How many times have other people given you “the look” when your child acted out in public? How many of them understood what you were going through as you tried to get your child to behave? I’ve definitely been on the other side of that look, and it’s not fun.
In a recent CNN article called Permissive parents: Curb your brats, LZ Granderson complains about children who act out in public, and parents who seem unable to control them. While some of his points are good ones — there are certain places parents should try to avoid if their acting-out children are with them, like a fine restaurant, for example — I don’t think he gets how difficult it is to be the parent of a defiant child. When you have a kid who consistently acts out, airplane travel isn’t fun, and neither is a simple trip to the grocery store. It’s exhausting, and quite frankly, most people will never see (or truly understand) how much work goes into parenting that child.
I think it’s common to fall into the trap of blaming yourself and feeling guilty when you have an oppositional or defiant child — often, other people are blaming you too, so it’s easy to hop onto the bandwagon. But as Janet Lehman says in her recent EP article, Am I a Bad Parent? How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt, “Perhaps you are being judged by others, but keep reminding yourself that they haven’t walked in your shoes. Even if you’re being blamed, you’re still trying to do your very best. You’re probably not waking up in the morning saying, ‘I think I’ll really mess my kid up today.’ So give yourself a break from blame and guilt, and focus instead on what you can do to change the situation.”
While I agree that some parents seem too permissive, things are not always what they appear to be when we get a snapshot of a parent — or a child — in public. Instead of judging, I think a better response is to have compassion for other parents.
What do you think? Are you doing the best you can and tired of being judged, or do you agree that parents are too permissive of their acting out kids?
Elisabeth Wilkins is the Editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 8-year-old son.