It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It *should* be shocking

“Do you want to go to the park?”

A grandmotherly sort walks toward me on the path by the river, pushing a largish child, four or five years old, in a stroller.

“NO!” The response is loud, abrupt and petulant.

The grandmother stops the stroller, goes to the front so that the can give her granddaughter a stern glare and says, “You do not talk to me like that, young lady. You say, ‘No, thank you, grandma,’ in a friendly voice. Do you understand?”

HA! I wish.

She does nothing of the sort. She is neither shocked nor offended. Being shouted at and disrespected by a five-year-old is an everday, non-exceptional thing, so it seems. In the same mild tone, she offers,

“Would you like to go play at Katie’s house?”

“Naa-oooh.” This time, it’s a sneer. Oh, Grandma is soooo stupid. Such a drag to be ferried about by incompetent help. Poor princess’s life is such a trial.

“Would you like to…” Grandma’s voice fades into the distance, but the child’s response, a loud, indignant “NOOO!” is clearly audible as they move away.

What is wrong with this scenario? Let me count the ways.

It’s a mild annoyance to me that the child is in a stroller. And while yes, I understand that there are five-year-olds who genuinely need a stroller, they are not the norm. Moreover, I have seen this child before, charging around full-tilt for hours in the park. There is no hidden disability here.

More significantly is the litany of choices grandma proffers for the child’s dismissal. This arises from the misapprehension that it’s the adult’s job to entertain, that it’s the adult’s responsibility to prevent the child’s boredom.

Wrong. The only person who can prevent me from being bored is me. Same for the child. I’ll offer a suggestion or two to a bored young child, to help shake them from their rut. One or two. If the child (politely!) refuses one or two helpful suggestions? They are on.their.own.

So that irked me. You are creating a dependent monster here, grandma, the kind who’ll come up whining “I’m boooooored” and then exasperate the snot out of you by refusing to engage in any activity while simultaneously demanding that you DO SOMETHING to alleviate their ennui. It’s a vicious circle, an endless loop. You just don’t want to be there.

So not happening in my house. (You know why? Because it bores me.) Strangely, my children hardly ever suffer from boredom. Imagine.

But the biggest thing that irked me was that this woman didn’t react to the rudeness. She wasn’t shocked. She wasn’t offended. She just took the disrespectful treatment as if it were acceptable. I see this all the time, and every time it shocks me. What are these people thinking? Why would you let someone — anyone — treat you that way? And what are you teaching that child? If you act like it’s acceptable, can the child be blamed for thinking that it is?

You never, ever accept disrespectful treatment from your children. Just, never. They’re tired? They’re hungry? They’re a little under the weather? Then you say, “I know you’re tired/hungry/feeling sick, but you may not be rude. Use a friendly voice, please, and your good manners.” And then you put them to bed/feed them/tend to their ills. But you do not, under any circumstances, let them treat you like sh*t.

How would that grandmother feel if, years into the future, her granddaughter’s husband shouted at her like that?


If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and we need to deal with it right from the very start.

February 29, 2012 Posted by | aggression, manners, parenting | | 8 Comments