Other People's Children

Cathy Arnst

I got a comment to my recent post, End Soda Now, that I think could apply to many, many situations: out of control children and the parents who do nothing about them. As EM says:

I completely agree with your point that parents are supposed to be in charge. When I was a child (and this was only the 80s, so it's not very long ago!), my parents simply said 'no' and that was that. Sure, I whined, probably even cried on occasion, but there was the understanding that they were the final arbiters. When I see parents today who profess themselves unable to change their child's poor behavior, I wonder where the responsibility to discipline got written out of the parental contract. I fervently wish that there was some sort of neighborhood watch for bad behavior that would give me the right to go over and scold the kid myself.
Hear Hear!

I'd venture we've all been in situations where a child behaves abominably on a regular basis and the parents seem either helpless, oblivious, or a combination of both. I've been at events twice in the past few weeks where children that my daughter plays with frequently, and whose parents I socialize with, refused to share, were mean to other children, and threw terrible temper tantrums if they didn't get what they wanted (one is 6, the other 7). One of these children is particuarly out-of-control with her parents, who do little to correct her that I can see, but is mostly fine when they are not around (so I know she knows how to behave).

Both of these kids are only children, and both have working parents, but I don't think that signifies much--my daughter is the only child of a single working parent, and believe me, if she displayed even half of these behaviors I'd come down on her like a ton of bricks. Not that she's perfect by any means, but I'm a big believer in saying no and sticking to it. For one thing, I imagine we all have colleagues who clearly didn't hear that word enough growing up, and are now impossible to work with. I hope to spare my child the same fate.

So, what do you do in these situations? It's getting to the point where I'm tempted to end playdates with these children, but I hate to punish my own daughter, and for that matter the other children, because their parents won't step up. I love E.M.'s neighborhood watch idea, but I'm too much a coward to start one. Any suggestions?

In the meantime, if you're having disclipinary issues of your own, I thought this post, 10 discipline mistakes and their alternatives, was very helpful. It's from a medical blog called healthvoices.com that has lots of interesting entries by doctors and others on various health issues.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.