“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” — Robert Fulghum
It is 7.30 in the evening and we are waiting out turn as the cashier is ringing up a person in front of us… We have three items on hand and have been waiting patiently. All of a sudden two children, they can’t have been more than 13 push past people standing behind us, past us and dump armloads of chips and candy right in front of our items and push our items back. No one says a thing. Even I venture to say in a low voice ‘well they are kids’. Ji firmly looks at me, picks up our items and places them in front of the kids’ items and fixes them with a steely stare. ‘What if they are our kids? Would you let them behave this way?’ I cringe. The cashier doesn’t care. People behind us in the queue are throwing the children dirty looks and whispering behind their backs but don’t step up. This is one of many many incidents where we have witnessed children being allowed to misbehave, be disrespectful and utterly oblivious to any form of manners or control. On the other hand many children are reasonably well behaved. Please understand by well behaved I do not mean pre-programmed robots, but children who do not spit on European ladies in skirts, punch another kid just for the heck of it, call an adult bad names, make obscene gesture to adults, go around saying ‘Oh S***t’ and push a housemaid out of the elevator kicking, spitting and pulling her skirt up while the parents check FB on their blackberries.
In India there was a time when if your parents don’t teach you to behave the society will. Respecting adults was an important part of our culture that we learnt from a very young age. In UAE it is alarming to see the number of kids (of different nationalities mind you) throwing tantrums, showing no respect for self or others and parents who simply want to look the other way.
We all love children but no one cares for a spoiled brat. No, we don’t care that your child is ‘usually’ well behaved and it is his/her ‘off day’. We know you are covering up your inadequacy to teach them manners. Yes we smile politely when your child turns up his/her nose and refuses to greet or say thank you. Everyone has bad days. But there is a big difference between bad days and bad manners. Good Manners cannot be learnt in a day. The learning depends a lot on parents and how they treat others, the responsibilities they take up in the house and how polite they are in the first place.
I have a cousin whose parenting skills I admire. She never lets up when her 2 yr old does not respond when called by name. She is not only dedicated but consistent. Unlike parents who discipline for convenience, her parenting methodology focuses on Character Building and not the acceptance of the child. In other words, she does not want to teach her daughter the things that the child may like or the things that are convenient/easy for the parents to teach but things that build her daughter’s character.
Jill Righby’s book ‘ Raising Respectful children in a Disrespectful World’ begins thus:
Today’s children are angry and rebellious at rates higher than any other generation. They are the first generation to do worse psychologically, socially, and economically than their parents. But they’re not rebelling against rigidity and rules as the hippies of the sixties did; they are rebelling against the lack of structure and adult guidance.
Our children, from ghettos to gated communities, are desperate, searching for someone who will tell them the truth.
You, parent, should be that person
We really should. It is possible. The book is a great read for parents who would like to explore balanced and consistent parenting techniques without it taking an emotional toll on them.
To conclude my rant, I’m reminded of a couplet in Thirukural (Tamizh Literary Masterpiece)
ஒழுக்கமும் வாய்மையும் நாணும் இம் மூன்றும்
இழுக்கார் குடிப்பிறந் தார்
Meaning: Noble men (People born in respectable families) do not lack manners (Good Conduct), honesty and modesty
Kids will be kids, but I sincerely hope parents help children discover what is acceptable social behavior and what is not.