Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Should I try harder to tame my unruly children?
My children are not obedient. They’re not ‘bad’ kids, they’re generally caring and affectionate, and not purposefully naughty – but they’re not obedient either. They don’t always listen (or rather they have very selective hearing – “please put your shoes on” they’ll ignore, “would you like a piece of cake” they’ll hear from another room) and they’re very energetic.
Something I hear a lot when I’m out in public with my children is, “you’ve got your hands full dear!”, “Oh yes”, I reply, “never a dull moment!”. It is a very well rehearsed response. I mutter things like “honestly, it is like herding goats!” as I chase my escapee children around the supermarket and on the whole I am met with sympathetic smiles.
But occasionally we run into trouble. A disapproving look here, a ‘tut’ there – I guess it’s par of the course. I’ve got used to brushing it off; I don’t take it personally.
Recently I was involved in a small confrontation. My girls and I were on our way to their swimming lessons, which are held in a gym at our local shopping centre. They love swimming, so they were hopping up and down and squealing with excitement.
I’ll admit they were noisy, but they weren’t being naughty, just acting like kids – which considering their ages; two and three-and-a-half, seems reasonable.
But an older gentleman didn’t like the commotion and asked me to “control my children”. I tried to use humour to deflect the situation, but that made matters worse, his mind was made up – my children were delinquent and I was a terrible mother.
“They’re just children”, I offered, bewildered.
“I was a child once!” he replied, “and I never behaved like that!”.
Later, after a bit of a cry and a large coffee I reflected on his comments again. I don’t know how old he was, or how he was brought up – but I’m guessing he was of the generation that were seen and not heard. My unruly children must have provided a stark contrast. ‘Should I be doing more to control them?’ I wondered. ‘Did he have a point?’
I do not believe in firm discipline and prefer a gentler approach. I encourage the good stuff; distract them when they’re heading towards trouble. But they are a handful, especially when they’re together. They don’t see the disapproving looks or pursed lips – to them navigating the shopping centre is just another big adventure.
It often strikes me that the words we use to describe unruly behaviour in children are seen as positive attributes when we use them to describe adults – ‘assertive’, ‘independent’, ‘determined’. What would you make of a ‘well-behaved’, ‘obedient’ or ‘compliant’ adult? I how I’d prefer my children to turn out.
If my children are being ‘naughty’, if they’re being rude or aggressive then I step in because they are my responsibility and as their mother it is my role to ensure that they learn right from wrong.
But when they’re merely being children?… I’m inclined to leave them too it.