Sunday, June 06, 2010

Children in public spaces

One of the comments about our museum day yesterday got me thinking about how children are expected to, and realistically act, in public spaces. The commenter wrote:
why do you think children running through museums is acceptable, let alone laudable, behaviour? Museums are not parks for children to run in, nor for them to tantrum in.

Before I get started on the main topic, I want to first say that I used "running around" as a figure of speech equvialent to exploring, rather than running at breakneck pace and being totally wild and crazy. Dio can't even run yet. He's still figuring out the walking part!
Another aside: I wonder what it is about the internet that lets people write things they would never say face-to-face...
Anyway, back on topic...children in public spaces. If children are ever going to be in public spaces--grocery stores, parks, museums, churches, theaters--they will need practice and regular exposure to the norms of public behavior and interaction. In other words, they learn by being and doing and observing others. Not by being kept in the house for the first several years of their life.
I'm not saying, of course, that we should let kids do whatever they want in any and all settings. For example, at church, we teach our children that we sit quietly. We bring activites and books and snacks to keep them occupied. And we take them out into the lobby if they're being exceptionally noisy. (Which happens at least once every week!) When I brought Zari to the ballet last week, I explained that we don't talk when the dancers are on the stage and that we clap after they're done dancing.
But having children of my own has given me a lot more patience and tolerance for normal kid behavior. Giggles, shrieks of laughter, bumps and falls, cries of fatigue/hunger/boredom, and even temper tantrums are inevitable when you are in public with your children.
Over at Womanist Musings, Renee wrote this in My child takes up space:
What really needs to be recognized about children is that they don’t have the capacity to act in the same way that adults do. This does not make them lesser beings and we need to find a way to accommodate them, even when they make drinking a latte a less then comfortable thing.
Renee's post was a response to the Feministe post by Jill called On hating kids. While I don't necessarily agree with Renee's characterization of the Feministe discussion as a "child hate fest," I did find Jill's original post and many of the comments disturbing at heart. The assumption that you can make your children behave a certain way, that you can anticipate temper tantrums and plan your day around accordingly...laughable and totally, entirely not at all realistic. For example, Jill wrote:
And while I don’t think that kids should be categorically barred from restaurants (and even small children from certain types of bars at reasonable hours), I do think that parents have a responsibility to evaluate their own child’s behavior and mood that day and decide whether it makes sense to go to a particular place at a particular time; and parents, ultimately — not everyone else out in public — should bear the burden of making sure that children behave according to the behavioral standard of a particular place, whatever that may be.
Even if I carefully "evaluate my child's behavior and mood," it's prone to change radically about two seconds later. My 13-month-old son, for example, has a super-sensitive trigger. He can be completely calm and happy, then a millisecond later he'll be screaming and shrieking, thrashing around on the floor, totally out of control. Then with a little creative distraction, the tantrum will disappear almost as quickly as it came. I can attempt to assuage the worst of the tantrum, to help him calm down--which is what you see happening in the pictures of our museum day. But "making sure" that he behaves? Nothing short of sedation or anesthetization could "make sure" he never has a meltdown.
I found this comment at My child takes up space particularly compelling:
Adding them to the author's original premise, a number of respondents seem to premise their rejection of children, children in public space, and "uncontrolled children" on an unstated assumption of violence or the threat of violence.

A child cannot be “made to behave,” on the spot and in public without violence or the threat of violence. It is force - actual physical force - which undermines the assumption that a parent must publicly control her children.

The immediacy of the child’s moment (especially a young child) is not translatable into an easy solution, especially just so upper middle class complainants don’t have their Sunday brunches interrupted by the intrusion of lesser beings....

The expectation, expressed at Feministe (and I'm sure, elsewhere) that children conform to adult expectations of behavior, or be excluded, really cannot be understood without understanding this as the threat of violence. The belief that parents can control an immediate moment of upset assumes that the parent must intervene to suppress the behavior, to shut the child up, in that very moment - or lose some sort of implied social sanction. It's the expectation that a parent - more often than not, a woman - punish her children so that others don't have to experience inconvenience, making the mother an agent of social repression, inculcating in her own children a fear of women as the proximate agents of suffering.
How we treat children--our own as well as other people's--speaks volumes about our core values as a society. Children are our most vulnerable group, dependent on the adults around them. They deserve to be nurtured, loved, guided, and most of all, accepted as a normal part of what it means to be human. Even if that means they make some noise at museums, at church, or at restaurants.


  1. Great post. I like the way you pulled it all together.

  2. Oh, trust me...had your children been running around there in front of me, I would have had something to say. I've birthed and raised three, raised a few more that weren't mine, and in no wise would they have either run or tantrummed in a public space, let alone a museum.

    If I didn't have something to say, I'll bet my kids would've. Even at 2 or 3, they knew how to behave.

  3. I'm always suspicious of comments that start out with "my child would never (insert childish behavior here)!"

    That aside, in our church there are several baptisms every month yet our child is normally the only small child there. At 13 months old she sticks out among the 7 and 8 year old's that go up for the children's service. She is very well behaved for a year old child. She can sit quietly through most of the service and usually only starts making noise while we're singing or chanting. (How can we expect her to be quiet when there are 300 other adults making noise? It all sounds the same to her.) If she gets overly squirmy or noisy we take her out until she's calmed down and come back in. She needs to learn how to act in church. She wont learn from sitting in the nursery with toys. I've gotten more than one snarky remark (usually from old spinstery women who have no children) about the place for babies in church (read: in the nursery or at home) There is of course a difference between a parent who makes no attempt to direct the behavior of their child and those who are actively socializing their children to the adult world. It seems like adults will tolerate all manner of obnoxious behavior from other adults (everything from talking loudly on cell phones to poor table manners) but when a child has a momentary lapse of control they come down on parents who are trying to mold children into reasonable people that others like to be around.

  4. One of my favorite comments on children in public space comes from, I believe, one of the posts you linked. I found it here:

    "Public space is not our space. Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities don’t use parks, restaurants, stores, museums, and theaters at our indulgence, because it’s not our space. It’s everyone’s space, and everyone has an equal claim on it."

    I thought that was pretty right on. Public spaces belong to all of us. Part of being in public space means tolerating the other people who are there. There's a lady at my favorite coffee shop who just complains all day long, and loudly. She's far more obnoxious than any child, quite frankly, but there's nothing to be done about it because that space is there for us all to share. People don't seem to think that applies to kids, but I don't see why it shouldn't.

  5. I completely agree. Here's a quote I read before that, while slightly vulgar, I tend to agree with:

    "Now, maybe I meet someone who doesn’t necessarily dislike Little V in a personal way but who is “not really a kid person.” And here I mean not necessarily someone who doesn’t want to have kids or who doesn’t have any experience being around kids or someone who lives a lifestyle that doesn’t produce any exposure to kids. I mean someone who is expressive about a “I don’t really like kids” attitude or a “I hate going to restaraunts or museums where kids are making noise” attitude or a “of course it’s fine for other people to have kids but I don’t want to be around them” attitude. This sort of thing is a deal-breaker for me. I’ve gotten pretty rigid about it in recent years as I become more assured in my certainty that it’s an anti-feminist attitude and you suck if you hold it. Kids are a vulnerable, disempowered, inevitable portion of the human community and you do not get to “not like” them or to wish that weren’t a part of your public space. Not allowed. I invite you to swap out “kids” for any other disempowered community in the above phrases (“women,” “schizophrenics,” “hispanics,” “the blind”) and notice what an a**hole you sound like."

    Quote from First The Egg.

  6. Well said. I agree.

    My husband is deployed right now and I have no choice but to take my six children out in public very frequently. of course, most of the places we visit are kid-friendly, but I do take them grocery shopping, to church, and to restaurants. I have also quickly left some of those places a couple of times when one of my children was about to melt down. Usually they are very, very well-behaved and quiet because they have been out so many times that they understand what behavior I expect from them. But if I never took them out, how would they know how to act?

    I think it's unreasonable for adults to expect children to act like little adults. I also think it's unreasonable for parents to ignore their child's disruptive behavior. There is a middle ground... I think!

    I think it's wonderful that you are exposing your children to the culture and teaching them how to act in museums and theaters.

  7. Great post!

  8. If you never take your kids out into public settings like a museum, etc, how do they even learn how to act? Kids have tanturms...even if they know how to act! I have a son with a disability and when people make rude comments to me about how he may be acting I usually ignore, but there have been a few times I've kindly told them where they can shove it! Good post.

  9. so glad you posted this.

    a few months ago my friend and i took our daughters (hers is a year and a half, mine about to be three) down to an art museum. at one point, friend was holding her daughter on her hip and i was having my child push the stroller.

    a few points i'd like to make before going further: 1) not everyone has the luxury of leaving said child with someone else so that the parent can go to a museum alone at every whim. 2) children do not have the attention span that adults do, and children will not appreciate art in the way that adults do. however, eventually children are placed in a school system that exposes them to these subjects, and so therefore art (just as one example) is clearly something we've decided to teach our children about, yes? is said subject then only appropriate when a child can be contained in a classroom? 3) i am echoing the chorus here when i say that children will not learn proper social behavior if they are left at home or with a sitter when the adults would like to take part in the outside world.

    now, that being said, i DO absolutely believe that children need to be shown (note: not forcefully taught) boundaries and they need to understand that certain behaviors are not acceptable in places like an art museum. my daughter is quite difficult sometimes - she has much energy, short attention span, and can be quite loud if she wants to. some people have the quiet, soft spoken child who will hold their parent's hand the whole time. mine is not that child. i suspect that i'm not alone in that. sometimes it is difficult to teach her proper social behavior. sometimes we have to leave a place. sometimes we don't go at all. in those times which she is behaving poorly (and she is old enough to understand that i am disagreeing with her choices), we will quietly discuss it and if that does not resolve it, we leave. i have no problem removing myself and my daughter from a situation in which we would be making others uncomfortable - just as i would expect the caregiver of a handicapped adult or the acquaintance (or museum employee) of a capable adult behaving rudely (cell phone, loudness, etc.) to remove them from the area as well.

  10. (continued)

    i haven't read the said thread from the other site. i don't need to, i've read through the comments both here and at the site you linked to about children taking up space.

    one more thing i wanted to say: one obvious one: we were all children once. whoever said that you cannot hate children/not want children around is exactly right - even the most anti-child person was a child once, and was probably misbehaving at one point or another. they are not a foreign species. they are less developed (though in some ways much wiser and honest) versions of ourselves.

    back to my museum experience: our children were being quiet and contained, polite and considerate. not once did my daughter get even remotely close to a display, and if she were to have done so, i would have gladly taken the time to explain to her why we can't touch it, where it came from, what it whatever terms needed to help her understand that being in close proximity to an object on display is not okay. there are plenty of adults who have NO consideration for such things - plenty of adults whose behavior is so poor that i am embarassed for them. my friend and i were asked to make sure our children remained buckled into strollers if we wanted to have them in the museum - because you know, a screaming child strapped into a stroller is much more enjoyable than a slowly moving family having to stop every thirty seconds to teach a child about acceptable museum behavior.

    would i be upset if a child was throwing a tantrum and the parent was doing nothing to curb the situation? probably. but, i would also understand that the child is still learning social norms, and the general demeanor of the parent says a lot - if the parent was angry, the situation would be escalated. if the parent was calmly handling the situation and waiting for its resolve, i see no problem. i would expect a parent (or any of the given examples above) to understand at which point they need to take the child out of the space. however, i also feel that maybe we don't readily view that as an option given the amount of pressure put on families to force their children to behave as adults - as if your child throwing a tantrum means you have failed as a parent. i think we feel pressure to resolve it quickly in whatever means possible to prove that we have mastered authority and's like an all or nothing concept, survival of the fittest if you will.

    sorry - this was long winded, i hope it makes sense.

    to wrap it up, i absolutely support your choice in taking your children to "adult" places and allowing them to socialize.

  11. wonderful articulate post! Why can't we respect each other, big and small?

    My mom recently broke her foot and had a cast for six weeks. She was grocery shopping at Whole Foods and was slowly hobbling around with her cart. A manager came up to her and offered her a wheelchair (?) My mom is not a wheelchair gal and needed to be moving around to avoid clots because of her age. My mom politely declined and the manager kept insisting that she "needed" a wheelchair, eventually conceding that patrons had complained that my mom was blocking aisles and making it difficult for the them to shop.

    Can you believe that? In general, I think society is less tolerant of anything that slows them down or interrupts their personal experience. It is this lack of recognition of our interconnectedness that is at the heart of so many ills, including the issues in the obstetric model of care.

  12. How interesting! I couldn't imagine a better place for children to visit. My partner and I take out (very young) daughters to museums and art exhibits on a regular basis and even when our daughter was crazy with her new ability to walk we received a lot of positive feedback from people who work at and with the events/museums. They loved seeing young minds explore fine art and learn about history.

    You take kids to the library right?? They might not be as quiet as you hoped but that is how they learn and by limiting their access to learning you are doing something far worse than upsetting a couple of trolls.

    I can't imagine a happy healthy child that has the ability to control themselves at all times.

  13. Really great post, and comments. What an amazing opportunity for your family to be overseas and seeing and learning about art and culture!

    I have 6 children, and I take them to church and try to get them to understand to sit quietly, and be reverent. When we go to other places that we need to be quiet to show respect or whatnot, I have tried to explain to them that it is similar to being reverant at church, etc. I try to teach by example what 'appropriate' behavior is, and talk about what is expected.
    I don't take my children out to as many cultural things (more often than not, hours away) as I'd like, but the logistics of going anywhere with 6 children can be daunting...

    I just wanted to say, there are times that I will 'keep' my children who might be acting up a bit or even throwing a tantrum, in somewhere that might bother others occasionally, to help teach a different concept as well. (if I can't get them to settle down in an 'acceptable' amount of time it can change)..., but I feel that for my children, if you imediately take them 'out' or leave what you are doing because they 'throw a fit', then you sometimes can teach them, 'if they throw a fit, they get to leave where they don't want to be...' Does that make sense?

    For example: there was a time my younger son would act up and fuss at church, it was almost as if he'd imediately get quiet if you stood up to walk out. I remember many times standing with him at the door, without actually going out, to try to get him to remain calm so I could still get something out of the meeting as well.

    I will say that in my family we give some amount of leniency with quiet books, paper and pencil/crayon, snacks when they are little, and being able to be a bit active -walking in our pew - in front of us back and forth down the aisle between siblings and parents, etc... but if they go 'out' they generally have to SIT and be quiet without anything to 'entertain' them with. For us, that is also part of the lesson we try to teach, being inside the meeting is more 'enjoyable' if you will, to help them have the desire to stay where we'd like them.

    We also take our children out to eat. Most often to slightly more 'family friendly' restraunts (I'm not talking the fast food kid specific places), where we know that there is lots of noise in general and they won't be as noticed as in a very quiet place. This helps them learn
    'appropriate' social behavior, but allows them to be kids, but if it didn't cost an arm and a leg to take a family of 8 to nicer places,
    we might do that more often as well. It's not that we don't go out, because we don't think our children belong in public places.

    I'm done ramblilng now... Thanks again for a great post. Very thought provoking.

  14. Lisa, while your opinion is always welcome, I feel the need to point out that you are being incredibly rude and self-righteous. Rixa defended herself and her kids quite well. You sound fortunate to have gotten children who never ever ever acted up; good for you! I hope some day we can all reach your pinnacle of perfection! Of course, seeing as how you and your kids would have spoken up concerning the behavior of Rixa's kids, maybe you still haven't mastered the art of keeping your mouths shut.

  15. Nice post and great comments. I think the biggest problem our society sees is a lack of respect for each other, including respect for children. They are little personalities, so don't just try to "control" them and shut them up. I like the comments about how it is everybody's space, so true, children should be in museums, of course. And people with disabilities should be able to grocery shop at their own space! Suck it up if you don't like loud and happy children or if you don't like to wait a second for someone who is a little slower! Usually, the one having the problem - who probably has his own unresolved issues from his childhood - is the one complaining...

  16. this was an exceptionally good post! Of course that could be because I have not only a 13 month old myself (who can throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat!) but a SN kid and a typical 9 yr old.

    the thing that just baffles me... I mean really just floors me... is that so many people look at children as a different species, instead of the first stage of the very species we are! WE ALL must go through this stage of life. and it baffles me that instead of it being a common thing for kids to be in common places, it's scrutinized. why should this even be an issue? unless there is danger for the child, children should be welcome in general public. can you imagine if you tried to ban elderly folk from a mall or a concert? or put a stop on having 30-40 yr olds in coffee shops?

    I'm just astounded at how quickly we forget that is a HUMAN responibility to teach other humans. Parents are the immediate care givers of course, but all human beings should by nature we ready to lend a hand or at the very least make a place for children in our every day world. This is for the good of humankind. to nurture, protect and nourish our young should be at the top of our list as priorities as human by nature alone. instead? we're worried about ourselves, our wild abandon and our "right" to do whatever "adult" thing we want at any time without any inconvenience to put a hamper on our fun.

  17. In a society where children are merely inconveniences or annoyances, people are completely ignorant of that fact that little people need to be TRAINED to become bigger people. And how on earth do they learn to behave in public without being out in public???

    I must say, I'm beginning to lose patience with the amount of people who are so rude about children being... um... ANYWHERE. I love the quote about public spaces belonging to EVERYONE.

    It says a lot about our society today when so many people have either a disdain or a disregard for future generations. Selfishness...

  18. Great discussion. BTW, Rixa, your kids are adorable and I think it is great you are exposing them to so many cool experiences. Will you adopt me? As with mothers, I think big-bad Society (I'm in the US) gives a lot of lip service about how much we care about kids, yet we cut public school funding, have little to no parental leave, thousands with no health insurance (hopefully this is slowly changing), market crappy food and junky toys to them, cut library funding, etc etc etc. [I'm sure this point has been made many times in the blog posts and comments that I'm neglecting to read. Sorry!] I think we like the idea of mothers and children more than the reality. We're jerks.

  19. Well, I've yet to experience any kids under age 5 who behave as perfectly as Lisa claims her children behave. At least her rude post initiated a useful reminder that children have every right to share public spaces too, and have the opportunity to learn how to participate in daily activities in society instead of being relegated to their homes and own backyards lest they offend some adult.

  20. I find it so very sad that so many societies are unable to see the damage that this attitude of "children being seen and not heard" actually does.

    People who frequent blogs like Rixa's, who spend a lot of time and energy thinking about birthing, and mothering and how the current system is 'broken' somehow still seem to miss this as a basic tenet of social health.

    In our tribal pasts, children were accepted as evolving adults, and nurtured: Now, with out compartmentalised family units, we find it easy to be vastly intollerent of children, even when we have our own.

    In this area I say look to the more family orientated countries for inspiration - the Spains, Italys and Greeks of this world where children are accepted as children, even in public spaces, and each is cared for by the whole.

    Rixa, personally I say good on you for taking the kids to these places and giving them those experiences - they will stay with them for a longer time than the memory of any tantrums will stay with you!

  21. I'm afraid I too might have fallen into the trap of thinking I had perfected the art of parenting if I'd only had my daughter - an obedient, thoughtful, well behaved girl that everyone compliments me on. My head would be huge, except I was humbled by the birth of my son! There is no such thing as perfect parenting, if you have succeeded well than be quietly thankful that you were blessed with cooperative children that have a need to please. That's why we're given them to train for 18 years - hopefully by that time we'll have guided their values and helped mold their characters. Some take a lot more molding than others!

    I've been told that my son's strong willed alfa male character means he's a handful now, but as an adult he'll be a leader in government, boss of a company....etc. *sigh* We'll see! In the meantime I pray and keep patience, and expose him to opportunities to learn to behave! BTW my kids LOVE museums and libraries... this handful of a boy is thirsty for knowledge. Mother to two, ages 4 and 6.

  22. Isn't there a balance here? The discussion shouldn't be to ban children or allow them to run a muck, should it? Kids should be in public spaces to learn consequences and become respectful members of society. That's where the parents come in.

    I was a very tantrum prone kid. When I started a tantrum in public my mom took me home (or out) immediately and consistently. She remained calm with me and simply said, 'this is not how to behave in public' or 'other people are trying to...fill in the blank.' Guess how many times she had to do that? Not many!

    I learned really quickly that if I wanted to be doing the activity, I had to act a certain way. It taught me respect for others that I maintain as an adult. For example, I don't listen to the radio on public transport, I use headphones. Similarly, kids should know that when they mess something up at a store, someone else has to clean it up, and to respect that person by not doing it.

    Sure, kids are human, but so is that dude on the metro spitting sunflower seeds. That doesn't mean its okay. Excusing all behavior is not what we do for anyone, children included.

  23. What I find ironic is that people get upset when your child misbehaves in public and they get upset/uncomfortable when you reprove them in public. When my husband and I tell my son "no" at church everyone gets really quite and stares. If we let him run free they give those annoyed side glances. It is a no win situation so I figured I should not try to please the people around me per say, but just try to teach my child to behave correctly and age appropriately.

  24. skepticalvegetable: OBVIOUSLY. Parenting is constant. Didn't you see the pictures of Rixa (successfully) calming Dio's tantrum down?

  25. For the record I'm fond of children, but I think some of you are fighting a straw man here. There's a complaint about children's behavior in public, and people instantly start complaining that sometimes kids have tantrums! True, but the majority of bad public behavior I've seen is not from tantrums (which ARE unavoidable, and why kids shouldn't be taken to spaces where quiet is expected. Noisy adults get thrown out of theaters faster than noisy kids), but from children running around restaurants like they're playgrounds while their parents enjoy drinks with their friends. Yes, we all get to use public space and yes, the tipsy loud party of adults at the other table are also annoying. However, the adults aren't endangering themselves or others. I can't count the number of times I've seen kids almost get stepped on or almost gotten their fingers crushed , or the number of people I've seen almost trip because their parents have said nothing while their kids played right in front of a door or knelt down on the floor (I have told kids to move and gotten glared at for it). Yes, kids don't have the same impulse control and don't always understand what is inconsiderate or dangerous, but that's what their parents are supposed to be for!

  26. Sarah Vine: I wasn't commenting specifically on Rixa at all, as you may notice. I was talking about the debate in general as referenced in the post and my perception of said debate. But thanks for the rude reply.

  27. This seems particularly true on planes: it brings out the best and worst in people. I will get glares and complaints from some people from the moment I set foot in an airport whereas others will bend over backwards to be helpful.

    I stress out about my children's behavior on planes more than anywhere else because I've been in a plane with a screaming child - we all have. As a parent, though, it's one of the worst places to be. They are confined, tired, hungry, and bored. Worst. Combination. Ever. I'm always grateful for the white noise on planes.

  28. Hm. There is a balance. We must teach our children respect and proper behavior by taking them in public. And we must also BE respectful of those who are sharing that public space. Our children should never be left to their own devices in a public space. We need to be watchful and mindful of them at all times. That is our job. Perfect behavior? Never. We could never expect such a thing. But we should constantly be teaching and comforting when necessary. I see nothing wrong with how Rixa's children were behaving at the museum. I have no doubt that had her son's tantrum been uncontrollable, she likely would have left. But she could soothe him. All was well. Another lesson learned. Another success. great post:)

  29. I am not a parent, but I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the way so many of my fellow non-parents seem to demand the exclusion of children from public spaces. (I wrote about how it's happening in my area a couple of weeks ago.)

    I hadn't drawn the connection to the demand for violence until you articulated it here, but I think that's right. I had noticed that in my area, some of the demands that parents rein in their children carried a thinly veiled implication that the parents could have had abortions, so since they didn't, they have no right to expect any other adult to be inconvenienced by their kids.

  30. Without first reading all the comments...I'm reminded of Gordon Neufeld (Hold on to Your Kids) saying "we've lost respect for our children". Kids should be an integral part of their parents' lives - not fobbed off on others at every turn (and, no, I'm not referring to two parents working - rather to a non-working friend of mine who gets rid of her kids whenever she can). If kids aren't happy in restaurants, perhaps parents shouldn't go. If they have to be in restaurants, do what you can to make it a pleasant experience for *them* (within reason).

    As a society, we expect kids to be our "ride alongs". While sometimes this is necessary, it's not fair and not respectful to our children as independent, developing human beings.

  31. I have to say that I am someone who is easily disturbed by little annoyances (not just children, but annoying adults too). I tend to avoid public spaces at times when I know they are going to be crowded. It's a part of human nature and it can't be avoided.

    Before I get to the biggest problem I've found, a little background. Right now I am living in Japan. If you've never been to a hot spring here, let me explain about it. It's a public bath. You enter, get undressed, shower, and soak in a large hot tub (completely naked). There are separate rooms for men and women. The children are most often with the women.

    My problem is when I go this, and the children just stand there and stare at me. I'm blonde with green eyes and in every way 'over-weight'. I get stared at a lot being a rare foreigner. It's one thing when I'm fully clothed... I just want to go there an relax without being obviously stared at. We are all curious, and there is nothing wrong with a sideways look that can easily go unnoticed. I felt so uncomfortable that I had to leave...

  32. I will admit that I have joked with my husband about how there should be "child" and "child-free" sections in restaurants so that we have the option of being able to have time together without the screaming (from the kid and the parent) in the background.

    But my issue isn't really with the child at all. I understand completely that a child can easily get upset and that upset usually leads to crying or some other behavior until the parent figures out what is going on. My problem is with the parent who doesn't do anything to figure it out.

    I would have been impressed with Rixa's soothing of Dio in the museum and it wouldn't have bothered me in the least that he was having a tantrum because she handled it like a pro. And I think it's pretty cool that she is exposing her children to museums and such. That's how the children will learn how to behave appropriately.

    My guess is that those annoying people on their cell phones never had parents teach them appropriate public behavior... (joking..mostly)


  33. Rixa - I think its awesome that both sweet kids get to go to the museum and other cultural locations - and even have meltdowns there.
    Here's my attempt to express my thoughts on the issue:

  34. I am not a parent but I do like kids a lot and am training to be a pediatric RN. I have to say I tend to be more shocked by instances of bad parenting than of a child's bad behavior.

    But I wanted to add a perspective of neurological difference: If people have a visual clue that a child is neuro-atypical, for example a child who appears to have Down's Syndrome, (most of us) feel that it is morally wrong to chastise this child or their parent for disruptive or unusual behavior. On the other hand, if a child has typical physical characteristics but is particularly spirited or always has a very difficult time staying still, people are critical of them and their parents without regard for that child's neurological profile.

    Why not think of each child as having a unique cognitive experience, and tailor our communication with them to whatever appear to be their special needs? This is ideally what each parent does for their child, but we should all try to exercise the same empathetic imagination for all children. Of course, boundaries and respect are so important, but in order for the message to get across people need to speak to kids in a way that they can understand, and set realistic expectations.

  35. I always find it hysterical when a parent says to a crying child "Stop crying right now". Can an adult stop crying on a dime? Then they often go on to say "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about". Oh my. LOL. I've never understood that logic.
    2 out of 3 of my children are very spirited. Unpredictable is precisely the way to describe their behaviour. Yes, there have been many times we've changed plans due to potential behaviour problems, but they still happen. The parent who says their child would 'never' have a tantrum in a public place either has a very short memory or engages in parenting strategies, such as bribery, to avoid tantrums. I do see some kids who never make a peep out in public, never move an inch away from where their parent places them, but they tend to have a lack of life in their eyes that I find more disturbing than a child acting like a child in a public place.

  36. What a timely and important topic.

    I'm living in Tajikistan right now, soon to return to the states. One of my absolute favorite things here is that children are an accepted and valued part of everyday life.

    Teenage boys, slightly older children, grandmothers, taxi drivers - everyone I've met has good skills with and "tolerance for" children.

    I will miss that so much. The U.S.'s intolerance for (and sometimes it honestly feels like hatred of) children can get really trying.

  37. Personally, I am more put off by annoying and obnoxious teenagers in public than I am young children. That being said, I tolerate them because I was once an annoying and obnoxious teenager. We all grow out of it. Just as children grow out of tantrums. I used to feel a little embarrased when my son when get fussy in public, now I just do what I can, same as when we are at home. I like that he is a human being with emotions and likes and wants. He doesn't alwasy express them the way I would like him too, but neither do the little old ladies confused in the bank lines. Or the people in a hurry speeding in their SUV's. Or the rude checkout clerks at the supermarket...

  38. I have been somewhat appalled at how little tolerance our society has for children. Since I had my own, the frequent disapproving stares and under-the-breath mutterings have been apparent. You can bet that I do not enjoy it when my kids melt down in public. I probably enjoy it less than anyone, and I do my summary best to avoid it. But it happens. And when it does, I think we need to be as understanding as possible that this is a normal human experience. Children are people, too. They have a right to be in the world just as much as anyone. The only alternative is to spend the rest of our lives as parents shackled to our couches.

  39. I know this is an old post but THANK YOU.
    I've been parenting 'alone' since late summer as my husband is stationed up north and only comes home for a few days each month. I have two wild, healthy, large, bright, loud, and...generally 'unacceptable' boys. It's difficult training them to be in-hand, and even more difficult working through the criticisms which swirl around us. I WANT them to be able to engage 'well' in the public, but it's a journey and they learn it through experience and time.


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