Friday, 18 June 2010

Other people's children

I adore children, really I do but I realise that I’m developing an increasing lack tolerance for other people’s children. It’s not they're not cute or that they lack extraordinary talents i.e. your 3 year old’s ability to count to a thousand. It’s more about their behaviour, their lack of manners and their generally held belief that the world revolves around them because clearly this is what their parents have been telling them.

Take for instance my recent train journey from Newcastle –I was stuck in a small space (a regular coach compartment) for 3 hours and had to deal with a little boy who spent half of his time repeatedly shouting the words ‘fat pants’ which he obviously thought was his way of being rebellious and rude, and the other half crying and screaming. His mother, instead of disciplining her child at home so that he would know how to behave when he came out in public, was red faced with embarrassment as she pleaded with him to be quiet. I was tempted but of course resisted saying ‘It’s a little late for that now isn’t it love?’

I do sympathise with parents who have difficult children, honest I do and I’m a parent myself so I’d be lying if I said that my children were always on their best behaviour. They are after all quite young so unpredictable madness does happen every so often. I guess to an extent it’s about the frequency of the insane and bad behaviour in public.

There are parents out there, mums especially who over-indulge their children and that can only be a bad thing when those children are out in the real world interacting with people who don’t think they’re so precious. A lot of parents, again mothers especially seem to be under the deluded impression that their children are cute by universal standards; that the cheeky things they say make for great dinner table conversations. Really...they don’t. I love my children but I’m under no illusion that everyone else finds them adorable. I’m also cognisant of the fact that the things they say are amusing to me alone, even their dad doesn’t always get it. Yes, so what if little Johnny said ‘oh mummy you look great in that skirt’. It’s only cute because a) you’re the source of Johnny’s compliment and b)you can remember when Johnny couldn’t even talk at all so this is all such a big deal for you. For the rest of the world, he’s just another precocious child to join the long list that’ve graduated from Italia Conti talent school or made the school’s gifted register. What matters is that your little genius knows how to comport himself in public, doesn’t throw tantrums when he thinks he’s not getting his own way or interrupt the conversation of adults who are older and therefore wiser than him.

I remember our parents’ generation taking the approach of children being seen and not heard and I’m beginning to think that they were on to something. Today too many children have been led to believe they dictate what happens in their homes. We spend our lives as modern day mothers in the Western world planning activities for them and around them to the detriment of our own social lives. A balance has to be struck somewhere. While there should be child-focused activities, I think we need to teach our children that sometimes they need to enjoy their own companies or have time to reflect on how fortunate they are in the grand scheme of things. We especially need to teach them discipline because aside from it helping us to have some semblance of order in our homes, it’s invaluable when they’re out in public representing us. Trust me, everyone judges you by your children’s behaviour. They may not say it but they’re secretly thinking ‘what bad parents’ when they see your child rolling around on the supermarket floor because you refused to buy her that packet of sweets.

It’s no secret that we didn’t invent parenting, and we’re not the first to have difficult children, our parents did it and at no point do I recall us throwing the sort of hissy fits some children throw today. Actually correction, I do remember trying it once – I threw away an ice-cream my mother bought me because she bought the same for my cousins too, much to be capricious annoyance. After she had finished dealing with me, let’s just say it never happened again.

If as a modern parent you don’t subscribe to disciplining your child in whatever shape or form, then let me offer a word of advice, perhaps it would be best to keep them locked up at home and not inflict them on the rest of us.

Keep our supermarkets, buses, trains and planes free of your badly behaved brats.

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