Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday Introspective - Childhaters versus Bad Entitled Parents

All of us know some of one and some of the other. There are plenty of people out there that hate children. Really hate children. If a building was on fire and they had a choice between saving someone’s pet or someone’s child, they would choose to save the animal. I know people like this, I’ve worked with them. I’ve actually heard some of them say these exact words to me. They are the ones that glare at you and your kids at restaurants, movies, cafes and other public places. They panic when they see you on the airplane. They make snide remarks to their other childfree friends about why abortion should be legalized. They gripe about their taxes going to education or playgrounds or other child related public policies. But do I hate them? No. But they seem to hate me, my children and what we represent. An imposition in their child free lives.

But let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum. The entitled, the spoiled, the obnoxious, the whiny, yelling, stubborn babies that believe the whole world revolves around them. And their children are just as bad. Let’s face it, there are a lot of parents out there that give the rest of parents a bad reputation. I’m sure we all can name one or two of our friends or acquaintances who are guilty of selfish parenting. They make going out in public difficult for everyone, not just the childfree.

I once had lunch at a restaurant and watched two moms chatting and eating while their two little ballerina darlings (probably 4 years old each) smeared ketchup and mustard on the mirrored walls behind them. The whole restaurant watched in fascination and yet the moms did nothing to stop the budding Picassos. When the manager came over and asked the moms to stop their little darlings, one mom rolled her eyes at him and said, “it’s just a mirror, its not like it won’t wipe off.” When she went to grab her daughter’s hands, the little dear flew into a raging tantrum that silenced everyone else in the restaurant. The mom then decided to let the little dear roll around on the floor screaming for several minutes as every single person in the restaurant stared at her. At this point, even her friend was looking at her funny. Finally, the mother got a clue, picked up her little angel and walked out. I kept staring after the woman mystified. Did she not believe that her daughter’s actions were inappropriate? Is this what she allowed her daughter to do in her own house? Paint the walls with condiments?

A friend of mine and her 2 year old daughter were playing at the park when a bigger child of 6 kept pushing her daughter off the play equipment. My friend tried to reason with the 6 year old not to push someone so much smaller, but to no avail. At one point, the 6 year old actually spit in the 2 year old’s face and shoved her down. My friend was naturally upset and yelled out for the 6 year old’s mother who had been chatting with friends and not paying any attention. When confronted with her son’s actions, the mother said (and this is a direct quote), “What’s the big deal, he’s only 6 years old. He doesn’t know any better, he was only playing.” No apology for her son’s actions, no explaining to her son that spitting in someone’s face is considered a socially inappropriate action. Nothing but indignation that my friend should be so upset at her son. She even said “Why can’t you be more understanding?” I don’t get this. If he was my kid, you can safely bet I would have chewed his ear off and although I don’t spank my kids, that boy might have been deserving of the golden rod. I take that back, that mom should have been the one beaten. A 6 year old should know better, or should know better with proper parenting.

In some ways, I am resigned to the hatred between the two groups. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle about cafes that cater to families triggered vicious comments from both parents and childfree alike. One side claiming that the mommy brigade with their SUV like strollers were ruining the café and dining out experience for the rest of the world while the other side cried out for parents and children’s rights to go out in public.

A few years back, there was outcry over a sign placed in a café over in Chicago. A Taste of Heaven owner Dan McCauley posted a sign that read “Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when they come to A Taste of Heaven.” This triggered talks of boycotts by neighborhood mothers’ groups and overwhelming support for the owner from all corners of the globe. The brouhaha surprised me when it happened. Don’t we all teach our children to use indoor voices inside? Why is it wrong when an establishment’s owner requests the same thing? Well the mistake is in my question “Don’t we all…” for clearly not all parents do.

This also leads me to the interesting debate over breastfeeding in public and Bill Maher. Mother blogs across the country spouted “We hate Bill Maher” titles after his statements against the La Leche nurse-in stance taken when a breastfeeding mother was asked to cover-up, go to the bathroom or leave at an Appleby’s restaurant. The number of blogs commenting on this situation gives you an idea of the depth and touchiness of this issue. Mothers are up in arms. Again, I’m not sure why there is so much controversy. I applaud a woman’s right to breastfeed their baby, wherever they want. But is being discreet problematic? There are so many outfits geared for discreet breastfeeding, is there a need to whip out a large mammary gland as a spectator sport? Is it then ok for people to stare at your breast as you breastfeed? Nobody should take away a mother’s right to breastfeed their child, however, a little discretion is all we ask for.

Another article heralding the end of family pre-boarding courtesy on Southwest airline triggered over 300 comments. The antagonism towards parents was surprising. Even those comments disagreeing with the new policy change did so with considerable animosity towards families with children. Making remarks like “ending pre-boarding for families with children is plain stupid. I liked being able to sit as far away as I could from those snotty nosed kids and their entitled jerky parents.”

I’ve found a lot of interesting blogs and articles which expounds on the hatred of these two groups and I find it fascinating. Real live people who passionately hate children (and their bonehead parents) versus loudmouthed, self-righteous, self-absorbed parents who can’t seem to care enough to discipline their screaming angel who is now pouring syrup all over the café floor. Ooooh, who to root for? Whose side is right and whose is wrong? How about neither side? They both have good and bad points but the biggest problem is the sheer intolerance I see from both these groups. There are plenty of childfree sites out there that don’t hate children. All they want is for parents to start acting responsibly towards their own kids, like don’t let them run screaming up and down the restaurant aisles while you ignore their behavior. Don’t let them kick the airplane seat the whole time during a crowded five hour flight. I find this quite reasonable. I am a parent of three, and I agree wholeheartedly with teaching children the social niceties. And if they can’t behave, you need to discipline them appropriately. We have an obligation as parents to raise our children correctly and teach them what is proper behavior at all times.

Entitled parents are selfish parents, who don’t care that the actions of their children are imposing negatively to others. They make it harder for the rest of us who are trying to raise our children right and teach them proper behavior. No my children are not always properly behaved. But when they act inappropriately, I jump on them, I don’t let it slide. How parents discipline their children is vastly different and I will not criticize anyone’s style. However, I do have a problem with the no discipline approach I have seen in many parents. Children are not your friends and you should not treat them as such. They are children and need to be parented, that means disciplined, appropriately. Entitled parents believe that nothing their precious children do is wrong. I was once sitting in the café area of Barnes and Nobles and watched a 3 year old grab a mug and smash it into a thousand pieces on the floor. The mom did not tell her child the behavior was wrong, but this was not the worst offense. When a bookseller came over to clean up the mess, the woman chided the employee for having breakables in easy reach of small children. No offer to pay for the broken ware, no explaining to little Zoe that what she was doing was not a good idea. In fact, I don’t recall her saying the word “No” at all. Ah, but that is a rant for another day.

At the same time, there are plenty of childfree sites I have found that spout an ugliness towards parents in general that I find deeply distressing and disturbing. One site called parents “breeder trolls” and came up with a list of offensive terms to denigrate parents and their children. For instance, someone who desperately wants to get pregnant has “baby rabies” or someone with multiple pregnancies has a “freaklitter.” Female breeders who whine and moan are “mooing” and a “SHAM” is a stay at home moo (mommy). I won’t link to the sites (and there are many!) because I don’t want them to rabble rouse on my blog. And while most do try to make a distinction between a good parent and a “breeder,” the problem is that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two amongst all the venom. Hatred in any form is ugly. What makes hate filled remarks against parents and children any different from the Klu Klux Klan and their hate filled positions against minorities? I would say any wholesale hatred against a group is discrimination and it is wrong.

I respect a person’s right to not have children. One of the smartest choices a person can make is one where they decide a life with children is not for them. Realizing that good parenting is about sacrifice, and that this sacrifice might not be what they want in their lives. Many of us have thought of somebody (Britney Spears) who clearly should have thought more about the sacrifices of having children before having them. I admire those who have made that choice. Just as I admire all those parents out there who work hard to provide a good home and safe nurturing environment for their children. The children of today are the future of us all. There is no denying it. Instead of spewing hatred and ranting and raving against one another, we must work to make sure that our future turns out the best possible way for all of us.


Stephen Parrish said...

On a recent nine-hour flight a woman next to me apologized on behalf of her son, who was climbing everywhere, including over the top of me. He jabbered for nine straight hours, making it impossible to read.

I told her I didn't mind. I had one of my own, knew how hard it was to keep them still at that age, and considered the jabbering to be a form of music.

I guess I'm in the "let's be tolerant" camp, although I don't understand parents who define no boundaries for their children.

Angie said...

I strongly agree that both sides are part of the problem. I have to say, though, that unless I'm online, and at that I have to go looking in specific places (communities, etc.), I don't run into the more whacked-out and assholish childfree people.

I do, however, run into children who've been raised (for however few years so far) to be rude little monsters and the parents who encourage them to do it. I suppose I lean a little more on the "Shut that brat UP!! (and smack the mother/father while you're at it)" side, just because I'm personally annoyed by them more often than I am by the childfree idiots who snark at every parent, no matter how well-behaved their kids might be.

If we could just drop them all off a cliff or something.... [sigh]


Church Lady said...

I also think that the amount of time spent in front of the television and playstation contribute to the child's bad behavior.
My boys are asking for the Wii system for Christmas. I'm going to say no. I have a 'theory' that standing and trying to compete for blocks of a time releases high levels of adrenalin. It's not like real sports where you get breaks in between. The time in front of the Wii is focused competition for 30 minutes and even more for some people. I think it encourages aggression. And it must be bad for the heart. That's just my theory.

Parents can be rather awful too. But I think that parents sometimes are so overtaxed and don't receive support that previous generations received. It gets very hard to discipline all the time. So sometimes it's easy just to look away. But.....I do know many asshole parents who think their kids can do no wrong. Those kids are fucked up, let me tell you.

I've been fortunate not to know many people who don't tolerate 'normal' child behaviors. Then again, I won't go into those places where I'll be cringing if I have to yell at them. Because I DO yell at them if they're acting stupid :-)

Another great post.

I'm watching Matt Lauer in California. They're making a big deal about 600 (rather wealthy) homes being destroyed. Oh please. Put it in perspective with Katrina.
The evacuation is the story. Not the homes. Just a tangent...

Vesper said...

Very interesting article, Ello. I think the problem is a huge lack of education for everybody, parents, children, or childless people alike. Or should I call it shallow education mainly done by the media. Unfortunately, we see it everywhere.

SzélsőFa said...

I'm with you, I think in most of the cases you present here, Ello.
Parents should set the boundaries, 'no boundaries' does not mean freedom, it means anarchy.

Recently, I had an interesting experience in a shop. I was alone, without kids, surfing for clothes. Then a mother with two kids came in and one of the kids was a real pain in the ass. He was screaming, whining to get out and so on. His mother kept talking to him, trying to make him behave himself - to no avail. The funny thing was that the kid had the very same name my own son has. PLUS my son used to be a kid like this, when he was younger.
Now, my son's got an unusual name!

I felt like in a time machine and felt real sorrow for the poor Mom, who, obviously has bacame the center of attraction in the shop.
At the same time I felt relief that the kid was not my son.

On the breast-feeding issue, I disagree. I don't think breasts should be covered so as not to see a single inch of them when giving food to a kid.
Just imagine some anti-bottle nazi, coming up to each bottle-feeding kid, demanding that each millimeter of the bottle should be covered up.
How about that?

Robin S. said...

Hi ello-
I don't really see that many "I hate kids types" - but I believe you when you say they are there.

One of the reason they may be there is the large numbers of entitled-type parents raising entitled children. They drive me crazy.

I raised my daughters to have self-respect, yes, and feelings of self-worth - but also to understand that their self-worth in no way diminishes that of their neighbor. Other people have rights and feelings, too. That's called learning to grow up and be an adult. Some people think that if they simply grow pubic hair eventually and reach the age of consent and get jobs and pay taxes they are then "entitled" to think of themselves as adults. No.
Not true.

You have to behave like an adult to
actually BE an adult- appearances aside. There are lots of non-adult out there raising their future-non-adult children accordingly. They suck.

Take property rights- for example.
What I told my daughters was, if it doesn't belong to you, that's all you need to know. Period. If it's not your yard, if it's not your toy, if it's not your ANYTHING, you have no right to it without permission. That then extends to the rights of others to be left the hell alone on a flight (no way would I have out up with that brat on the flight, Stephen- he and his mother should have been put in "time out" seats somewhere, as she's just as much of a selfish chikd as he is), and do many other things.

As long as poele put up with this crap, it continues. And the owrd entitlement itself- don't even get me started. When it comes right down to it- we're lucky as hell we have the illusion in place of being entitled to anything. That's a facde of society - a good one in many ways- but it would break down and go bye-bye in a heartbeat in times of trouble.

Sherry said...

Comprehensive and well spoken ello. You have given this subject a clear voice.
As a mother of teenagers, I have been there and done that.
My view today from this place I am in my life...those who hate children could not possibly love animals. Love is love. The difference is these people know that animals won't talk back, won't expect other than to be fed, walked, bathed and hopefully treated well. Animals can be picked up and put down on the adult's schedule. Children cannot. There is obviously something "lacking" in these people that they choose not to acknowledge. But bless them for not having children. Too many people who are like this don't acknowledge it and become parents quite often to the detriment of their children.
For those parents who refuse to "parent" they are a blight but they have existed since time began. They have no boundaries and no "rules". Children expect boundaries and rules. It is how they learn to function in the world, not just in society. Children who push the limits continually are begging for that direction and leadership and will go to great lengths to get it. I believe these parents live with the philosophy of "ignorance is bliss"...if I don't know about it I don't have to deal with it. And many of these individuals expect others to do the parenting for them.
Becoming a parent is a privilege not a "right" and it is one of the most difficult roles anyone can ever undertake.
When you see your children grow, learn, develop and flourish? It is also one of the most rewarding.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good stuff here. My son is now 20 but I remember when he was little. IF we went out and he made a scene he went outside with me and we waited until he calmed down. He lost privledges or was informed in no uncertain terms that his behavior was unacceptable when it was.

These days, however, I tend to hate to sit in restruants next to children because so few parents seem to make the effort to control them. I don't mind a child's curiosity. I enjoy it. But if a child is screaming parents should take him/her outside.

Bernita said...

Excellent post, Ello, and excellent comments, too.
I had four - perfectly normal and therefore imperfectly behaved kids - and always found it curious that people would often compliment me on their "good manners."
Now, I understand why.

Danette Haworth said...

Good article. I agree that there is a happy medium, somewhere between smearing the mirror and children should only speak when spoken to.

I've read that parents of the last generation went for obedience/discipline, while today's parents have sacrificed that discipline but are actually closer to their kids. Who knows? But every child should be taught manners and general consideration--they'll need those skills as they grow up.

Precie said...

Ack! I have lots to say about lots of the points you so eloquently raised. But I'm stymied by your B&N anecdote:

The mom did not tell her child the behavior was wrong, but this was not the worst offense. When a bookseller came over to clean up the mess, the woman chided the employee for having breakables in easy reach of small children.

That level of entitlement leaves me dumbstruck.

Larramie said...

The solution is simple: R-E-S-P-E-C-T! That's what's required for everyone -- parents and children -- unfortunately not all individuals have been taught respect and can't pass it on to their children...*sigh*

And Ello, though I didn't have a hot dog on the sidewalks of New York, an entire morning (lunch included) was spent in Central Park. Yes the week was both wonderful and beautiful!

Lisa said...

Since my son is grown and living away from home now (with his own two children), I'm now in the childless camp out in public, but I've been no both sides of the fence and I have a few observations. I am always amused and sometimes irritated by the self-indulgent mothers who tend to speak to their children in VERY LOUD VOICES in public places. I've never understood that. I've never been angry at children who misbehave, just their parents and not always then. I'm always sympathetic to a parent who has a child in the midst of a meltdown. Sometimes it's neither the child, nor the parent's fault. There is a rising population of autistic children in this country and I'm aware of that when I see an especially frustrated child. It's a tough experience for both the parent and the child and it never hurts to say a kind word to the poor mother or at least smile, instead of scowling at her. Not long ago I was a frequent business traveler and I never resented the practice of pre-boarding families with small children. Not doing so only prolongs the overall boarding process and creates fussy, cranky kids who have a very hard time standing in line. I'd never begrudge a breastfeeding mother the right to feed her child, but I think there's something almost passive aggressive and certainly inconsiderate about not making the small effort to do so discreetly, knowing that it creates discomfort and embarrassment for many others (I couldn't care less, but come on, how hard it it to cover up?). The choice to have children or not is exactly that and people need to respect the choices made by those on both sides of the fence. I have a number of friends and acquaintances with very well behaved children and I always make a point to tell them how much I admire them for it. I do it for strangers too -- hopefully it lets people know that their hard work is appreciated. :)

Melissa Marsh said...

Y'know, I had no idea that there were people that actually HATED those tho had children. News to me!

I can't understand how some parents let their children act - completely unacceptable. And I wonder where they got the notion that letting their children break something in a store and it's not their child's fault, or smearing mustard over a mirror is OK. Who taught them that? I'm assuming that they probably did the exact same behaviors when they were growing up.

I've made it a priority to teach my children good mannners and respect for others, plus how to behave in public. I'm just astonished that there are parents out there that refuse to do so. They're only hurting their children in the long run.

spyscribbler said...

I love kids, love talking to them, love teaching them. I can't have any, at least for now, but that doesn't mean I begrudge them being around kids.

It's just when I was growing up, if a child was screaming her head off with a tantrum, there was no question: you take the child outside. If a child was acting up in public, there was no question: you take the child home. Even a baby: babies were taken outside to a special room in the church where the mothers could listen to the sermon while their babies screamed to their heart's content.

If everyone just took their kids home or outside when they behaved inappropriately or were ruining a function/cafe/whatever, there would be no problem.

Although my life as a teacher revolves around kids, and most parents' lives revolve around their kids, one of the most essential lesson we need to teach our kids is that the world does not revolve around them. Acceptable social behavior and polite social courtesy is part of the basic foundation all parents should be responsible for teaching their children.

Kids need teachers and parents to act like teachers and parents, they really do.

Janet said...

Great commentary article! Child-hating and bad parenting through neglect - both are wrong. Not reprimanding your child for bad behavior is neglect. These kids grow up with a very distorted view of the world where they think bad behavior is socially acceptable and perfectly normal. They are the adults who throw tantrums in stores and yell at cashiers or waitresses if they don't get what they want. Disciplining your child is a gift and helps them to grow up to be socially responsible adults rather than self-centered, socially inept narcissists. It is really important for children to learn that they must take responsibility for their own actions. How else can you teach them that it's wrong to cheat, steal, vandelize or hit. In order to help them grow into socially adept adults, they need to know what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and to understand how their actions affect others. Hey, I wonder how many of those child-haters suffered from bad parenting!

preTzel said...

Gee Whiz Ello, who put your knickers in a knot? ;)

I remember taking Teen preTzel to a McDs when he was 4 and my friend had her FOUR (all under 6) kids too. Some cranky old bastard said "You really oughtta keep your kids at home if you can't keep them under control." What were they doing? Talking quietly and playing with their toys they received from their shitty meal. Oops, I mean Happy Meal. I said "Hey, sir, if you did not notice, this place is geared TOWARDS kids and not cranky bastards like you. These kids aren't harming anyone, throwing anything, are using napkins *and* their manners so bugger off." He said "Well, now I know where they got their manners." I quipped "Why thank you." He left. And, yeah, I should not have used the term bastard in front of the kids but I didn't rightly give a fuck at that moment. Why? Because, for once, MY kid was behaving in public LOL!

I've also been around people who *loathe* children and my BIL is one of them. We aren't welcome to bring the "slobber" buckets by but we can come anytime. We don't visit and when he comes over I always have a bib waiting just for him. He thinks I am joking but I am not. He is childfree but his wife wants kids. He said "I'll let her have one if it will shut her up." Ha! I hope he has a daughter and falls hopelessly in love with her and eats his words and then chokes on 'em. LOL!

I also have a sister who believes her kids can do NO wrong. Ever. And they are horrible. I love my nephews, don't get me wrong, but they are the worst behaved kids I've ever come across. Awful. But to her they're perfect because if they aren't perfect she tells them to "pray to God to save your soul or Satan will come get you now." Explains a lot, yes?

Ello said...

Great comments everyone - and part of the ongoing debate about parenting in this country. Lots of opinions but the one everyone does agree with is the importance of boundaries, discipline, what ever you want to call it, but placing limits on children is not only important for the children but for society. Thanks to all for your great comments.

The Anti-Wife said...

Wonderful post. I love children and feel most discipline problems belong to the parents lack of either ability or desire to take responsibility and be the grown-up.

On a plane a few years ago, the little girl sitting behind me kicked my seat constantly for quite a while. I finally got up and asked her to please stop kicking my seat because it was disturbing me. She screamed, "NO," and proceeded to kick my seat harder. I asked the mother if she could get her daughter to stop and she said no and that it was my problem.

So, I went to the people in the seats behind the mother and daughter and in my loudest friendly voice (and I can be heard when I want to) I asked if they would mind kicking the seats of the mother and child for the next hour or so because obviously they found this to be quite acceptable and fun and I didn't want to be the only one to experience having my seat kicked. The people in those seats said they would be happy to and proceeded to start kicking. Several people sitting around us started clapping.

Within about 5 minutes, the child had been disciplined and stopped kicking my seat, the mother had apologized, and I requested the people behind them to stop kicking and thanked them for their help.

We didn't hear another peep from the child except some occasional reading and talking to her mother. It was a 4 hour flight.

Sometimes you have to educate the parents to get them to discipline the children.

Ello said...

Oh my gosh! AW - that was the best funniest story ever! Thanks so much for sharing! I love it! You are absolutely right, you must educate the parents sometimes. Hopefully that mother learned how wrong she was in the first place.

SzélsőFa said...

Antiwife, hear my congratulations!
That was about the only best thing one could do!
Well done!
heehee-I'm still laughing!!!

Mary Witzl said...

Great post! As a mother of teenagers and someone who babysat or cared for children for years before I had my own, I nodded all the way through your post and the comments. I could honestly write a book about all the awful parents I have met -- and the excellent ones, too, thank God.

I feel that I must comment about taking disruptive kids out of a public place. Up until my second child was born, I firmly believed this was the right thing to do. My eldest, now 16, had almost no temper tantrums. By the time our youngest was one and a half, she'd had more tantrums that our eldest had in all her life. So help me, if I'd taken her outside a building every time she had a tantrum, I'd have raised her outside, and we'd both have died of pneumonia. NOTHING worked. Not attempts to reason, not ignoring her, not threats, and certainly not corporal punishment. I see mothers trying to cope with children having temper tantrums and my heart goes out to them. True, some of them could at least look or act more concerned, or apologize to the people around them and try to keep the child from damaging property (we certainly did all of these, many times over). But until you've experienced a child like my youngest, you don't know what this is like. A wise friend who had five children of her own once assured me that children who are that difficult as toddlers generally become very reasonable, biddable teenagers. This has been true in our daughter's case, but I've never forgotten those hellish years or all the embarrassment and misery.

What a great story Anti-wife had -- to manage that politely but firmly and get the perpetrators to stop! The one saving grace about our youngest is that she never injured anyone or behaved with wanton rudeness to strangers. And we always got her to stop kicking the seat in front of her...

Robin S. said...


You're my new hero. You go, girl!

Bernita said...

AW - simply perfect!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Ello.

My wife and I are unforgiving when it comes to the behavior of our children in public. People often comment on how well behaved they are. There is no secret. I think many people are way too extended in their lives to meet the challenges of parenting. People laugh, but I view a child's natural behavior as a general probing your front lines for weakness. Their behavior is a direct result of how much ground you've allowed them to take. Many parents just don't have the energy to hold their ground. The condiment-cleaning moms are beaten. And they have no problems making the rest of the world share in their surrender.

The true child-hating folks who spit the bile are just overgrown children themselves. That said, parents have a job to do and are rightly criticized when they fail.