Control Your Child in Public

“Obedience is the foundation of all learning.” Benjamin Franklin

Robert de Niro in the film Meet the Fockers
Robert de Niro in the film “Meet the Fockers”

       In our busy lives we ignore many things as we pass through on the way to our destination. We usually have no personal connection with the people we are rushing by until we have to wait to get our needs met. These incidents could take place walking in a park, waiting in line for food, shopping in a supermarket or passing time to make our transportation connection.

Once we are confined in a public space we are at the mercy of others, especially “terrorist children.” These out-of-control brats scream, run around, knock things over, pull products off shelves, hit their parents and always do the opposite of what the parent is saying. “Sit down”, they stand up, “lower your voice” the louder they shout, “stop running,” the faster they run.

The old international standby is finally employed. The child responds to this holy grail long enough to say, “I’m in Time Out” then takes off as fast as his little feet can move to kick his little sister’s toy across the room. Now the race between the child and parent ensues. The parent, unable or unwilling to capture him, gives up. The child triumphantly smiles at the parent.

The mother says gently to the child, “why are you not listening to me?” This is a ridiculous comment, since the child does not usually listen to the parent at home. He listens to the parent only when he wants something. Immediately the mother goes back to looking at her computer to end the confrontation. The father ineffectually tries to intervene by putting his screaming daughter in her stroller. He takes off to the far end of the building where she screams louder.

Almost all observers are embarrassed for the parents’ weakness and ineffectualness but they are not condoning the parents’ behavior. Most of them who are waiting to board the airplane are looking around in fear that these or another child terrorist will be assigned to the same row on their flight. No one wants to be confined in a small space while being a witness to a child abusing the parent and others by his behavior.

Parents no longer can ignore their responsibility to get their children under control before going into public. Even in our non-judgmental world the misbehavior of children is still annoying and unacceptable to others.

Some states are starting to take steps to curb these attacks by allowing private restaurant owners to ban not only out-of-control but all children. Instead of the public being aghast at the “no-children policy,” they have been supportive of owners doing what is necessary to keep old and attract new customers. If parents do not do a better job of training their children there will be more areas off limits to all children. Eventually parents may even be fined for their children’s obnoxious behavior.

It is ridiculous to think that children are going to act right in public when they are not trained at home to listen and be respectful. Learning the difference between acting appropriately or inappropriately should be taught at home. If the child has not been taught this difference, he will naturally display disruptive rather than productive behavior. Often these children’s actions can cause shunning by others and even result in intervention by a professional.

The development of a healthy and appropriate child takes effort. When parents do not do their duty to train their child in the social norms of the culture, they are not only doing a disservice to their own offspring, but to every person who has contact with the child in the future. The child’s actions are a direct indicator of the parent’s involvement.

Parents should be embarrassed and ashamed for their failure to fulfill their obligations. A person who becomes aware of a child who is not acting appropriately, should directly address the child to listen to his parents and do whatever is appropriate at the time. This would do two beneficial things. One, it would put the child on notice that his is being evaluated by others. Secondly it would force the parents to feel social pressure to do more than they are doing.

The problem is if the parents do not effectively parent, the child, not the parents will be labeled and medicated. The parents’ ignorance and/or laziness will mark the child as disabled for the rest of his life. The parents only need to do their job as parents to help their child’s future and prevent all of us from suffering at the hands of an unruly child.

The best remedy would be for parents to get off their duffs and simply do their job of making their children listen and obey their directions. This takes time and effort although it pays great dividends. An obedient child grows to be more socially acceptable, is a better student and a more productive citizen.

Dr. Domenick J.  Maglio, Phd  Traditional Realist

Dr. Domenick Maglio
Dr. Domenick Maglio
Dr. Domenick Maglio holds a Ph.D. in Human Development with more than forty years of experience in the field of education and mental health. He is the author of Essential Parenting and Invasion Within. For the last twenty-five years, Dr. and Mrs. Maglio have resided in Hernando County, Florida, where they raised their four children.

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  1. Timely post, as just this morning I read an article about a restaurant owner that rewards families who have well-behaved children in his establishment. In this case, he gave a $4.00 “good behavior discount” – and other times, free ice cream.

    As a parent who eats out often, I started “training” my two daughters how to behave in restaurants at a very young age, starting with the essentials like, “May I please have …” and always saying “thank you”. As well, these are always the first words I teach my daughters as we travel to foreign countries so they may order in the native language, showing respect to their hosts, while using good manners. Especially in Sicily, I often receive compliments about my children and their “comportamento”.

    It absolutely is the responsiblity of the parents and it absolutely takes effort. But it is worth the hard-work instilling this life-skill that will be useful for their entire lives.

  2. On a long haul from LA to Fiji it cost me $400 to upgrade my flight to avoid a plane full of toddlers! I love kids but having sat next to one who screamed all the way from London to LA, I felt it was money well spent. Maybe airlines one day will reserve a special section for parents with noisy children?! 🙂

  3. I really love the idea of the restaurant’s rewards for well-behaved children. That’s a very clever way of addressing the “little screaming issue…”

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