poor patrons in a restaurant. And it's not really the kid's job either, when they're so young and still need to learn. They learn from example. From your experience, that seems really scary.

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  12. Boundaries are necessary. I didn't grow up in a small town, but still, the neighborhood was filled with adults all day long. If we didn't behave, our parents heard about it even if we were out of their sight. We've had kids up at the observatory that run wild. I'll go tell them to stop and tell them why and make sure the parents are in earshot. I usually say I don't want them or anyone else to get hurt. It's usually a lie as it's about the equipment getting damaged. Still.... then there are the parents 3 sheets to the wind and I don't know how they made it up the mountain without landing in a ravine.

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    1. Haha! Love your final comment. So true, and I hate being but into a position where it's up to me to say something. Like I mentioned earlier, I've rarely said anything to someone else's child, but you bring up a great point. If they're not controlling or guiding the child and something or someone is going to get hurt, then what other choice do you have? I don't blame you for speaking up to those kids. I'm just in awe at the lack of responsibility some parents have over their kids. If you can't control them, fine. But at least try. And if you can't, then remove them for the current situation. JMHO.

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  13. I agree with Mac. Yelling at children doesn't work and only results in the situation becoming more stressful for all concerned. I wouldn't even yell at the parents. It really is ineffective and causes provocation which ruins everyone's day. The key is to stay calm and use other tactics. I won't mention them here, for fear of writing too much and sounding like Dr Phil :) But being a teacher and a mother I believe the key to success in such a situation is to be calm and confident that you will succeed. A child, or another adult, will pick up on any hesitation a rise in tension and then the battle is lost. A fantastic and thought provoking post, Sheri!

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    1. Great point about how people (the child or another adult) will sense any hesitation or lack of confidence on your part. And no, you don't sound like Dr. Phil. I love your comment! Thanks so much for stopping by and contributing.

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  14. In my mind, both parties were in the wrong.

    The business owner had no business yelling at a toddler. Did she think the toddler would react by saying, "You're right. I'm being obnoxious and I should stop. Thanks for pointing it out?" She probably shouldn't have yelled at the parents either. Speaking to them politely about her expectations would have been more professional. And if you own a business, you should behave in a professional manner with your patrons.

    Of course, based on eye-witness accounts of the parents, that approach might not have worked, and the parent would have been just as offended. It wasn't only that these parents weren't setting boundaries for their child. They had no consideration for anyone else in the restaurant -- something I see more and more EVERYWHERE. Consideration for others is dwindling at an alarming rate in our country -- from the people talking behind you in the movie theater to the people who leave their shopping cart taking up a parking space rather than walk it to the carousel.

    There were many, many times my husband and I took turns eating in a restaurant while the other one sat outside with a toddler having a tantrum. We didn't want to disturb the other patrons. There's a message to the child: You will not behave that way in the restaurant. And there is consideration for others, too. (And teaching your children to have that consideration, as well.)

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  15. Gosh, a thin line, no?
    I once told my cousin's daughter what she had to do, and my cousin did not take it lightly. I know I appreciate it when people say certain things to my little brother in certain situations so that he can actually feel the seriousness of his actions.
    I like what Dianne said: consideration.
    I'm not sure how quickly children grasp that, but it's very important.

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  16. No one should tell a parent how to raise his/her kid. That said, all parents should actually take the time to raise their kids. My son is an Aspie, but we managed to raise him pretty well I think. Acting out, in public or at home, is not something we allow in my family - from him, or from us, for that matter.

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  17. Kids definitely need boundaries. I get that kids have bad days. If that happens in public, the parent should be considerate of others and leave. I don't think yelling at the parents or the kids, as this worker did, is acceptable. She could have asked the parents and children to be considerate of others, or even use some humor to distract the kids from whatever was causing their misbehavior. There are other ways to handle it.

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  19. It's true -- when I was a kid, other adults corrected kids as a matter of course, but now even if it's immediate family the parents seem to get riled and defensive. Wonder what's changed?

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    1. That is such a good point. I'm not sure what has changed, but society definitely looks upon raising children different. Granted, there are a lot of nasty people in the world and those people are who the media decide to focus on. We've become slightly paranoid as a parental society. Another adult pointing out to a child (who isn't theirs) that their behavior isn't appropriate doesn't make them a bad person, as long as the message was given with a good heart. JMHO

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  20. the majority of young children aren't wired to sit still for church or in a restaurant, been in those miserable situations! unfortunately unless people are in the same place in life or remember those times (which i find many adults choose to forget their kids behaved that way or they did themselves!) they don't get it. i also find that many parents today are so self-involved, they have no idea their kids are annoying. i applaud the parents who discipline their children or are at least aware if they bother others, because kids aren't aware of it until their parents tell them. it's a sticky situation and i like that you presented both sides and i've been on both sides. it takes a village, but the village doesnt always agree! there's no easy fix. all we can do is keep trying and encourage those we see who are trying, too! sometimes the approach is the solution. thanks for the thought-provoking article!

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  22. I think I'd yell at the parents or at least give them my opinion about boundaries for behavior in public places. Why should everyone in a restaurant be disturbed because people are badly behaved?

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