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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Let the little children come...
A few weeks ago I ranted on my blog about the trend to ban children from restaurants, beaches, and other public places. Apparently they are a nuisance and certain demographics just don't want to deal with them. As the "me generation" retires and more and more young people are choosing not to have kids, they are asking not to have to deal with other people's kids. I personally have serious issues with such an individualistic and selfish approach to life (and see it as a symptom of the breakdown of community and neighborliness). Then today Karen sent me a link to this news article. Apparently a mother traveling with her toddler were kicked off of a plane. No, the toddler wasn't crying or throwing a fit, he was saying bye-bye to the plane and that annoyed the flight attendant. In fact she told the mother that she should have given her child Benadryl to shut him up. The mother rightly replied that, "'Well, I'm not going to drug my child so you have a pleasant flight." They were then kicked off the plane.

Stories like this really annoy me, but we are seeing more and more of this trend in our society. Both intolerance for children and the pressure to drug children into compliance. Be it Benadryl to get them to sleep or Ritalin in schools, drugs have become the first option for many. (and I completely admit that there are times when both of those drugs are needed and necessary). I've had parents tell me that they want to drug their bubbly extroverted daughter so she would act more like her shy introverted older sister (and the doctors complied). I've heard parents complain about the pressure they get from the schools to drug their children so that they don't have as much energy in the classroom. And apparently the presence of babies and toddlers who aren't drugged isn't tolerated on airplanes. Basically we are under pressure to drug away childhood and a person's natural personality.

I know this topic has arisen here before, but I'm interested in your thoughts and experiences. Is our society becoming more intolerant of children? Are we trying to drug away normal behavior and personality for the sake of convenience?

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posted by Julie at 5:25 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 7/12/2007 07:18:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Julie, I think you are right on, unfortunately. I think there are 2 megathemes happening simultaneously which may be mutually reinforcing. 1 is the dynamic you mentioned of a growing segment of the adult population who want to compartmentalize and avoid what they perceive to be the "annoyances" of being around children. [I would even add that our elders at the other end of the life continuum are being shut away in care facilities so that they don't "inconvenience" us whipper snappers.] The other is the ever increasing compartmentalization of life in general, particularly when it comes to children's lives, ie you can only have fun during the following block of scheduled time when we will drive to the playground. Also, the growth of these megafunplexes or whatever they're called where smaller kids have birthday parties that proceed like this: Parents and kids arrive at the designated "party room" which is one of 7-10 other birthday parties scheduled for the day. Present and card are dropped off in a big bin that looks like a big trash dumpster. Kids are made to sit down at a table and eat pizza and drink juice boxes, while the parents awkwardly mingle and try to impress each other. Cake is brought to the birthday "victim" and distributed. Then, as soon as each child finishes cake, off they scatter to individually roam around the fun center, parents in tow, and several hours later are tracked down so they can thank the host family and wish the birthday child happy birthday and goodbye. Call us old fashioned, but the last few birthday parties for our 5 year-old were outside in our yard with a pinata, cake, some spoon and egg races, and some food and drink. Not to mention tarp rides with dads pulling the tarp. And the kids didn't seem to think they were slumming one bit. Imagine that!

    So, the point is, culturally speaking we should appreciate the benefits of breaking down our isolation and compartmentalization and live community-oriented lives, with people of all ages.

  • At 7/12/2007 08:53:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

    Ha Julie -
    Two of my kids have opposite reactions to Benadryl.My son - who needed the Benadryl for a severe case of hives -was hyper and bouncing off walls ALL NIGHT in a hotel. I'd like to have seen the attendant when a child like this starts bouncing off the wall on a plane. This did in fact happen to a friend of mine, who upon the advice of a doctor gave her child Benadryl on a flight home from Germany. She bounced off walls, screamed and cried all the way home. I don't think Linda ever tried "drugging" her kids again.....

  • At 7/12/2007 09:22:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I have been lucky: the eating places my family and frequent are ethnic, family-owned and family friendly places where people know our kids by name and seem to really like when our family comes. In general, when I'm out and about with my kids at the bookstore or Trader Joes, people are friendly and helpful and seem to appreciate my kids, although they continue to confuse their genders :)

    I have only had one or two experiences where I felt unwelcome because of my kids being kids. On other other hand, I recognize that if my kids are persistently being loud or fussy or crying in an environment that was clearly designed to have a quiet ambiance, it's appropriate to take them for a walk or take them home.

    I myself feel very irritated when I've paid for a babysitter either to give me an hour of peace or to go on a date with my husband and someone else's child is persistently being really loud, throwing toys and/or crying.

    So there's got to be a balance and a sensitivity to others -- both others with children and those without them (whether permanently or for an hour.)

    I also know many people who don't have kids who LOVE playing with their nieces and nephews.

    Additionally, I think as a society we are so afraid of upsetting people, so it's easier to just make a rule of "no children" then to communicate expected behavior of children in a predominantly adult environment such as a nice restaruant, and then speak to parents if they are not taking responsibility for helping their children stay within those limits or else go somewhere else.

    Now saying kids can't play at the beach is just plain ridiculous, as is kicking a woman off an airplane for not drugging her kid. That's scary.

    So yeah, Julie, I hear what you are saying. I think it's true there is a growing sense of entitlement to not be bothered by other human beings when we don't want to, and I agree it's a breakdown of a sense of community, common destiny and neighborliness. I also think it's a problem with a workaholic society. People who such little down time that they don't want to feel infringed on in their little tiny corner of time to relax. What if their were plenty of time to play with kids (your or other peoples) AND peacefully relax with a cup of coffee or in a quiet place outside?

    In terms of medicating away kids' personalities, yes, I think that's a problem. I also think that having the world revolve around a child is different from respecting the child and also instilling in them a sense that they are a valued part of the family and giving them the gift of high (yet gracious) expectations, and teaching them how to manage their impulses and emotions responsibly, in age-appropriate ways. For example, if a kid is bouncing off the walls, maybe she needs to play an active game and then a calming one that shows her how to watch the rhythm of her breath until she finds her center. Or if she's talking back and being mean to her brother, maybe she needs some quiet time by herself to decompress from an overstimulating day and find her loving self again.

  • At 7/13/2007 03:10:00 AM, Anonymous lyn

    It's like going back to the Victorian era (mid 1800's +) in the way they used to say "children shoulld be seen, but not heard." We live in a society which has gone to far beyond PC, also I think there are many more in the 20's - 40's age group who are simply not choosing to have children. I was talking to a friend yesterday about how all of the wedding invites these days are for the adults, and children are not invited. Children should just be allowed to be children, these days they are taught to grow up so quick, which I think is sad. Let's face it, we have so much stress as an adult, so let children be children - they don't need pressure any earlier than needed!

    I love my kids to bits, they are part of me, and part of my family. If they are not welcome places, then quite frankly I don't want to go to them then. I'd rather go somewhere where they are accepted and appreciate for who they are. I think the mother and toddler got thrown off the plane really needlessly, the flight attendant shouldn't have even been able to do that, they were not a disturbance, it was simply a toddler being a toddler - full of life.

  • At 7/13/2007 06:48:00 AM, Anonymous lisa

    Sometimes when I see children who are "falling apart" in public places I get the distinct feeling that it's because the parents are not being reasonable. Seems like they are expecting a child to be good for too many errands in a row, or feeding kids candy to keep them happy and now the child is crashing down from the sugar high, desperately in need of some good food and a nap. We move too fast in the west, want to accomplish too much in every day, feel the need to rush, rush, rush in order to do something or other. And tired, over-extended parents tire out and over-extend their kids. I feel sad about it.

    Because I have lived in six different countries, I've had the chance to observe different ways children are treated. There are strengths and weaknesses everywhere. One thing I really enjoyed, though, in southern Europe was the way kids are welcome at nice restaurants. I remember going to a lovely place in Portugal with my husband on a late summer night for our anniversary. Our youngest was 8 mos old and I would have liked to have brought her along to sleep in her carrier near us, but I was assuming they would not want babies at such a nice place because I had my U.S. ideas in my mind. So she stayed with our friends and the other kids and I was so shocked to find that lots of toddlers and babies were at the restaurant, even late into the night. No one minded! It was expected that families would spend that time together because all women work outside the home there in order to make ends meet. Grandparents have kids during the day and if kids couldn't spend the evening with their folks, they wouldn't see them.

    So even though moms just about always worked outside the home, the society had grace for family time, even in nice restaurants.

    I liked that.

  • At 7/13/2007 07:44:00 AM, Anonymous agma

    Re: childless weddings-
    Many couples make this choice for the reception simply as a cost-cutting measure. Caterers often charge full price per guest regardless of age, and when faced with the pressure to invite Mom's second cousin and Dad's work friends, plus the people the couple actually *want* to invite... you might disagree with the choice, but I know many couples have said "adults only" for reasons of economics. (Overblown weddings are another topic!)

    Re: premature medication
    I grew up with cousins who have severe ADHD back in the days when you still had to explain what those letters mean, so I know the difference meds can make. Mostly these days I tell parents not to be in any rush to medicate their kids; maybe they'll sort themselves out. Not that I'm a doctor. This week I'm helping at a VBS, and it never fails to amaze me how some kids stand out as being so markedly different upon the first meeting. I watch "J" & wonder if he'll make it through kindergarten before they're evaluating him for ADHD, b/c, um, wow, this is not just a busy kid. There's something weird going on there. Then there is "S" who has been different from the other kids, but different is allowed, y'know? Until he apparently has a 5 second seizure during a game. I can't help but wonder, in the kind of world we're talking about, what's in store for these kids? And how are people going to judge their mothers? I spoke with S's mother, and her reaction was exactly what one would hope, but I couldn't help but feel if things develop a certain way, people are going to judge her terribly and it's not her fault!

    One of the things I love about my church is that the kids know how much they are loved and welcomed. My 3rd week preaching there, one of the boys rushed in after worship with his 4-H bug collection. His bug collection. Luckily I've seen those before, so a 6" moth didn't scare me. But there was no doubt in his mind that his pastor was just as interested in this as he was, and that she would definitely want to see these dead mounted insects right after worship. When you grow up with that kind of love and security, what kind of difference does it make in your life? As opposed to the message of "not wanted here?" What kind of person do you become?

  • At 7/13/2007 09:24:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    What I see as the huge issue here is expecting kids to be something other than kids. That if they don't act like adults then they are not welcome (or if they don't act like one particular type of kid then they need drugs).

    People are okay with "well behaved" kids - meaning kids who don't give any impression of being different from adults expect for their size. Granted such kids are probably being bribed with candy or a new toy or under the threat of a spanking, but apparently such manipulation is okay as long as the kids end up not annoying anyone...

  • At 7/13/2007 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Lisa, I really appreciate your comments. And I agree. I think there's a difference between kids being enthusiastic and out of control, and kids who are out of control are often over-extended and in desperate need of, as you said, healthy food, and some quiet time or a nap, or a chance to play to be loud and silly in a healthy context, or maybe a chance to cry and get it all out and then find their center.

    What was it like in S. Europe when the babies and toddlers were in the nice restaraunt? My guess is that they weren't screaming and throwing food for most of the meal...

    In Nepal, for example (where my husband spent significant time,) in the hills, children are expected to take care of younger siblings, cook, carry wood etc at very young ages, and yet they are very happy and affectionate and welcome. They are expected to be positive contributers to the community, according to their ability (but with a much higher estimation of this than in the U.S. and they feel a sense of connection with the community. Parents and children and grandparents are all working together.

    I have noticed with my daughter that the more I give her responsibilities of which she can feel genuinely proud, the more she grows into them, and this leaves more energy for play, and helps us collaborate and find ways to work together when something has to get done.

    It takes practice and skill and is an ongoing process to know your child and what his/her abilities and limits are and when to raise the bar and when to offer understanding, acceptance and grace.

    There is no one-size fits all here; it's a process of learning to live well with our children and other people's and to conceive of ourselves and our families as part of a community, since this is countercultural.

    Julie, perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but I don't think all kids who are well-behaved in public are either under threat of spanking or have been bribed with candy or a toy. There are other ways of teaching kids to express their needs "in a kind strong voice" and to increasingly learn control and channel their impulses constructively.

  • At 7/13/2007 09:05:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Oh, I know that there are other ways of getting children to act like we want them to. I think I'm just frustrated by the assumptions of strangers (who feel free to give their opinions) that if my child is misbehaving I should be spanking or bribing them. Often they take the initiative to just go ahead and offer a bribe to my child.

  • At 7/14/2007 01:18:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yikes! Seriously? Julie, that sucks. My mother in law once suggested I preemptively give my daughter benedryl when we were on vacation together and Nika had been up (and upset) the previous night with itchiness from eczema, and I was furious that she made that presumption, (although I think her generation maybe wasn't culturally as skeptical of pill-popping for symptoms,) but I cannot imagine if a stranger co-opted/sabotaged my parenting by either making suggestions that I spank my child into compliance or bribe them to shut them up. That's not appropriate, and says more about the adults low-tolerance and presumption than about the child who is acting however they are acting. I'm sorry you've been having that experience.

    Maybe other people have thought that about me and my parenting, but they certainly haven't said it in public places. I guess even if I get "a look" I figure, I know my kid better than they do, and yes it's challenging to not feel pressure to feel embarrassed or "do something about the situation" even if it means compromising the child, but I just try to remind myself that my job is to know my kid and she she/he needs limits and when he/she needs understanding and acceptance, because of course the other person has no way of knowing that!

    I think some of the "looks" or un-called for judgmental or assumptive comments have to do with people's own discomfort with strong feelings. This is understandable; we as a culture shy away from expressing strong feelings AND commitment to working things out, so we just avoid being real.

    We can model the example by working to accept our own and our children's strong feelings (whether in public or private) and using our own discernment to know how to best help children cope with those strong feelings and live well with others.

  • At 7/14/2007 09:33:00 PM, Blogger Tammi

    I understand why public places do such things. I blame the parents totally. As a parent, it is my job to train and show by example what is acceptable and what is not.
    Now my girls are teens and when they see"Bad" kids they say "If my mom was their mom, or that is a bad kid."

    I never let my kids pitch a fit in a public place. And adults these days act like children. Having temper tantrums in public all the time. No wonder kids are ascting bad!

    It is time for people to grow up and raise mature, responsible men and women.

    If I knew my child would not be quiet in a public place, that child would not come with me, simple as that.

    It is not our job to hinder people, to cause unrest in a place where people want to sit down and eat with good conversation.
    But, if people's kids are screaming, throwing food or the paretns are as ill mannered as the kids, I will speak up.

    Consideration people is all that is needed.
    And why is it okay to take children to a R-rated movie because the parents can afford a babysitter? or bring a colic baby into a resturant?

    I knew my kids would see candy at the register, I did not bring my kids shopping with me.
    I prevented a lot of headaches.
    Wisdom is needed in parenting.

  • At 7/14/2007 11:23:00 PM, Blogger Rebecca Davis Winters

    Ah, the drugs aren't just for kids. If you are a shy adult, there is a drug to fix that. Can't have that. Everyone's gotta be outgoing. And if you're overwhelmed by media glut, why you must have adult ADD or ADHD - try some drugs! Depressed? Had a trauma in life? Try an antidepressant to help get you through.

  • At 7/17/2007 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Tiffany

    I am childless by choice but a very committed Auntie and I have to admit that I can get frustrated by the behavior of children in public places at times, but ultimately my frustrations lie with the parents. I was a nanny for many years, and I was shocked by the number of parents who seemed to forget that they were the adult in the relationship and actually had the right and responsibility to guide their child's behavior. I get annoyed with small children who make noise in late, rated R or even PG-13 movies - why? Because they shouldn't be there. And on the childless weddings, I think a couple has every right to decide that they want a childless wedding - I wouldn't want a screaming child forever memorialized on my wedding video. Part of community is the aforementioned consideration and the putting of ourselves in someone else's shoes, including the shoes of the child. Not only is it unfair to expect them to be well behaved in many of these situations, it's developmentally inappropriate.

  • At 7/18/2007 12:08:00 AM, Blogger Candace

    It is unfortunate that non-parents, parents with grown children, and many businesses treat our children as objects and possessions to be managed, drugged, obedient (like the family Schnauzer). When was it decided that children aren’t people? Yes, there are definitely children whose misbehavior is disruptive to the quiet enjoyment of others – but isn’t it the same as the overbearing, overly-friendly 50-something lady who sits next to you on the airplane…and the woman talking to her girlfriend on her cell phone at the table behind you in the restaurant…and the man using explicit language in line at the grocery store…and the couple sitting behind you who talk incessantly throughout the movie? Why don’t we encourage them to jump on the drug bandwagon…is it because that would be an inappropriate recommendation for the “crime?”

  • At 11/05/2007 03:59:00 AM, Blogger Patrick

    As a parent of 2 + stepchild, I have to say I really get ticked off whenever, I read hear about people, especially parents who have "angels" making snap judgments about another's parenting ability.

    Here are some things for the righteous think about:

    * That person might be a single parent - not everyone has a loving and supportive spouse.

    * There might be a nasty divorce in progress, and the kids are acting out as a consequence.

    * The dad or mom (sister, brother, etc) might have recently died

    * The kids might have been kept up all night by the next-door neighbors fighting.

    * They just got back from a trip and the kids are severely jetlagged - from having to deal with inconsiderate stewardesses.

    * The kid is autistic.

    * The kid was sexually abused (and not by the parent!) and is dealing with the trauma the only way they know how.

    * They might have just been evicted and are now living in a homeless shelter.

    * The parent might have just found out they have cancer and no medical insurance.

    So next time you have an opinion, please just stuff it! Your attitude is the last thing that is needed.

    You don't know the full story.


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