Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rude Parents? Rude Kids

This article is dedicated to Lila Z and her baby leather motocycle jacket. (Where is it? It’s art and I want to hang it on the wall.)

Author Bio: Karen Boyarsky is an avid blogger. Follow her on Twitter @boyarsky_kareni.

OK, let’s start with the fact that I’m a spinster. Not a full-fledged one; I was married at one time and the plan was to pop out a few little ones but the marriage didn’t work and I never met another man I thought I could spend 18+ years with so I am officially childless. So now you’re thinking, “what the heck does she know about raising kids.”

Good question. To answer, I was a kid once, the child of what I realize now were two incredibly dysfunctional people. I’m frankly surprised I can walk upright given my parents. I’m also godmother and Almost Aunt Karen to many of my cousins kids as well as friends kids, and I am without question, the babysitter of choice.

These parents know nothing is going to happen on my watch and if, heaven forbid, it did, they know I would know just how to handle it. Besides, having been the child of wildly dysfunctional people, I’ve ready just about every psychology book from Freud and Jung to Kohut and Miller. (My sister is a shrink; I had to keep up.) All of which means I will not screw up your kids psychologically.

My friends Steve and Kathy once came home once to find me asleep on a Babar rug in their daughter Lila’s room. Lila was in her crib, finally a sleep and apparently so was I.

Being two, Lila didn’t want to go to sleep. I gave her the countdown, i.e., “you’ve got three more videos you can watch before bedtime, you’ve got 2 more video’s, you’ve got one more video, etc, etc. I even let her pick which color toothbrush she would brush her teeth with because she didn’t want to do that either. Not surprisingly, she didn’t want to go to bed.

I told her that I understood her frustration but her mom set her bedtime and I couldn’t go against her mom’s wishes so I made her a deal. If she got in her crib and laid down, I would stay with her until she fell asleep. Well, it worked and I managed to catch 40 winks in the process.(BTW, Lila graduated college at 20 and is now a first-year law student.) I was her almost aunt Karen, and she was my nearly niece Lila.

I have no idea what happened to the Babar rug. It would look great in my home office.)

OK, back to the business at hand. Adults who don’t say “please” and “thank you” have a much harder time of convincing their children to do so. That’s pretty much a no-brainer. What really gets me are people who, when conversing with another adult, ignore their children’s request to be heard. They’re little, they’re not invisible.

This happened recently when I met a woman and I her daughter whom I guess to be about 7. (The daughter, not the mother.) Both the mother and the daughter exited their car to talk with me, but only the mother introduced herself.

I had to ask the little girl, “and what’s your name?” Then the mother and I began talking and the little girl spoke, wanting to add to the conversation. After her third attempt, and getting a pretty good sense that mom wasn’t going to do anything, I said to the little girl, “your mommy and I are talking right now. We’ll hear what you have to say when we’re done.”

And lo and behold, the little girl smiled and shut up. That’s all it took to get her to be quiet and to teach her a lesson about interrupting people. Not a bad 10 minutes work I thought.

Another example of this happened years ago when I was married. We ran into a couple we knew with their two sons at a park. Once again the adults began conversing and once again the kids started trying to interrupt and get their parents attention.

Finally, the mother screamed at the kids telling them to ‘shut the heck up’ and not bother her. Nice. Think that kid won’t remember that next time he wants to tell his mother something like the house is on fire?

Kids want to talk. They have stuff to say.

What they don’t have is the guidelines for when to speak their piece and we, as adults are supposed to give it to them.

The bottom line is to listen to your kids. Don’t let them interrupt adult conversation willy-nilly, but let them know that what they have to say is important to you and give them a reasonable, child-friendly time-frame as to when you’ll hear them out.

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