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Ok, so maybe we’re not exactly the bastions of good parenting right here.

I’ve seen the Permissive Parents: Curb Your Brats link shared so many times today that I feel compelled to respond. So, even though you didn’t actually ask for it – here’s what I have to say.

I very much get where this article is coming from. It’s these “bratty” kids that make people not like children. A few rotten apples ruin the bunch, but I’ll admit – that even I am surprised to find well behaved kids in the supermarket. They certainly feel like the exception. It does seem like there are a lot of kinds running amok out there, probably because they’re… well… loud. It’s easy to overlook a well-behaved kid. It’s pretty hard to ignore a kid who is screaming his head off.

As for the subject of the article – the parents – my feelings are along those of the author’s: I think they should cut it out. But my reasoning is different.

It’s no skin off of my nose, personally, if someone else’s kid is misbehaving. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s not really my problem. However, I do think that kids need limits and parents need to set them in public for two reasons:

First, you’re making the rest of us look bad.

A little digression: My husband is Portuguese. In Portugal, kids have a very different place in society. The culture is much more family-focused than ours and kids are everywhere, more or less. Go to a restaurant at midnight? It’ll be full of kids. No lie. And since kids just go around with their parents, they’re generally well-behaved. I’ve yet to see a kid in Portugal throwing a full on TANTRUM. Sure, they get fussy and loud – they’re still kids – but I’ve never seen a meltdown of, well, American proportions.

This is to illuminate the difference when we started bringing our son out in public. I’m a little paranoid that The Whuff will have a breakdown and people will start staring and clucking at me. Nuno, on the other hand, doesn’t worry about it a bit. He’s not from a culture wherein children misbehave and people blame the parents. He’s from a culture where having kids is just a part of life and they just go where their parents go. I’ve lightened up a little, but still, when Paulo starts ramping up in public – even before he starts screaming – I get a little edgy.

Having a few truly ill-behaved children make bystanders look at the parents of screaming children with contempt in that “Oh no, not ANOTHER one” kind of way. I’ve yet to receive any actual flak about my son’s behavior, but he is only 4 mos. old. I’m still paranoid that he’ll do something sometime and I’ll be lumped in with the parents with the “bratty” kid as opposed to just being a mom with a kid who is having a bad day.

My other objection is simply that it’s not doing the kids themselves any favors. Children need limits to learn how to be civilized adults. No one is born knowing how to behave in public, just as no one is born knowing how to use a fork. These are skills that need to be taught.

Parents who don’t want to teach their kids these skills are doing their children just as much as disservice as parents who don’t want their children to learn math or how to do their own laundry. What you end up with is a grown child who can’t behave as anything other than a child – you do not, at the end, end up with a fully formed mature adult. And we’ve all seen those particular adults as well and they’re no picnic to be around either.

I’m a huge, HUGE proponent of the idea that children are people deserving of respect. And it’s this exact respect that “permissive” parents lack. It’s not good for your kid in the long term to be allowed to act crazy in the grocery store. It’s not even good for them in the short term. Children deserve respect, but they also need to learn mutual respect. What kind of message is it to send to your kids that they don’t need to respect you? Who are they going to respect in that case?

One last note is that while I may agree with the substance of this article, I totally bristled at the tone. “Brats?” Labeling children, even poorly behaved children, as “brats” is only going to raise the dander of the people you’re ostensibly trying to persuade. Provocative language like this is only preaching to the choir. The parents you’re actually “trying” to reach are going to read this and think “Well MY kid’s no brat!” Once you start throwing around accusations like that, you’re making your target audience defensive and that doesn’t help anybody.

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