Against my better judgment, I recently stopped at one of those large retail establishments that resemble aircraft hangars with shelves.
While I was there, I was subjected to the kind of experience that usually causes me to avoid those places.
Being the type of golfer who judges the quality of a round as much by the number of balls it takes as by the score, I paused to look at a display of golf balls.
The whole time, there was a brat in the next aisle wailing, crying, and making a huge fuss because his parents (both of whom were present) would not buy him the bicycle he wanted.
They explained (several times) that the one he wanted was too large for him and he would get hurt on it. They offered him other options that were more appropriate for his age, and even offered to take him to another store if he did not find anything there that he liked.
They went round and round on this point many times. I know this because I could hear every word clearly, as could anyone else within about a quarter of a mile.
The commotion was still going on when I fled the area.
A couple of things occurred to me as I endured this nonsense.
First, while my parents may not have won any “parents of the year” awards, they taught my siblings and me how to behave in public. This started at an early age. Youth was not accepted as an excuse for bad manners.
I am absolutely certain that if my siblings or I had ever dared to behave (or rather misbehave) in the fashion described above, not only would it not have resulted in the purchase of a bicycle, it would have resulted in consequences of a much swifter and less pleasant nature, such as receiving the imprint of my father’s size 13 shoe on the seat of my trousers.
The second thing that occurred to me is that the kind of scene described above is the reason I avoid stores whenever possible.
I accept the fact that when one goes out in public, one is subjected to the bad habits of others. What concerns me is that bad behavior seems to get more rampant every year.
I don’t know when parents quit being in charge of their kids, but that seems to be the trend.
My siblings and I (and I believe most of the people we grew up with), were brought up understanding there are things that are acceptable and things that are not when it comes to public behavior.
If our parents met someone they knew and stopped to talk (my nephew refers to these interludes as “momversations”), we were taught to be patient and wait. That didn’t include pulling on their coattails or nagging them to keep moving.
It was not appropriate to interrupt adults when they were talking.
It was understood that when we did talk to adults, we would speak politely and respectfully. Heck, we even said “please” and “thank you” back then.
Had we run through a store screaming, pulling things off of shelves, and throwing them on the floor, I am confident it would not have occurred more than once. We would have been treated to a swift lesson in behavior modification. My folks may not have known what it was called, but they knew how to get the job done.
I know there are still parents who are committed to teaching their children right and wrong, and both modeling and insisting on good behavior.
Unfortunately, an awful lot of parents seem to have relinquished the leadership role.
Instead of being responsible parents and setting boundaries for their children, they adopt the kind of weak policy of appeasement that Chamberlain followed in Munich.
The result is not peace for our time, but rather, a lack of peace, because the consequence is children who act like little monsters. They quickly learn that if they create enough of a fuss, they will get whatever they want.
An autocratic central government may not be good for nations, but it is good for families as long as the parents are running it.
Kids don’t need someone to negotiate with them on every point, they need someone to show them the right path.
In the real world, actions have consequences, and the sooner we learn that, the better.
Some parents ignore their children completely and let them loose to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting public like hordes of very short barbarians.
Somewhere along the line, in the minds of some people, it appears that being a good parent somehow became confused with being mean or unfair.
They try to be pals instead of parents, and this is the most unkind and unfair thing of all.
Failing to teach children about boundaries and consequences when they are young is a huge disservice to them, and to anyone with whom they might come into contact.
Taking responsibility and being a good parent may not make one popular with one’s children while they are growing up, but it will help them to become the kind of people that others don’t just tolerate, but respect, and who will make many friends throughout their lives.
Anyone who is looking for cute little companions that they can bring home and pal around with should consider getting a hamster or a budgerigar, and leave the tough job of raising children to those who are ready for it.
The rest of the world will be grateful, and someday, so will the kids.