I raised three daughters and was very involved with my grandchildren when they were small. I now spend a morning each week tutoring children in a literacy program, called One to One. I am not a crotchety old lady; I like children and enjoy being around them.
In recent days, I have been exposed to very unhappy youngsters. Yesterday, we flew from Chicago to Denver, connecting to Seattle. On both flights, we were seated by children who howled, screamed and yelled throughout.
Unfortunately, parents on a plane are not able to do what I used to do if my child was misbehaving in a public place – take them for a walk or to the car and sit until they calm down and are receptive to reason.
I did notice, though, none of these parents had brought things along to distract their children. I used to take toys, colouring books, pencils etc. These items were only brought out when we were away from home, which meant they were interesting and novel to the children.
One thing I never did was allow my children to disturb others in public. They were taken to a private place. If they still could not settle down, they were taken home.
Today, my husband and I went out for breakfast. A young couple with a little girl came in, and we were seated close together. Again, we were subjected to a howling, yelling, screaming, crying child. Her parents kept saying “use your inside voice.” She, of course, ignored them.
Again, these parents brought nothing to distract the child. Why do parents not understand that most children cannot sit quietly in a restaurant for more than a minute?
These parents had options: They could have taken her home, or for a walk, taking turns until the food arrived; they could have provided her with things to play with; they could have asked the waitress to bring a fruit cup.
Parents like this would likely say that they are exposing their child to eating in restaurants, so they will learn how to behave. I say they are teaching them nothing. Children of this age cannot learn to sit quietly, they have to be entertained. If the entertainment doesn’t work, they have to be removed from the situation.
That is how you teach them how to behave. You do not subject a whole restaurant full of people to a bored, cranky, misbehaving two-year-old.
I just ate as fast as I could and left. I did not enjoy my breakfast, and I’m willing to bet others felt as I did.
I did consider confronting them, but it is just this kind of parent that is more concerned with justifying their right to bring their child to a restaurant than with actually parenting their child while they are there.
Lucinda Pellant, White Rock