American parents like to escape from their parental duties and from the responsibility for their kids and offload it onto other people. The best evidence for this fact are the signs so widespread in residential areas: “Caution: Children at Play” or “Slow: Children Playing”, a variety of the latter establishing speed limits of 5-15 miles per hour. The most ridiculous one I have seen was a flat, cardboard figure with a real size kid photo on it. These are typically American signs. Having lived in a couple of countries and traveled to much more, I have never seen them anywhere else. Why? Because people in other societies are responsible for their kids’ behavior and do not pass their responsibility onto anybody else.
When two adults decide to have a kid (and in AD 2013 this is certainly a decision, with multiple methods of birth control widely available, no excuses should be made about it), they are fully responsible for their kids’ behavior and safety. Offloading their responsibilities and duties onto someone else (except for people paid by them for watching kids) is unacceptable. What responsible parents in other societies do and what American parents should learn to do is to instill into the kid from the very young age the most important sign-like information: “Caution: Roads are for Cars”, “Caution: Stay in your Parents’ Yard”, “Warning: Streets are not Playgrounds”, or “Watch for Cars”. Another good option is: “When you see a car, move to the sidewalk immediately”. Building a fence with a locking gate and keeping the kid in the yard is a good solution.
While traveling across America, I saw a sign on the rear of a bus: “Caution: Children may be Exiting”. I do not remember where exactly it was, possibly in Austin. This is another way of offloading parents’ responsibility onto other people. If kids under certain, quite high ages are not allowed to be out on the streets or in other public places alone, that logically means all children on buses are accompanied by at least one adult. This adult is responsible for the child and should require it to stand still and never run wild or should hold it. The same refers to exiting the bus: no wild release, hold it or teach it to walk right next to the adult guardian, bring it to order in the same second when it tries to walk or run away and nothing will happen. Unfortunately, American parents are too oblivious and too lazy to teach, hold, and watch their kids. In this country, the sign on the rear of buses should rather say: “Caution: Lazy Parents and Released Wild Kids”.
American parents simply fail to teach their children cautiousness and responsibility. I saw thousands of kids playing on the streets in multiple countries. They played respectfully, quietly, without wild yelling, and were trained to watch for cars or motorcycles. As soon as a vehicle approached, they dispersed to the sides immediately. Pardon this comparison, but most people have probably seen cockroaches escape in the same second when a light goes on. This is exactly how it looks: Kids run to the sides in the same second in which a vehicle appears on the horizon.
When I was growing up, we did exactly the same as I see when I travel. All of us kids, starting at the age of about three, played respectfully on the street and when a car approached, we immediately moved to the sidewalk. There was never any adult present. Adults were busy working and obtaining food. Kids were required and trained to be responsible for themselves and for the younger ones. If a kid acted irresponsibly, i.e. failed to move away when a car was approaching, this inaction would be reported to its parents and the kid would be punished. Because the society was very consistent, with no “parenting styles” or other fads, one kid getting punished by its parents or relatives meant that any other kid would get punished for exactly the same. This was the best deterring factor that kept all the kids in order. If a kid got hurt, and it was its fault, it would never be coddled, bribed, or worshiped; it would be punished for lack of cautiousness and responsibility. It would never occur to any parent to blame someone else or to offload the responsibility onto other people.
Some time ago I read a very interesting book: “So Long a Letter” by Mariama Bâ. Two out of twelve kids of the main character, Ramatoulaye, disobeyed her ban and went to play soccer on the street. A motorcyclist hit them. One of the kids and the motorcyclist got lightly injured and the other kid ended up with a broken arm. The motorcyclist came to Ramatoulaye’s door to tell her what happened. She apologized to him for her kids being the cause of his accident, clearly admitting their fault, took care of his injuries, and only afterwards proceeded to the kids. First, she disciplined both of them and only then required an older kid to take the one with a broken arm to the hospital. She made them suffer the consequences of their irresponsible and disobedient behavior. It was a lesson not only for them but also for all the other kids who played with them.
My mother had more kids than hands. When she took her kids somewhere, we were required to hold her hand, hold on to a bag she was holding if she did not have any free hand, or simply walk right next to her. Running wild, way ahead of her was absolutely not allowed and if a kid tried to disobey, it would be brought to order in the same second. Other parents and relatives as well as older kids did exactly the same. There was absolutely no running wild.
Americans release their young children to run wild far ahead, let them yell wild and bump into people at full speed and not only fail to apologize but also blame anyone except themselves if their worshiped precious snowflake gets scared or falls and scratches its knee. They fail to teach their kids to be cautious and responsible; then pass their responsibility onto anybody else, businesses, or other users of public space, and blame the others for their own and kids’ failures and faults. This is unacceptable, and the society as a whole should put pressure to change it. American parents should be required to assume responsibility for their own and kids’ acts and omissions. Watching and holding kids at all times when outside the home as well as teaching them responsibility and cautiousness is a must, and if parents do not want to do it, they should keep them at home.