Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blame the parents?

I read with interest an article 'Are you a raising a selfish child?' by Ruth Liew  (ChildWise,14/7/2010). She referred to an incident where a mother brought her child to a talk/meeting (intended for an adult audience) and the child was making a fuss. Despite the ruckus, the adult "remained in the audience because she felt she had every right to be there". A familiar scenario? Yup, we've all at one time or another encountered such a scene. More often than not, we stalk off feeling disgusted at such an "insensitive" adult and a "spoilt" child. However, in this incident, I wonder if that is really the case?

Let me be clear - I believe children need boundaries. If they don't learn boundaries as children, they will never understand boundaries as adults. In this particular incident, I was just curious why the onus is on the adults/parents to find out if the organizers can accommodate children in such an event? If the event is an adults only talk/meeting, obviously, the organizers must make that clear and refuse participants who bring children. If they admit them, then be prepared to escort them out if the children are disturbing the session. If the organizers put up with the ruckus, don't blame the parent or the child. Technically, the parent paid good money to attend the talk, she had every right to be there.  If the organisers do not learn how to set boundaries and then blame the 'guilty' participant for breaching boundaries, I felt that to be a little unfair. One can argue about common sense, but I'm sorry, common sense is not as common as we'd like to believe. Common sense would dictate that since the organisers are not lifting a finger to address the disturbance, as an audience we have a right to listen to a talk in peace and yet, no one in that audience asserted their rights by telling that parent off. They were not setting boundaries. So they gave up their rights and stormed off the talk/meeting feeling totally upset and angry at the parent and the child which I see as totally misplaced emotions.
I may be irritated by the child's ruckus but if i don't do anything about it, I should never blame the parent or worse, the child. Setting boundaries do not start with children. It starts with the adults. And adults need to be educated about boundaries and how to set them.

We are a society that is quick to parcel out blame - that parents are too lenient or too strict with their children; that they have no consideration for others, etc. For parents who have issues setting boundaries, my one question is what are their role models? This to me is becoming a concern because in the light of the CRC (The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the concept of child friendly spaces, adults, parents, teachers and caregivers are now told to not scold the child and to spare the rod. Well and good. I believe that too. However, I also believe that in sparing the rod without an alternative plan is totally irresponsible. Too often I  hear some NGO ranting about CRC but do not provide alternatives to work with children. Some of the caregivers I know work with children who do not have boundaries.
Can you imagine the 'mosters' they become? I say 'monsters' with affection as I've had the opportunity to work with some of them. Great kids; just no sense of boundaries. I wouldn't call them selfish just because they had no consideration for others. Unaware perhaps, but that is not their fault. Take away the discipline and boundaries that they know i.e spare the rod, they all have a field day and run riot. New boundaries need to be in place so that they can behave safely. So again, setting boundaries do not start with children, it starts with adults who need to understand the need for boundaries but above that, the knowledge on how to set appropriate boundaries. Yes, unfortunately love is simply not enough! To strike the balance between being lenient and being strict requires an understanding of how boundaries work and an understanding of how children respond to boundaries. So who provides the role models and the education?

Some 'modern' parents have access to books/internet that teach them how to set boundaries without the cane; others learn about setting boundaries from their parents or grandparents and hence may have a cane or two in their handbag. Who is right and who is wrong? Taking sides would churn out endless debates.
The point is until that parent understand that the organizer will not put up with a crying child in the audience; that the restaurant manager will not put up with a child out of control, and that the bookshop manager will not put up with a screaming child, boundaries of us common folks will always be breached. It is not enough to say that boundaries need to be in place, how they need to be put in place is more important. Besides, we bystanders too have a role to play to reinforce boundaries. If we negate that role, please...don't point fingers.

By the way, who was the actor who stopped in the middle of his play to tell off an audience member for talking too loudly and then continue? The audience applauded.

1. image child cc photo by RachelH
2. image screaming face cc photo by Walt Jabsco
3. screaming man cc photo by shadow giant
4. pointing hand cc photo by sarah G