Sit up straight. Say thank you. Be quiet. Keep your voice down. Say please. Sit still.
As parents we are constantly surrounded by suggestions on how to make our children behave properly. From parenting books to self-help books (because let’s face it, it’s always mom’s fault), there is an endless string of advice designed to guide us. Complete strangers are quick to share their nuggets of wisdom, based on their child rearing years. I don’t take offense, because I agree that children should be taught to have good manners, be respectful of others, and sit quietly in certain situations. At restaurants, I understand when the wait staff sees a family with small children walk through the door, and after taking a deep breath escorts them to the table at the back of the restaurant where the noise, spills, tantrums, etc. can be shielded a bit from the other paying customers. I get it.
The thing is, parents with children are also paying customers, and sometimes I think people immediately make a judgment call based on the children’s ages. I’ve witnessed many a full-blown toddler tantrum which left me paralyzed, fork hovering in the air, never making it to my mouth. Some of those tantrums by my own kids, but my husband and I always walked them outside at that point so as not to disrupt someone else’s meal. There were times we even took our food to go after not being able/willing to continue the toddler vs. parent battle back in the restaurant. Not everyone does that. Again, I get it.
However, when a child speaks a bit louder than a grownup, or lets out a belly laugh to beat all belly laughs, there’s no need for the disapproving stares as they are just being children. I’m all for instilling the proper manners in my children, but at times even I feel like I’m too hard on them. Years ago, our priest gave a sermon on just this topic and one line has stuck with me since then. It is also the title of this post. “Don’t get upset when your five-year old acts like a five-year old.”
Yes, we need to raise our children to be responsible, respectful, kind, generous, and morally conscious. I believe that we need to start these lessons at a young age, and as parents we need to consistently enforce these lessons. We also need to teach by example, but that’s another post. However, we also need to understand that our children are still children, each age a necessary developmental stage building on another developmental stage.
1. We shouldn’t be surprised when they aren’t organized at the age of five…am I at the age of forty-two?
2. We shouldn’t be surprised when they interrupt a conversation…we’re all guilty of it every now and then.
3. We shouldn’t be surprised when they get a bit loud in a restaurant or church or the library…if granny can speak that loud why not them?
4. We shouldn’t be surprised when they forget their homework, or that permission slip for us to sign…it’s not as bad as the day “the tooth fairy” forgot their only job.
5. We shouldn’t be surprised when they cry uncontrollably and can’t explain why…don’t we all need a little more love some days?
Have you ever been in a situation where you were judged based on your child’s behavior? How did you handle it?