Let’s be honest. Even the best-behaved child has had some kind of thermal nuclear meltdown in public. And, many parents know the shame and embarrassment they feel as those in the vicinity look on disapprovingly.
But tantrums and bad behavior are expected in a 2-year old. They are a horrifying spectacle to witness in an older child and apparently pediatricians and the public are seeing more and more aggressive and disrespectful behavior in public.
Dr. Leonard Sax has observed this in his own practice. He describes a scene he witnessed in his own practice in an article in the The Wall Street Journal:
“Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, ‘How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?’ Mom said, ‘I’m thinking it’s been about two days.’ Then Kyle replied, ‘Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old.”
There have been many contributing factors to this shift in behaviour. Despite all of the positives, the internet also brought a culture where people, especially children seek to be instantly gratified. No-one has to wait for anything anymore, and for a child’s brain living in this kind of environment growing up it can be especially damaging.
Dr Sax writes:
“I have been a physician for 29 years. This sort of language and behavior from a 10-year-old was very rare in the 1980s and 1990s. It would have been unusual a decade ago. It is common today. America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like ‘I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.’”
Dr. Sax has found though that there are children out there who have manners and are respectful of others and he recommends a few parenting tactics that seem to work:
His recommendations for doing so are summarized in the following three points:
Put the well-being of the family first.
“Prioritize the family. The family meal at home is more important than piling on after-school extracurricular activities. Instead of boosting self-esteem, teach humility.”
“No screens when you are with your child. Put your cellphone away. No electronic devices at the dinner table. Teach the art of face-to-face conversation.”
Draw a line in the sand, and then stand your ground.
“If you’re going to make a change, don’t be subtle. New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to sit down with your children and explain that there are going to be some changes in this household: changes in how we talk, in how we behave, in how we treat one another.”
I’m betting that every single one of us has witnessed this disturbing behavior in a child so clearly, the parenting approach that we’ve been using hasn’t been working. Rather than trying to be a friend to your child, maybe it’s time to teach more respect for others and raise children to understand the importance of kindness.
Here’s a short interview with Dr. Sax on CBS This Morning that you might find interesting: