Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why do people let their kids shriek, run around and generally misbehave?

ABC News posted this editorial:

Would You Pay to NOT Sit Near Screaming Kids on Planes?

I'm fine with an adults-only section.

Here's my question:

Why do people let their kids shriek, run around and generally wreak havoc?

What makes people feel entitled to expect other adults to put up with their kids' bad behaviour?

I know that not all crying is the result of bratty behaviour. An infant doesn't mean to develop colic on a 9 hour flight.

But don't adults foresee these things?

If you know your kid is a crier, aren't you going to plan for that possibility?

But the problem as I see it is that parents don't develop a pattern of expecting good behaviour from their kids and enforcing it.

Here's a good rule to follow for would-be parents:

Make everything dependent on your children's good behaviour.

If they behave, they get stuff.

If they don't behave, they don't get stuff. They don't go anywhere. If you can't behave at the mall, you don't go to the mall. If you can't behave at the park, you don't go to the park.

And if they have a tantrum in public that lasts more than 30 seconds (less if they're older), you're gone.It's time to go back to the car until they smarten up (of if they won't go home). If that means leaving a full cart of groceries at the store, so be it.

It can be extremely inconvenient. I remember one time one of my kids had a tantrum in the toy section at Zeller's. I told her to stop crying or we're out of here. She wouldn't cooperate. So I and my husband had to drag her through the aisles, while she was kicking and screaming. I remember she even knocked down some items on the shelves on the way.

I actually got a lot of appreciative looks for doing that because the truth is, people in general cannot stand bratty behaviour.

It does take some effort. But here's the thing to remember: parenting is your number one job.

It's more important than the Christmas shopping, or going to the dentist, or going to the park or whatever it is you have to do.

The thing is, if you operate on the principle every day of your parenting life, your kids will get it. They will understand that they can't pull stupid crap on you, or else bad stuff will happen to them.

The flipside of this, though, is that when your kids behave well, reward them. Reward them with praise. Reward them with little treats. Reward them with junk from the dollar store.

If they know that good behaviour is worth their while, they will behave well.

Besides, with experience, they will come to understand that good behaviour is better than bad behaviour. Good behaviour is more efficient; it creates more peace and fun; it just lightens the atmosphere.

To me, this is all very elementary. With all the parenting advice out there: Dr. Phil, Supernanny and Dr. Laura-- among others that I recommend- it should be common knowledge. But people don't put this into practice.

Why, why why?

And I'll tell you, my big pet peeve is parents of autistic kids who think that because their kids are autistic, they are entitled to other people putting up with their kids' tantrum just because they're special.

Autistic kids may have more meltdowns, and their behaviour is sometimes hard to control.

It's still a meltdown to the people around them, and they still have to put up with it. It's still annoying.

Besides, autistic kids can get it, and you can foresee whether there is potential for meltdown or not. If you can't prevent your kid's meltdowns in public (and here's the really controversial opinion) don't bring them there.

This is a very controversial opinion among people with autistic children.

I don't think it's controversial. And actually, when you require children to not have meltdowns, and you try to prevent them ahead of time, they are far less likely to happen.

Now if this is true of autistic kids, it's just as true of kids who don't have developmental issues.

This is should be conventional wisdom, in my opinion, but we're so afraid of requiring good behaviour because we don't want to seem mean.

But what's mean is expecting others to put up with your kids' screaming. It's not being intolerant of kids. It's being intolerant of bad behaviour.