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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Special, Yes-- But not More Special Than Everyone Else

From Delle Jacobs:

Normally, I like to make my posts something cheery, uplifting, encouraging. I know how hard the writing world can be, and how easily a writer can get discouraged. But I've got something on my mind, and I think it needs to be said. It's a rant, and it isn't even about writing, so if you don't feel like reading it, then please don't.

I've always believed every child, every person is special. But I've also believed every person's rights stop where any other person's rights begin. I wonder what's going wrong these days that so many children are being raised to believe their rights supercede those of other people?

A few weeks ago, I attended a semi-family gathering in a restaurant, following a funeral. My step-son was there with his two beautiful daughters, their mother having left for another event. Now, these are my own grandchildren, ages 4 and 2, and I adore them. But they are also being raised to believe they can do no wrong, and the world should worship them. I have issues with all of that, too, as I'm sure you have already gathered. But I'm actually only their step-grandmother, and they had a parent present, along with two grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins, most of whom live close to them and know them better than I do. So I keep my lips zipped.

In very short order, these two children joined with two other children in running around the room, screaming, jumping into people's laps and screaming in their ears, tossing food on the floor, and other behavior that had me cringing. Soon they were running out of the room, to the rest rooms, which meant running through the rest of the restaurant, and the parents did nothing to stop them.

It wasn't until their father made two comments that I replied. First, he said, "There's no way to control children in public, unless you spank them."

"I never spanked my children, and they didn't run around in restaurants," I answered.

"Well, times have changed. All the other kids do it, and you can't stop them from doing what they see other kids do."

"Well, yes, you can. My daughters don't spank, and their children don't run around in restaurants." He was offended, I'm afraid. But he had brought up the subject, not I.

I told him I'd be happy to give him some ideas if he wants to give me a call. In my many years as a social worker, I learned lots of skills from foster parents, who often take extremely damaged children and within weeks are getting their behavior under control. Not only that, the kids are happier. Setting firm, kind limits didn't hurt them. It helped them. But good parenting is hard work, and requires effort, thinking, planning ahead, and having long-term goals for the children. It involves taking the time to figure out what the child intends to accomplish with his mis-behavior, finding out what will turn that around, and then having the guts to stick with it.

But the reality came at me with my step-son's next statement. "I'm just letting them do that because I know it irritates Aunt Xxxx."

"Do you really mean getting Aunt Xxxx's goat is really more important to you than raising your children right?"

Well, he said no, and he actually stood up and made an effort to control his daughters, which to his surprise was effective. But he'd let the cat out of the bag. It really was more important to him to irritate his aunt. He was enjoying using his children as weapons against the aunt he dislikes. So I'm not expecting a whole lot of change in the future.

The truth is, both parents of these little girls have another agenda. It's probably no big surprise to you that both parents see themselves as more special than everyone else, and they have an even more grandiose attitude about their children. Their children are so special to them, which I think is wonderful, they think everyone else should worship them, too. Their children have become little gods. That last part is not wonderful. But it's all too common among parents today.

The trouble is, people will tolerate a lot from children that they will not accept from adults. Children do grow up, but unfortunately the way they perceive the world's interaction with them is largely set in their early years by the attitudes of their parents. When these girls grow up, they aren't likely to lose that notion that they are more special than everyone else, and therefore entitled to more than the world is willing to give them. And they aren't going to understand how everything went wrong. They're going to become very miserable, possibly very angry adults if their parents don't stop playing out their own agendas through their precious children.

I wondered if maybe I might be wrong. I don't see these children all that often, after all, and just because they're being raised differently than I would do it, is it wrong? Their parents do love them very much.

And then I saw the older one slap her father so hard it left a red welt on his face. (She's a really big kid for her age.) He handled it well. He held both of her hands so she couldn't hit him again, then he talked to her about it. But then I saw the look on her face. Nobody could have missed what she was thinking, and it was scary.

How dare you stop me from doing what I want to do?

I think I am glimpsing the future, and I am in despair. And she's only four years old. Is this the way the world is going to be in the next generation, with everyone thinking they're entitled to do whatever they want, when they want, to whom,ever they want? How many tyrants can the world have?


At 8:06 AM, Blogger TrishJ said...

Wow, Hugs to you, Delle. I hate it when children misbehave in public. I don't understand what the standards are now...Kids can race around, throw things and be destructable. When did things change?

At 8:25 PM, Blogger bridget said...

Oh dear, Delle, this is so very hard. I wish you luck in dealing with it. Today I had to tell off a group of kids in a playground, and they stared at me as if no one had ever, EVER set them limits in their lives!


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