Friday, June 1, 2012

What's Up with Today's Kids?

Today's kiddies seem to be lacking in the behavior department. And sadly, few adults seem to care.

In recent months, there have been several news stories about children misbehaving or causing disturbances on public transportation. Last week a three-year-old was kicked off an airplane for refusing to buckle his seat belt. The child's father is reported as saying that: (1) he was working with the cranky child to settle him down and (2) the child is expressing himself and should be allowed to do so.

This is hardly an isolated incident. In fact, such performances are becoming more common that we might think. My Google search for "unruly children on airplanes" revealed over 796,000 hits including both specific occurrences and instructions about how to deal with disruptive children on a flight.

Yesterday I took my brother to lunch to celebrate his birthday. When the hostess led us to a booth, I noticed that the neighboring table contained two adult women and four small children. I considered asking for a different table but decided against doing so. (Note to self: always trust your first impression.) I sat with my back toward the kiddies and had a tough time dealing with constant noise and incessant kicking of the bench. On another occasion, I have might said something tactful to the adults. But since the annoyance mine alone to endure, I ignored it until they left.

This particular incident -- combined with the story of the three-year-old on the airplane -- got me to thinking about unruly children. Memories of misbehavior began to flow freely and a few are shared here. You probably have some of your own.

Several years ago, I attended a Bach and Madrigal Christmas program. The theme was classic a capella Renaissance music of impeccable harmony. The appreciative audience could not help but be charmed by the magic of the moment. That is, all but one small and apparently miserable child who began screaming at the top of his lungs. The child's disturbance continued for a significant length of time. Finally, the director dropped his arms and turned to face the audience. "Please remove your child" was all that he said. With that, the mother stood up in the middle of the large audience and, holding the still-squalling child, made her way slowly to the exit. The audience broke into spontaneous applause and the concert continued. The director had done the best thing for everyone concerned.

Recently I was working part-time to help out at a local office. For several days in a row, the owners brought their four grandchildren (ages 9 months to 14 years) to the office so they could be "baby sat" during working hours. The result was chaos for the staff and distracting noise in a confined space where the phones rang constantly. At one point, I turned to put some paper in my trash can and found two dirty disposable diapers there to greet me. No doubt there was somewhere else better prepared to deal with the kiddies. Or at least where someone could manage their behavior.

When did this whole "culture of the child" thing come into fashion? It's hard to pinpoint but surely it has some connection to the overwhelming number of digital cameras currently in use. Now parents and grandparents can forever preserve such precious moments as baby's first spit-up and guess who sat on the binky. Such footage is not only to be treasured but might even win money if submitted to America's Funniest Videos. This line of reasoning confirms to every parent that their child is a diamond in the rough, each temper tantrum or finger-painted wall to be captured.

Not all children behave badly. But the percentage has become significant enough to leave that impression. Parents need to retake the reins and pull the little darlings in just a bit.

I have no personal animosity toward children. But if the rest of the adult population is going to co-exist with the kiddies, certain rules need to be established.

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