Whatever Happened To Watching and Disciplining Your Kids?

The Sh*tty Parents Police was on full patrol at my local mall yesterday, and did I witness a doozy. I was in The Gap, just trying to find a long sleeved white t-shirt, when I saw this boy - no older than 3 or 4 - swinging and whipping around a large leather belt that he apparently had snatched off the wall. His mom, who was probably around 30 years old, remained oblivious as she draped articles of clothing over her second child's baby carriage. As the boy continued to coil the belt around his arm and flag nearby mannequins with it, the most she did to curb his behavior was say "stop it...Lou" in a lame ass voice. When she finally decided to pay for her stuff, the baby in the carriage started wailing at the top of its lungs. The older boy had dropped the belt, but was still meandering around the women's section of clothing on the other side of the store. Customers (including me) and Gap employees glared at the woman and if looks could kill, the whole bunch of them would have spontaneously combusted. I can grant a pass to the poor baby - who probably needed a diaper change and was wondering why his carriage was being draped with mama's new outfit - but it took all of my humanly strength not to blurt out "Watch your f***ing kid!" as I ran out of the store.

I've been wanting to write about the topic of modern society's bratty kids for a long time, but the thought of being pelted with comments from angry parents always stopped me - until now. This latest incident pushed me over the edge. Earlier this summer, I witnessed two others that made my blood boil. The first was when a little girl in Starbucks climbed on top of the glass food case that holds the takeaway food items such as sandwiches and pastries while her father, who was paying for his coffee, ignored her. The second was when I was treated to a boy's peep show at the beach, as his mother allowed him to run around and play in the sand sans clothing (at least the moment briefly inspired me to consider creating a t-shirt that reads, "I should not have to look at your 5 year-old's weenie.")

I just don't get what I like to call The Non-Parenting Epidemic. What makes it so dangerous is that it's being practiced by a society that has a twisted sense of entitlement. These parents are also the most spineless wimps - I firmly believe they'd rather see their kid fall on their head in a supermarket rather than hurt his feelings by telling him that the soda pop display is not a jungle gym. It's the reason why "The Supernanny", Jo Frost (God bless her!), has no shortage of clueless lunkhead parents applying to be on her show. More than once she has heard a mother or father confide in her that they "don't want to be the bad guy" when it comes to disciplining their kid(s).

Isn't parenting about setting limits? It's absolutely baffling to compare the non-parenting of today's kids versus when I was growing up. I NEVER would have been allowed to get away with the things I see kids doing in public. I'm sure that many people from my generation and older remember being reprimanded when we did something wrong. And let's not compare a spank or a slap to child abuse - it's NOT the same thing. I'm talking about being sent to our rooms, being grounded, or having something taken away from us. I have never met a person who experienced any well-deserved discipline as a child who grew up to find themselves curled up in the fetal position in a shrink's office, because mommy and/or daddy hit them. 

What do these idiotic non-parenting parents think will become of their kids when they start school and venture out into the real world? We've already heard reports of Gen Y's sense of entitlement in the workplace; I can just imagine what monsters today's 4 year-olds are going to turn into.

I honestly think that people just don't think about their future when they purposely have a child. How many times have you heard a woman whine, "I want a baby!"? You never hear someone whine, "I want a difficult teenager!" Well guess what, Dumbass? Babies can be cute, but they don't remain babies forever - they grow up! Having a baby is more than just that. Having a baby means eventually having a toddler...who eventually becomes a teen...who will hopefully become an adult with something positive to offer the world. If you're a parent, isn't the goal of having children to leave this world knowing you left behind someone who can make it a better place? Unfortunately the majority of parents just don't think that way - they only think of themselves. 

If I'm a paying customer in a store, restaurant, or other public place (I've seen kids misbehave in hospitals, where they used to be banned as visitors...it might be time to reinstate that rule) I should not have to put up with someone's brat. I worked with someone who said her mother didn't even take her grocery shopping until she understood the rules of behavior in a store. 

I understand that parents are under a lot of pressure today, and even in two-parent homes very often both must work to sustain a household. As a result, they have little time for themselves, let alone their kids. I was extremely lucky in that my mother was able to stay at home and take care of me and my siblings. I realize that this is not the only contributing factor to the Non-Parenting Epidemic, but I do think it's a biggie. One of the overall themes that Jo Frost stresses on Supernanny is routine...kids thrive on having a routine that includes meal time, chores, homework, and playtime with mom and/or dad. Not easy to do in today's overworked world. 

I could go on and on about this subject, so I'm afraid I have to stop for the sake of taking up space. Also, I do know of many awesome parents out there who are definitely going against the norm...you know who you are, so kudos to you! But for the rest of you, in the immortal words of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Teach your children well..." for cripe's sake!


  1. Sing it sister!

    Of course, I am a non-parent and I have chosen not to have kids. Sometimes parents think that makes me a hypocrit, and maybe sometimes it does, but I know enough about parenting to understand exactly what you are saying about boundaries. My mom was the QUEEN of setting boundaries, especially in public places. Sure I acted up, I was a kid, but my mom always put a stop to it.

    I agree about being able to ban people for their kid's bad behavior. I have a story that would take too long, but I had a co-worker who warned a parent that their kid was crawling around an unsafe area and she immediately accused him of questioning her parenting skills and then demanded an apology. I was the shift boss at the time and refused it to her. She came back to see the bigwig manager and basically had her apology refused again. That sense of self-entitlement KILLS me. I wish I knew how to fix it (in adults).

    That being said, I kind of really like teenagers. Much more over babies. If the kid is even halfway developed as a person, I usually relate to them really well. Probably cuz I'm the big horror movie nut who still remembers the pain of teen angst. Teens seem to like me too.

    OK, that's about it! :)

  2. Thanks, Amanda, for your comments. There was a restaurant owner in Chicago who put up a sign in his establishment a few years ago basically saying all children had to be supervised at all times or he had the right to make them leave. It made the news since it got the local parents' panties in a huge wad. I think any business should have the right to enforce this rule because in the long run, regular unruly kids are going to scare away the other patrons and hurt profit.

  3. Found the link...


  4. Man, I have to agree with you on this post! As a mother myself, I am often shocked and disappointed by the lack of parenting I see on a daily basis! WE are responsible for raising them right and when that doesn't happen, well... we've all seen the outcome.

    Perhaps it's just a lack of focus from the parents- all those blackberries, twitters, facebookers and double no foam soy latte drinkers.


  5. Don't forget the number of teens having kids. It's difficult to be a responsible parent when you're not even old enough to vote.

    Sad but true - too many people are having kids.

  6. First off, I couldn't agree with you more about this subject. You are not "the bad guy" if you discipline your children on an as-needed basis--you are being a GOOD parent! As you said, your kids are going to be adults one day and you hope they won't go out into the world without some sense of structure and boundaries. My parents made it very clear to me how I was expected to act in public, at a family friend's house, etc., and believe me, if I didn't there would be consequences! I don't resent them one bit for it, and you can bet that if I ever have children of my own, I'll be employing some of the same strategies.

    That said, I have to admit that your comments about Generation Y ruffled my feathers a bit. As a member of the aforementioned generation myself (I'm 26, for the record), I'm getting tired of the charges that we all have an overblown sense of entitlement and lack work ethic. Personally, I've been working since I was 18. Reason being that when I started college, my parents told me that while they were perfectly willing to pay for textbooks and allow me to stay under their roof while I went to school, if I wanted money for recreational things, I was to earn it myself. So I went out and got a job, and have been working ever since. I worked several part time jobs in college (a personal driver, an ice cream scooper and a bookstore cashier, to name a few), and have worked two full-time jobs since I graduated (one at a movie studio and my current one, at a university fundraising office). At none of these jobs did I feel any task was "beneath" me, and I've always done my job to the best of my ability. No matter how challenging a job might have been, at the end of the day, I felt very proud of myself that I was earning my own money and did not have to rely on my parents. My mom has done very well for herself despite only having a few semesters of college, and my dad immigrated here barely knowing how to speak English and now he's nearing retirement after working as a traffic engineer for 30+ years. Good work ethic runs in my family, and it's a tradition I'm proud to carry on. Not only that, but I just purchased my first home a few months ago. How's that for "entitled"?

    The author of that article you linked said that, "there are a few gems out there, but they’re really hard to find." I couldn't disagree more. Somebody like me is not an exception to the rule. I know several people my age who have similar stories and are perfectly nice, hard-working, productive young adults. There are always some spoiled brats, of course, but to say that "overwhelming majority" of us are like that is biased and unfair. Don't fall into that this-new-generation-is-spoiled trap. There are failures and successes in EVERY generation, including yours, your parents, and your grandparents.

    Furthermore, the only Gen Y's that can afford to be "over-privileged youth" are those that hail from upper middle class or rich families. Look somewhere other than suburbia, places where kids grow up poor and/or in big families and you'll find that they're often taught responsibility from a very young age.

  7. Get out of my head!!!! I could have written EVERY WORD you just did....but not quite as eloquently. (My article would have had a helluva lot more cussing and nasty words because my blood BOILS at lazy incompetent parents and self entitlement!)

  8. Pam...I LOVE you. Must I say more? Loved this entry....it rocked my socks :)

  9. I could barely read the post b/c I was so anxious to comment! As a mother of 2 and preschool teacher for 11 yrs,I couldn't AGREE more with your statements. While I know that there is much positive information out there about many things in child rearing,too many parents rely on their pediatricians and parenting books to raise their children than they do themselves. It's just the lack of effort. How can (most)anyone totally rely on the opinion of a doctor who spends maybe 15 mins w/ your kid either for random sickness or yearly physical? Or a book author/child expert who has never met your kid nor knows what you are actually doing as a parent other than what you are trying to convince yourself that you do?

    I could go on and on and on about this all day long,and all this freakin negotiating is what is turning today's kids into such lazy punks.

    (Please note that the "you" in this post does NOT refer to anyone in particular,but if you do take offense,then think about that.)


  10. Hi Pam,

    My wife Jenn commented above, and was so thrilled with your post that she forwarded it to me.

    I found myself nodding and smiling through most of your well thought out post, but I must say that I was slightly disappointed when I read the second-to-last paragraph. I believe that you had a golden opportunity to really drive it home, and I regret to say that you missed it.

    But all is good! Why? I'll do it for you:
    The problem isn't that parents are overworked, or that they are required to both work to sustain a household. Not in the least.
    The real problem is that many parents refuse to make the personal sacrifice of cutting back on their expenses for the sake of their children's wellbeing. Many households are living well beyond their means, especially in this economy. But it should come as no surprise to anyone, that most of these expenses are self-induced and completely voluntary.

    Jenn and I were hit with the reality stick when we had our second child. Daycare cost was nearly half of my wife's paycheck, coupled with the distance she was commuting - it just didn't calculate to a large enough profit margin for us to justify her continued employement. We could have plugged along and made a few hundred extra per month while SOMEONE ELSE was raising our beloved daughters - but where's the sense in that??!!

    Once we realized what we were doing, we decided to shoulder this personal sacrifice for the sake of our children. We have given up many things just for the ability for my wife to teach them in their extremely impressionable years; dining out, extra cable stations, multiple cell phones - even slimmed down to ONE car for 15 months!

    Parenting is about making sacrifices for the well-being of your children. And nearly 99% of the time, their well-being has everything to do with their soul - not what they are wearing, or how much is in their college fund.

    In the end, the solution is a simple (but drastic) one. Stop the bleeding - cut your costs so you can cut your income. Downsize to a more manageable lifestyle so that you can focus on what matters most - family.

    Thanks for the good read. It really made my wife's (and my!) day.

    -Jeremy M.

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Whew. Where do I begin?

    Rich - very true, but most of the parents I encounter are older than teens.

    Jenn and Jeremy - I'm glad to know I made your day and thank you for adding that appendix onto my thoughts. The reason I did not include it is because it deserves its own post at some point. Living above someone's financial means is another epidemic in this country, and it certainly does not apply to only people who are parents. I commend the both of you for being smart enough to recognize it and make some sacrifices for the well being of your girls.

    I have a 28 year-old niece who was living with and engaged to a guy with a criminal record (but that's another story for another time)...and decided to stop using birth control and not tell him because she had to have a baby (or she thought this would speed up the wedding plans, as there were none being made at this point in time.) You can guess how this turned out...she's now living in my brother's basement with a 2 year-old. During the time she was engaged, she and her fiance took the hundreds of dollars my brother was giving them towards a wedding and blew it all on takeout food, clothing, gadgets, furniture and God knows what else. As this was before the real estate meltdown, they were living in a condo that they obtained with virtually no savings and credit ratings in the toilet.

    Yet, there are still members of my family who feel sorry for her, even though she made these poor choices for herself. So,you can see why I have a humongous bee in my bonnet when it comes to the topic of self-entitlement and living above your means. My brother is as much to blame as he was an enabler.

    Natasha - thanks for your comments. I'm sorry if the references to Gen Y being lazy offended you, but based on my personal experiences (see description of my niece above) and what I hear constantly from friends and other coworkers, I still feel that you are an exception to the rule. My real estate agent has told me plenty of stories of clients in their 20s who have no money saved and poor credit who still manage to obtain a mortgage even in this economic mess, because they HAVE to HAVE a house. I've experienced snippiness in the workplace from 20-something workers who don't want to go out of their way when asked to help out with something that's part of their job's duties. Kudos to you for not being that way and developing a good work ethic from a young age.

  12. @Pam: I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree here then, because I still feel like you're overgeneralizing. I'm sorry that you and your friends have had some bad experiences with people my age, but as the saying goes, don't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. I reiterate that there are folks in EVERY generation who lack work ethic, as well as those who take pride in their work.

    Also, in regards to what your real estate agent has told you--I would argue that that phenomenon is not specific to Gen Y. In fact, I'd say one of the largest contributing factors to this recession were people often much older than myself buying houses, cars, etc. they couldn't afford (because as you know, people my age usually don't have the kind of cash needed to buy a house saved up yet; I only managed because I've been saving for years, bought a very modest house and qualified for an FHA loan) Americans in general are obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses, not just people my age. It's a toxic attitude that eventually ended up biting us all in the butt, and I hope if we learn one thing coming out of this recession, it's to live within our means.

    I really don't mean to get so defensive, but it really bothers me to hear these kinds of things when I personally know so many people my age who are also incredibly hard-working and down to earth. To lump us in with the rotten ones is unfair. Every generation badmouths the new one, and I tire of it. I look at the one coming in after me, and I don't feel that way. True, they will never experience some of the things my generation did, and in some respects they have it easier, but that doesn't mean they're all going to turn out spoiled brats who contribute nothing. I think my generation will do amazing things, and so will the next, and the one after that. The new generation needs encouragement from the old to keep innovating and making the world a better place. Ignore the bad ones, praise the good ones. I'm confident I would be a good parent, and I'm sure many of my friends will be as well. We dislike fellow Gen Y's who make things difficult just as much as you do, and we will be sure not to raise our children to be that way.

  13. Wow, you've really put into words EVERYTHING I've felt on this subject for MANY years! And so eloquently, too!

    Thank you SO much for coming out and saying what the rest of us only wish we could. :)

  14. Wow! I agree with everything you stated. Thanks for speaking up...cause it needs to be said! I wish I could say it to the parents faces though. It's a touchy situation and it is difficult to say anything because parents always have the "Don't tell me how to raise my children" argument.

  15. Thanks, Anthony and SUZY8-TRACK. Believe me, it took all of my strength not to yell out "watch your (bleeping) kid!" or to tell her she needed the Supernanny on the way out the door.

  16. I agree with what you said about this subject. My mom and I were in a store one day and two kids were running around and nearly knocked my mom over. The parents had a pissed off look on their faces when we got upset about this as if it was our fault and we were the ones that got in their kids way.

    My parents always disciplined us. I remember mom washing my mouth out with soap a couple of times when I was a little girl and said some curse words. That might be seen as abuse these days which is ridiculous. Dad did hit us with a belt a few times too.

  17. Murphy, of "Murphys Law" states that wherever I go, there a screaming child shall be.
    I am not for beating a child, but sometimes a good smack on the ass, is definitely called for. If your child does not have a healthy fear of you, then they have absolutely no reason to listen to you when they outsize you. I think kids must be taught that there is a consequence for all their actions, whether it be good or bad. If you pass a threat to your child, be better damn well be willing to carry through with that threat, kids are not entitled to anything but love. The rest must be earned. Kids require time, patience, lots of love, and lots of lots of discipline......Just a little thought from my world.

  18. @Choleesa - I couldn't have said that better myself!

  19. To answer your question:

    Isn't parenting about setting limits?

    and thats all those nanny reality shows do - As a parent answering your question, yeah it is :)


  20. I just found your blog, and I know I'm way behind the times here, but this is one of those issues I see WAY too much in public and couldn't agree with you more. I think you hit it when talking about super nanny's comment that parents "don't want to be the bad guy". No problem for me, with two teenage daughters they, of course, push the limits and I push back. I was never afraid to spank them for behavior above and beyond acceptable (with a hand, they thought that was more than adequate) and I tried to ingrain in them the need to have a strong work ethic and to always strive to improve themselves. Children need routine and boundaries and, while they will test them and you, are better for it as adults. Too many parents today bought into Spock's crazy BS from the '60's and their children will suffer the consequences in the end.

  21. Thanks for your comments, dryheat. It definitely sounds like you have the experience with this topic. The funny thing about virtually all of the kids all Supernanny is that they're craving structure in their day and attention and once they get it, it really seems to calm them down.

  22. That was a nice commentary. I'm a father of 6, and a Deputy Sheriff. I've worked with kids and parents for many many years. Most of those have been in the public school system. More and more time and money are being spent on the growing population of disruptive, selfish children, and less time on the well behaved ones. Somewhere parents lost the skills to be parents. My heart goes out to them. Again, Thanks.

  23. Nice commentary. I'm a father of 6 (their pretty good), and I'm a Deputy Sheriff. I've worked with kids and parents for many years, mostly in the public school system.
    More and more money is being spent on disruptive,selfish children and less and less on the well behaved. It's too bad. Somehow parents have lost or given up the ability/skills to parent. I'm sorry to say folks, I don't see it getting any better. Thanks again.

  24. I know I'm commenting on an older post, but felt complelled after coming to it from a link from a newer post.

    I'm the child of depression-era parents who married in 1950 and raised their children throughout the '50's and into the '80s. I've chosen to raise my children by their principles.

    I'm the father of 5 and have plenty of opportunity at scouting and school events to witness them. It's clear that the majority of parents have absolutely no control over their children and it really does boil down to discipline. Telling your child not and the timeout chair do not always work. At some point, they need a good old smack on the butt to get their attention. Now, I'm not talking about a beating or even the switching father used to receive from his mother, but just a light physical queue when the verbal ones have failed. It gets their attention and lets them know you're serious. And that old adage, "it hurts me more than it hurts you" is true. But if you start this out early enough, you'll find that they start listening to you and you no longer need to do it.

    I can't tell you how many times teachers and principals have pulled me or my wife aside and tell us they wished the other students in their classed behaved like my kids did. The sad thing is, they would if parents would get off their smartphones and begin taking their responsibilities seriously.


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