Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Parenting and Expecting Appropriate Behavior from our Children

Last night, we had an issue.  We heard someone screaming outside around midnight.  It sounded like they were in distress.  The girls woke up because of it.  I was still up and could tell it was coming from outside.  I was afraid of what I might find out there.  I was afraid that if there was an attacker, they may still be there.  I thought of the Kitty Genovese story and knew I had to help.  So, I woke up Jason.  He heard it, too.  We looked out the windows, but didn't see anything.

Now, I should tell you, twenty years ago, someone was murdered in the field across the street from my parents' nice upper middle class suburban house.  So, when I hear screaming outside in the middle of the night, I don't take it lightly.

We decided to call the police.  They didn't find anything and I think they thought I was a bit crazy.  Oh well, I was glad no one was laying dead outside my window.

The girls were scared and couldn't sleep, so we asked Jason to sleep in Piper's bed and the girls and I had a little slumber party in my bed.

This morning, I woke up at 5:29 am to the sound of screaming.  Our neighbors' sons had a sleepover guest.

J is ten.  The first time I heard of him was that he was beating another kid up like a grown man would, kicking and punching, spitting and grunting and not letting up.  While his mother sat calmly on a bench a few feet away, completely ignoring the scene, although the person that told me about it was certain she could see it and chatting with another mother, who had her back to the scene.  When the person who told me about this went over and said something, the other mother gasped and J's mom turned and said, "Now stop it, J," and then tried to resume her conversation, even though J had not stopped kicking the kid on the ground.  The person who told me the story and the woman J's mom was speaking with, went over and broke up the fight.

The next time I heard of J was that he was at a bowling party and started beating the crud out of a kid and had to be pulled off the kid.

The last time I saw J was at a performance of a high school play in town.  His mom was turned around in her seat chatting with someone before the play started.  J and his younger brother were pulling each other's hair and slapping each other, which the mom was ignoring.  Every time the brother went to get away from J, he banged into a very sweet older woman from our church who was sitting beside him.  A couple of times, the brother backed away enough and the older woman got punched.  Finally, Jason said something to the mom.  And she chuckled and said, "Boys will be boys," and went back to her conversation.
"No, you don't understand, he just hit this woman several times,"  Jason told the mother.
"Oh, I am sure it was an accident. You don't have boys, but this is just how they are."
 That infuriated my husband.  "I was a boy once," he told her.  "You don't know anything about me, but let me tell you, I grew up in Long Beach, California and I saw my fair share of screwed up stuff and I was far from an angel as a kid, but let me tell you, I would NEVER punch a lady or act like your son is acting.  It is unacceptable."
The mom gave a little hmphff and went back to her conversation, rolling her eyes at the person she was speaking with, no doubt in regards to my husband.
J and his brother continued to slap and punch, the older woman from church get bumped a few more times, no one else said a word.  Thankfully, it stopped when the play began.

Back to this morning: our neighbors have a very nice, big dog.  Like our dog, our neighbors' dog is allowed free reign in their fenced-in back yard.  Their dog is much younger, stronger and faster than our dog.  At about 7:15, J decided to open their fence and shout, "Go get 'em, Boy!" and let the dog out.  That was about 4 and a half hours ago.  Our neighbors' sons have been running around town trying to find their dog for 4 and a half hours.  Our neighbors' have been scouring the town in their cars.  I have been out both walking and in my car.  My girls and our homeschool neighbors are riding their bikes around looking for Buddy.  We have called the police and they are on the lookout.

My neighbor is friends with J's mom and I have no idea what she thinks of the situation, because she has always defended J and said, "yeah, he's a little violent, but he's a good kid."  This morning, she told me that she, too, heard J say that and looked out the window and he was standing by the open gate.  J's mom came and picked him up, but she did not stay or make J stay to help find Buddy.

I know it is not politically correct to say this.  I know that the current politically correct philosophy regarding children is tolerance and acceptance.  But we also need to teach our kids appropriate ways to act.  We need to be diligent as parents.  We need to be observant.  If our kids act up, they are told it's not appropriate or acceptable.  They are told if it keeps up, we leave or they are grounded.  What the heck is wrong with that?

We have gotten too tolerant.  Even I, when talking to J's mother remain stoic, I don't voice my opinion against her humor about "boys being boys" and "oh that is just J!"

I understand that certain kids have sensory processing disorder or other things that may make certain situations difficult.  I am sorry, but if that is the case, I believe it is up to the parent to either avoid the situation or TO BE THERE for their child if the situation needs to be addressed or can not be avoided.  Don't leave the poor kid floundering in that situation.

I am sorry, but parents have a responsibility to their children and if their kids can't act appropriately, the parents need to find a way to deal with it.  Oftentimes, I see parents who just don't want to be bothered with what their kids are doing, so they turn a blind eye.  Oftentimes, kids can act appropriately if they are told what appropriate is.  It is not appropriate to beat someone up and it is not fair to the other child to show tolerance of this.  It is not fair to let someone's dog loose and it's not fair to the dog or the dog owners to shrug it off.  It is not fair to the older woman sitting next to you to get whacked in the head because boys will be boys.

I am tired of the notion that we can't punish the parents by making them leave a situation because their child acted up.  Parents have a responsibility to their children beyond just food and shelter.  They have a responsibility to teach them how to act appropriately.

I will be honest.  I am not an authoritarian parent.  I am a democratic/authoritative parent.  There are certain things my girls are responsible for and there are other things that I ask their opinion on: do you want to take this art class?  where do you feel like going for dinner?  My girls have chosen their own clothes since they were toddlers.  I don't dictate.  I do allow my children to make decisions for themselves.  But I also instruct my kids on what my expectations are, on what being a responsible and polite member of society entails.  I let them know what is and is not appropriate behavior.

I believe this without a doubt.  We need to respect our kids.  Respecting them does not mean letting them get away with punching people by accident.  Part of respecting our children is teaching them to act appropriately so that others WANT to be around them, so they know how to interact, how to behave, so they don't get arrested or in trouble with the police or they have a chance in life.

By the way, I just have to say this:  J is in public school and I think his actions demonstrate a lack of socialization.  Socialization is defined as [to make] behave in a way that is socially acceptable by society.  I am sorry, but punching people is NOT acceptable in my world.  

I saw this on facebook the other day and it irritated me.  Really?  The parent thinks it's funny that their kid is smoking right by the No Smoking sign?  Really?  I am not one for blatant acceptance.  I am definitely someone who questions authority and teaches my kids too, but at the same time, there are things that are in place so that other people are not affected.  Punching being one of them.  Smoking, in my humble opinion, being another.  I hate the smell of smoke.  I don't like it around my kids or me.  It's not good for us to breathe in and I do believe that we non-smokers should have the right to say, we don't want to breathe in harmful chemicals.  What about smokers rights, you ask?  They are choosing to smoke and can go do it in a section that permits it.  Non-smokers have rights too.  Parents who think this is funny condone and encourage inappropriate behavior which will lead to more inappropriate behavior.

I work at the public library.  When someone says, "Could you please help me find...?"  I bend over backwards for them and do everything in my power to get them the material they are looking for.  But when someone says, "You have to help me find..." or "Get me..."  my back goes up and I do the bare minimum.  Sorry.  Treat me with kindness and respect and I will do the same for you.

I still hear my poor neighbors' sons yelling for their dog :(

We have parents that come in to the library to check facebook for two hours on the public computers.  They expect their toddler to sit quietly in the stroller; eventually the kid gets bored and starts yelling and crying.  But the parent is too busy on facebook to pay attention.  OR, the parent turns the three year old loose and doesn't watch them.  We have an unattended children policy, but when I bring the child back and say, "He was climbing the stacks..." or "She was ripping pages out of a book..." these parents look at me with blatant annoyance and irritation.  Sorry, we don't run a babysitting service while you check facebook.

There is a general breakdown in our society.  In my opinion, it starts with parents not being vigilant, diligent, responsible and respectful of their children and others.  Parents lead by example.  Parents should tell their children how to act appropriately.  Parents should follow through on discipline.  Parents need to watch and be there for their kids and have expectations for their children to act appropriately.