Monthly Archives: June 2013

The “kids will be kids” excuse

Countless times I have heard the expression “kids will be kids” in kid-obsessed America. It was totally unknown to me before, as the attitude associated with the expression was nonexistent in any of the countries I have previously been to or lived in. I figured out fast, however, that what it means is a simple, yet shameless justification of unacceptable kids’ behavior, a totally wrong assumption that all kids are extremely rude by nature and nothing can be done about it.

“Kids will be kids” is an absurd excuse so often used by slothful parents whenever someone else points out their child’s rude behavior. The latter action, deplorably, happens on way too few occasions because the exact same kind of parents, the oblivious and lazy ones who use the said expression, happen to be so aggressive that people are afraid of their belligerent reactions. When someone does have the courage to speak up though, in the form of a kind request to keep the kids respectfully quiet on a bus, to make them stop bullying someone’s dog with a stick on the street, to get them to stop throwing objects at people in a store, or to stop them from running wild in a bank, the “kids will be kids” excuse is shoveled down the polite person’s throat.

Way too often the above response from an aggressive parent leaves the person requesting the minimum respect speechless, as if the person did not know what to answer. It does not have to be this way though. Here are some insights:

Someone who assumes that every kid is rude and ill-mannered just because it is a kid, is not only highly disrespectful towards millions of polite kids out there and their respectful parents, but also very ignorant about child development and learning abilities, including abilities to learn the rules of politeness and respect. In other words, by saying “kids will be kids” this kind of parent insults not only millions of other kids, but also his or her own children, by implying that they are dumb by nature. Nice, isn’t it?

Kids are perfectly teachable, especially the young ones, but the process requires work, immediate reactions to undesired behavior, and above all consistency. It also requires a certain level of authoritativeness; however, most child-worshiping Americans are too soft on their kids. It is also important to start very early in a child’s life, while it appears most Americans postpone this teaching until it is too late, wrongly assuming that a young child is unable to learn or “just being a kid”.

With an adequate and consistent raising process, kids turn out very polite and respectful, and no “kids will be kids” excuses are needed when kids are polite kids. Do not let any failed, disrespectful parent make you think that it is otherwise. I will reiterate: kids are not rude by nature, they are not rude because they are kids, they are not rude because of their young age. They are rude because their parents failed to teach them respect and politeness.

Whenever I hear the “kids will be kids” excuse now, I recognize it as an aggressive and thoughtless response to my polite, but direct request to bring the misbehaving kid to order. My new answer to it is the following: “Kids will be polite kids or kids will be rude kids, depending on how you teach and train them. Yours are clearly extremely rude, they are offending me as well as other customers. You failed to teach them the minimum of respect for others. You must make them quiet (or seated or standing still).” I guarantee that this response, if pronounced in a calm, respectful, but strict voice, really works. I had many occasions to practice it, so nowadays it produces successful results.

I encourage everyone who is faced with the “kids will be kids” excuse to defend themselves. It is not as difficult as you may think, and even if you shy away the first time, you may rethink it, rehearse it, and the next time get him or her to comply and bring the kid to order. The impact of your little step for respect in public places for all of us is priceless.

Simple solutions are the best

Over the past few days America was excited about a video of twins playing with rubber bands. It was getting thousands of views and comments online. Is there really something that incredible in that video to be very excited about? Not at all. It is nothing unusual. Millions of kids all over the world play with very simple objects, have fun and learn to think creatively. What went wrong that Americans are so delighted about something so usual?

American kids are extraordinarily spoiled with excess toys, games and other accessories, mainly plastic, that each year add tons of waste to the landfills and affect the already devastated environment. The kids are so used to getting so many new toys so often that they are neither grateful for them nor occupied with them for long periods of time. Instead, accustomed to their parents being at their whims and orders all the time, they demand more and more new plastic junk that shares the fate of all the previous toys.

American kids are also overstimulated by obsessed parents constantly focusing on them, driving them around, organizing their activities, extracurricular lessons, play dates, and outings that they do not have time to learn to think and invent during all those overscheduled days, months and years. If this was not enough, the overconcerned, overstimulating and overscheduling parents fail to teach their kids something simple, badly needed and lacking: basic manners, especially table manners, respect and proper behavior towards other users of public space.

These parents seem completely unable to imagine that their kids, even the youngest ones, are perfectly able to think, invent and create something out of nothing. The kids can and will if only allowed to do so and be guided how to do it respectfully, without unnecessary disruption. All the excitement about the video and the simple fact that kids can play and have fun without being stimulated, driven, and scheduled clearly shows that people lack both imagination and knowledge about child development. The results are deplorable: overstimulated, overscheduled and overwhelmed with tons of plastic, children are unable to think, to create, to imagine and to play without parents spending lots of money on them. Moreover, they seem very slow in their development: an average American ten year old acts like a two year old somewhere else.

Also, American parents constantly complain how difficult, expensive, exhausting and time consuming raising a child is. They demand praising, credits, and privileges from the task of kid raising from other people or society as a whole. It is actually not as demanding as Americans think, and most of the supposed hardship is self-inflicted. Just ask parents from the countries in which a kid is part of the society, not its center focus.

Millions of children around the world play with whatever they have available: boxes, sticks, stones, blocks, old tires, and many kinds of common items. Most of them have very few, very simple toys, often made by relatives or local artisans, hand-me-downs from other kids or donations received from charities. Yet, they are very happy, cheerful, thoughtful, and much more mature and respectful than American kids. They have lots of fun out of nothing and find multiple ways of playing with a simple item.

In these countries, adults are used to leaving kids alone to play and do not overstimulate or overschedule them. They would find nothing unusual, adorable, cute or awe-inspiring in a video of two children playing with rubber bands, as Americans did. For them, it is just as natural as playing with anything else the kid can find in the household or anywhere outside. They only make sure that the kids play respectfully and politely, and bring them to order whenever necessary. They end up having polite, respectful, mature and happy children. This example is worth following in America.

Why are American parents so aggressive?

When I was a child, I loved animals (and still love them), especially the little ones of all species. My mother once told me: “Do not approach a female animal when she has her puppies or kittens, she may scratch or bite you because she may think you want to hurt them”. No animal has ever bitten or scratched me, and I did not understand my mother’s warning until I moved to kid-obsessed America and had my first encounters with aggressive parents of extremely rude kids.

In a respectful society, if you point out child’s inappropriate behavior, it is an incredible shame for the parents that they failed to teach it respect so terribly, that a stranger has to request them to impose order. They apologize to the stranger and discipline the kid immediately. These situations do not happen too often because kids are generally polite and only on rare occasions strangers have to intervene, but shame, apology and discipline are a typical reaction.

In kid-obsessed America it is the opposite. Parents do not want to admit their failure. They refuse to admit their kids’ rude or offensive behavior. They consider their kids the center of the universe entitled to do whatever they want, wherever they want, and to whoever they want, and turn very belligerent in defense of this undue entitlement.

For example, if you request them to do something as basic as make the kid stop yelling (not crying, just yelling out of its whim) in public transportation or in a waiting room, instead of politely complying, they turn hostile. If you request them to hold their kid running up and down the aisles in a restaurant or on a plane, instead of apologizing for their failure, grabbing the kid and putting in a seat, they become aggressive.

There are some regional differences between the above described Northeastern United States plus California and, for example, Texas. Texans, when asked to bring their kid to order, comply, with that “o.k., o.k.”, pronounced in a sulky tone as if they were doing you a huge favor. However, they still fail to admit their fault or failure and do not apologize or do not make the child apologize for the disruption they caused.

Why is it so?

One of the reasons certainly is self-centeredness of both the parent and the child. The parent was worshiped as a kid by kid-centered parents and society, and grew up with the sense of entitlement of someone who is the center of the universe. The kid is currently awed and glorified the same way or worse, and the pugnacious parent defends the kid’s usurped “right” to overtake all the public space with no regard to other people.

Another reason is a simple lack of manners. Ill-mannered people raised ill-mannered children and overreact when their lack of manners is pointed out.

There is one basic difference between the female animals my mother referred to and American parents: the former defend their offspring when it faces real danger and the later get hostile with no reason, out of simple entitlement.

The result is lamentable. The hostile reactions to kind requests for respect harassed polite people into silence. Pugnacious parents throw their weight around and other passengers or customers became too scared to demand the minimum of respect. This is very harmful to the whole society, but also to these kids themselves. Instead of learning peaceful and respectful coexistence, they learn that they are the dictators in all places, for all people, which leads to deplorable results.

People should not be afraid of pointing out rudeness and demanding respect. The belligerent parents may be initially very aggressive, but when encounter resistance, they give in. Their favorite attack to a polite request is yelling “mind your own business!”, which gives in to a simple, calm but strict “this is exactly what I am doing; it is my business to be respected by your kid and you must make it quiet / make it stop touching me / hold it, right now!”

After the first couple of times I was shocked to encounter a hostile “mind your own business!” reaction instead of a respectful and ashamed apology, and left speechless. However, the next time I had a ready answer, and I assure you, it really works. I tested it on the most aggressive and spoiled Manhattanites. Do not be afraid to demand your rights to be respected.

Demand for “no kids allowed” restaurants high and growing

Over the past few years, a couple of restaurants in the United States banned kids on their premises. Recently, a sushi restaurant in Virginia joined them. The growing trend is a response to the outrageously rude behavior of so many children in restaurants and to their parents’ lack of consideration for other patrons.

Have you ever had your restaurant outing ruined by obnoxious kids running wild and screaming their lungs off? I bet you have. Extremely rude kids’ behavior is so common in kid-obsessed America that I am pretty sure everybody experienced it.

There are three problems in this regard:

  • discourteous parents fail to teach their kids respect for other people and to enforce the said respect while in public;
  • restaurants fail to show their respect to the customers and allow wild kids on their premises to make the experience miserable for everyone instead of removing the violators immediately;
  • polite people offended by kids’ behavior way too often are afraid to demand respect, thus, contribute to the unacceptable behavior by not requiring it to be ended.

It is nice to know that there are alternatives for these polite diners, parents or not, that do not wish to be exposed to kids’ rudeness. Although growing in numbers, these places are still very scarce and not all people have them nearby or within a reasonable distance. The success of the existing ones shows though that the demand is significant and gives hope for more of them to be established.

However, this so needed alternative encounters opposition and even aggression from those who love to ruin other peoples’ entertainment by letting their ill-mannered kids run wild and yell. Some parents make a fool of themselves by claiming discrimination. This kind of claim is ridiculous because the ban is instituted due to extreme rudeness, a kind of behavior that is easily changeable by proper teaching and disciplining process, not due to some inherent characteristics of a child. Too many parents keep forgetting that children are not rude by nature, they are rude when their parents fail to teach them proper behavior.

Also, these entitled parents forget that for each adult only restaurant there are thousands of venues that not only allow to bring kids, but also welcome all kinds of their unacceptably rude behavior. Moreover, a restaurant is an entertainment establishment. It is not an emergency room visit that might be necessary and life saving. Nobody ever died of lack of entertainment, and people who do not respect other customers should not be welcome at any entertainment venues.

The good news is that a large number of the online commenters, many of whom are parents of multiple children, applaud the decision of the restaurants going kid-free. However, it is deplorable that kids’ behavior is so bad that they have to be banned. The more rude kids are, the more demand there is for banning them.

How do other nations deal with the problem?

First of all, there is not much of a problem and no need to solve it because both children and parents are in vast majority polite. Having been to many restaurants in multiple countries I have not seen this level of rudeness anywhere else.

Once, in a casual place in Warsaw, I saw a child walk away from the table. Used to American standards, I wanted to cancel and leave because I expected more rude behavior to follow, but my friend stopped me. A few seconds later, the father grabbed the kid by the ear and made it sit down. It remained seated and respectfully quiet for the next two hours until they left.

Another time, in a restaurant in Bissau, I witnessed removal of a drooling, squealing kid. It was very efficient: the waiter approached the couple (both of them foreign; Guineans are very respectful and would not have to be removed) and whispered a few words; 30 seconds later the woman was outside with the kid and the man was finishing his meal hurriedly.

Things seem to be changing in kid-obsessed America, although for a more significant change to happen, polite diners cannot remain as shy as they are at the moment. They should express their requests for a respectful environment free from rude kids, be it by email or letters, be it in person. The best way to be heard is to vote with your money: whenever a rude child is ruining your experience, cancel and leave, informing the owner or manager about the reason. Do not let the kid-worshiping society manipulate you into guilt that you are doing something wrong. You are not. Being respected is your basic right and you should expressly and strictly voice your requirement for the said respect in all situations.

Afraid to point out the rudeness

Americans seem afraid to point out kids’ extreme rudeness in public places and to demand the minimum of respect for themselves. When in other societies their members would step in and require to bring the kid to order immediately, Americans shy away. Why is it so?

Countless times I have seen an ill-mannered kid disrupt public space with ear-piercing screaming and yelling, offend other patrons or passengers by kicking their seats, or expose other people to germs by touching their bodies or belongings with hands dirty with saliva or snots. Countless times I have seen adult faces clearly offended, shocked, or at least uncomfortable with the said behavior. Countless times I have heard in person or read on internet forums how annoyed people were with kids’ rudeness in waiting rooms, stores, restaurants, and public transportation. Unfortunately, I have not seen any reaction from these people at all.

I remember well this scene on the New York City Subway. A kid was moving a toy car right in front of a woman (a stranger, not a mother or relative) seated in the next seat. It was getting more and more obnoxious, clearly invading her space, almost reaching her face, and making engine-like sounds that were pretty disruptive. The woman was upset with this behavior, a look of extreme annoyance on her face. Yet, she failed to do anything to restore order. She should have strictly required the kid to respect her and stop it right away, but she failed to do so.

When kids are running wild in restaurants and disrupting the experience for everyone, it is also clearly visible on people’s faces that they are annoyed with this behavior. Unfortunately, and to the detriment of all of us, they do nothing about it. I am usually the only person to cancel my order and leave, informing the business of the reason. If disrespectful behavior happens in a restaurant, be it from an ill-mannered child, be it from a drunk person, every customer should require the business to restore order and respect, and in failure thereof, cancel and leave.

The internet is full of rants, vents, and complaints of people offended or otherwise annoyed by kids’ unacceptable behavior. People are too docile to react, to defend themselves, to protest and require respect. Instead, they submissively go home and vent online, which not only does not contribute to the improvement of the situation, but causes its deterioration by enhancing the obnoxious kids and lazy, disrespectful parents to continue the behavior.  Silence is unspoken agreement with the present situation in this case.

Where is the problem?

Americans were manipulated by the kid-obsessed society and harassed into this level of submissiveness. They became so obsequious because they were made think that a kid is sacred and protesting against its rudeness is equal to protesting against its holy existence and against the institution of the family. It should not be like this though. Take a dictionary and check the terms: extreme rudeness vs. family. They are not synonyms.

If I acted like the kids described above, I would be disciplined immediately by a parent, relative, teacher, salesperson, waiter, bus driver or an older kid. If my parents were present, a stranger would bring me to order right in front of them, and they would be embarrassed that their failure was so serious that someone else had to step in. They would apologize to that person immediately, make me apologize and punish me severely for two things: for offending somebody and for bringing shame on them. It is not old-fashioned or outdated. Many modern societies still act this way, and obtain very good results. Remember: respect never goes out of style.

I know people can get easily intimidated by the aggressive American parents, but you should not let them subdue you. A servile compliance with their expectation to take kids’ extreme rudeness for normal childhood behavior is not a solution to the problem. It is actually an encouragement of it.

Calling attention to children’s rudeness and requiring to curb the said behavior immediately contributes to their education and to the society’s well being. It should be accompanied by a calm, but strict request to restore order and respect. All members of the society should step in immediately when rudeness starts and not give up until it has ended.