Tag Archives: enforce

The magic word “no”

Children need clear, strict, and consistently enforced boundaries. With limitations and forbidden areas, they learn politeness and respect, get to know their place in the society (which in a healthy society is not on a pedestal, it is much lower than that), as well as stay clear of accidents and injuries. With proper enforcement of the boundaries, kids are able to learn all this at a very young age, more or less together with learning to speak their first language. In responsible societies, parents, relatives, siblings, and other people teach and enforce the boundaries using the magic word “no”, which seems nonexistent in kid-obsessed America, to the detriment to the kids, but also to the society as a whole.

American kids do not know what “no” means because most of the time they do not hear this word from their parents. If, however, a parent occasionally says “no”, he or she does not enforce it. This leads to two situations: the child does not learn what “no” means or it knows the meaning of the term but without proper enforcement grows in an atmosphere of impunity.

The best example from kid-worshiping America is saying that children throw food around as if it was an inherent characteristic and allowing them to do that not only at their everyday meals, but also in front of guests or in restaurants. Actually, kids do that only when their parents fail to teach them basic manners, and the society fails to enforce these manners in public places. It is very easy to eradicate the bad habit of throwing food. It is enough to grab the child’s hand, strong enough that it feels the adult’s power, but light enough that it does not get hurt, and say: “no”, “don’t”, “don’t do that” in the first second when the kid starts throwing it and every time it attempts throwing anything. It is not necessary to repeat the trick many times, twice or three times is enough for the child to kiss the bad habit goodbye. Kids are much smarter than Americans think. If proper teaching and discipline are instilled in them in their early toddlerhood, they will never forget it, just like riding a bicycle. It will become as natural as breathing air. I practiced it many times, at many occasions, all the relatives and neighbors as well, and millions of people all around the world do it too, successfully. There is no reason for Americans to be excused from using the magic word “no” in relation to the kid.

The same problem exists with obnoxious kids running wild and screaming in restaurants, stores, banks, or offices all over America. When in respectful and responsible societies, any attempt of this kind of behavior encounters a strict and firm “no”, Americans let their kids do whatever they want, no matter how offensive it is towards other customers or how much it disrupts other people’s work. Part of the problem is the parents’ obsessive fear that their spoiled precious snowflake will not love them unconditionally, but part of it is simple laziness and disrespect for all of the other users of the public space. It is very easy and effective to say: “no”, “don’t”, “don’t do that” in the first second when the unacceptable behavior starts, grab the kid, and strictly enforce it. However, American parents fail terribly to do it. Even if they occasionally mumble a faint “don’t run” when their spoiled brat nearly bumps into a waiter with hot drinks, they fail to enforce it. Instead of grabbing the kid and putting it on a seat to show it what “don’t run” means, they let it continue running wild, and the child does not even learn what “don’t run” means.

There are many, many situations in which American parents totally fail to say “no” and prevent their kids from offending other people, exposing other people to germs, disrupting somebody’s work or rest or from damaging somebody else’s property. They let their kids slobber on the produce in supermarkets, they let them take a bite of food from a buffet container and put it back for other customers to take, they let them destroy goods in stores, or let them yell and scream wildly on public transportation, to name just a few examples. They also buy tons of useless toys the deity kid requests that will damage our common heritage – the environment by ending up in landfills. They even damage their kids’ health by buying whatever junk food the kid wants, just because it wants. Saying “no” and enforcing it would not only stop the behavior but also teach the kids not to attempt it in the future. It would teach them that they are not alone in this world and that other people around them have to be respected. Unfortunately, without hearing “no” whenever necessary, American kids turn out totally rude, entitled and self-centered, unadjusted, and unable to live in a society without disrespecting it.

In all these and similar situations American parents use the excuse that they are trying so hard, while their actions (or rather inactions) show that they are not trying at all. They do not use the simple word “no” that would easily curb all kinds of disrespectful and undesired kids’ behavior as soon as it starts.

But it does take a village. It takes a parent to discipline a kid, but it also takes a responsible, participating society to enforce the rules and, if necessary, in case of a child’s transgression of the rules or a parent’s failure to impose order, to strictly require a parent or guardian to use the magic word “no” in relation to a disrespectful, disruptive kid. People offended by an unacceptable kid’s behavior should not be afraid to intervene whenever necessary. When the parents fail, the society has a right and duty to take action.

A recipe for failure

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.