Many American parents fail because they are inconsistent and give up too easily. Countless times, in different towns, in different states, on different ends of this large country I have seen a parent give an order to a child without enforcing it. Here are some examples:
Example 1: Small town in New Jersey, I do not remember which one because many of them look alike with their endless rows of houses. A kid about 4 years old was biking in the yard in a direction away from home. A young woman, whether a mother, a relative, or a nanny, it is really unimportant, shouted from the doorway of the house: “Come here!”. The kid kept biking away. She did nothing. She simply gave up and did not enforce her request. My mother, or any parent I know, would go to the kid, grab it and bring it to the place indicated as “here” to show it:
a) What “come here” means;
b) That a kid must obey an adult; and
c) That a kid will never get away with disobeying because an efficient enforcement system is in place.
The woman failed to do so, thus, she failed to teach the kid a valuable lesson. The next time the same kid may disobey her order and will for sure disrespect people in public places many times.
Example 2: Parking lot in Austin, TX. A guy parked his car, got out and opened the back door to let his kid out. He took the kid, about 5 years old, into his arms and said: “stand”. The kid did not stretch its legs for standing, having clearly no intention of standing at all. The guy gave up and carried the kid to the store, failing to enforce his request. A responsible, consequent adult would make the kid stand no matter what, for the same a), b) and c) reasons listed above, with only the activity changing in point a). The way this father acted, the kid was deprived of a valuable lesson. A couple of months down the road the same kid may disobey a “do not cross the road” order from an adult and get run over by a car just because it is encoded in its mind that adults’ orders mean nothing as they are not enforced.
Example 3: Santa Monica, CA, on a sidewalk in front of a health food store. A woman took a kid out of the car. The kid started running ahead. The women shouted “do not run”. The kid kept running. The woman did absolutely nothing. She failed to teach the kid the same lesson the same way the two persons above failed. Can you see the pattern a), b) and c) here?
Example 4: New York City Subway. A woman was talking to another adult. Her child, about 6 years old, was pulling her arm, shouting “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy”, each time louder, disrespecting with this disruptive behavior, not only the mother and her interlocutor, but also other passengers. The woman finally said something to make the kid stop, but she did it quite late, when the rude behavior was already going on and on for some time. This example is different than the three above, but only by a little bit. She should have made the kid stop the disrespectful behavior the first time it started disrupting the conversation of the adults in order to teach it effectively not to repeat this kind of behavior in the future. The way she acted, the kid will most likely disrupt other adults’ conversations and other peoples’ quiet enjoyment in the future.
In all the above cases, the kids ages 4-6 should have been taught to respond immediately to adults’ requests a long time before. Failure to do so unavoidably resulted in kids’ rudeness, disobedience and lack of respect and may potentially result in situations dangerous for them. I am sure you have seen many of these kids and parents in many public places because the patterns “do not do it (or do it) – disobedience – no reaction” are so common.
I do not know if people do not enforce their requests because they are simply lazy or because they kowtow to the incarnated deity – their kid. Either way, they are doing both the child and the society a huge disfavor.
In most of the societies I know with exemplary results of well-mannered children, people teach them to respect adults’ requests much earlier, usually before their first birthday, and continue consistently, with no exceptions, by reacting promptly and unavoidably. In kid-obsessed America, they do it very late, if at all. The results are deplorable.
Giving orders and letting a child disobey by not reacting at all or reacting too late is the best recipe for a parental failure so commonly seen in all public places in kid-worshiping America.