When he has a day off, Sean likes to take Riley to our local Starbucks during her quiet time. There they can share a treat, catch up a little, and just enjoy a Daddy/daughter date. They love it.
But on their most recent trip to Starbucks, they encountered some behavior that left them both a bit rattled.
A group of older boys (about Middle School age) sat at an outdoor table of a neighboring restaurant. They threw food at one another, yelled at one another (although not in anger), and did not seem concerned about the welfare of those sitting nearby.
Like the father holding his baby girl as he attempted to enjoy his coffee, holding onto her for dear life. More than once, these boys almost hit that baby with food thrown carelessly about.
Recognizing that new dad look in the other father’s eyes, Sean jumped into action. He asked the boys to stop. He reminded them to act appropriately at a restaurant.
One of them talked back to him. A few of them laughed. Only one remained quiet.
Clearly these boys are the product of non-parenting parenting.
They don’t understand limits. They don’t understand appropriate social behavior. They don’t understand right from wrong. They don’t know how to interact with adults.
They don’t know when to stop.
They follow their own rules, ignore input from adults, and use unkind words and voice tone simply because they can.
I would love to say that these instances are rare, but sadly I encounter them on a regular basis.
I have park rules for my kids. Really just a few guidelines to keep them safe and help them play well with others.
Climb UP the ladders; slide DOWN the slides.
Sand stays in the sand box and should never be thrown.
Use friendly voices.
Invite others to share toys.
They know the rules. Occasionally they try to push me on the slide issue. I do let them climb up there own slide at home. But at the park? We have to think about others. We have to be considerate.
Last week Riley saw some other kids climbing up the slide. They we were falling all over each other, and two of them ended up in tears.
At one point, Riley looked up at me as she started to join in. All I had to do was shake my head. She approached me and said, “All of those kids are going up. I’ll be careful.”
I sat her down on my lap and quietly pointed out that one boy was crying because he took a sneaker to his eye. I reminded her that we always have to think about others when we play. I reminded her that rules exist for a reason.
What I didn’t realize is that a little boy was standing behind us, listening in.
“I don’t have to follow any of those rules. I get to do whatever I want. Watch me!”
He ran off and went back up the slide, glaring at Riley the whole time.
We moved on to the swings. He followed us. He teased her. I redirected him. He talked back.
This went on for fifteen minutes before we decided to head home. It was getting late.
As I put the kids in the car I finally spotted the little boy’s mother. She sat at a table, very far removed from the play structure, eating a subway sandwich and staring at her iPhone.
Disengaged. Practicing non-parenting parenting.
Kids crave structure. Structure takes the guesswork out of the day. They actually like rules because rules help them know what choices to make.
Sure, they test boundaries from time to time. That’s part of being a kid. That’s part of learning right from wrong.
But that also requires active parenting.
We have to pay attention. We have to teach them right from wrong. We have to teach them to respect others and listen to adults. We have to be involved.
Non-parenting parenting results in a generation of disrespectful, unfriendly, and behaviorally challenged kids.
Active parenting results in the opposite.
The choice is simple. It’s up to you to make it happen.Pin It