THE “I’M DOING IT” CONVERSATION

Croatia and Wales 150

Our teen

We have a pretty good teen on the whole. He walks the dogs on his own, pops to the shop for me when I’ve forgotten something for tea, lays the table and is very concerned about politics and the environment. But he is 13.

This morning I was sitting in bed reading another blog about parenting and laughed out loud. My other half wandered out of the bathroom and asked why.

“I’m reading a post on Facebook about a teen who never answers his mother when called and then swears blind that he did,” I said. He smiled and said, “Well our version is the ‘I’m doing it conversation’.”

Let me enlighten you…

Several times a day, I’ll call up the stairs and ask our teen, who spends most of his time in his bedroom, to do something.

Me: “Can you get in the shower please.”

Teen: “OK Mum.”

Five minutes later not having heard any movement I’ll climb the stairs to his room, suspecting that he’s engrossed on his phone or reading a book and not doing what I asked.

I open the door to find him lying on the sofa.

Me: “Why haven’t you got in the shower?”

Teen: “I’m doing it!” in an aggrieved tone.

Me, through gritted teeth: “No you’re not, you’re lying on the sofa looking at YouTube/reading your book.”

Teen: “Well, I’m doing it now!” picking up his phone/book and retreating again.

Me, in a stressed tone: “Come on, give me your phone/put the book down and go do it.”

Teen with his best flounce and putting down the offending article: “OK”

Objective achieved I retreat to the kitchen, grumbling under my breath. I wouldn’t mind so much if this was an occasional occurrence but this conversation plays on a loop all week and then when we get to Monday morning, oh joy, it starts all over again.

It isn’t only mine I know, teens all over the world do this as part of the letting go process. But it would be nice if, for once, the teen did things the first time of asking; there would be less stress all round.

Whenever I see parents with small children, I come over all nostalgic and think “You don’t know how easy you have it!”

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Manners: They are how people judge you (and your children)

Scrolling through Facebook recently, a blog post caught my attention because it was about parenting and naturally it’s a topic I’m interested in. As I read this post, I found myself becoming increasingly annoyed by the arrogance of it’s writer. In summary, it was a mother complaining about a restaurant who advertised itself as “kid-friendly” and then had “the cheek” to complain when her kids were behaving “like kids”. If only.

Now I don’t mind a bit of squabbling, chatting or joking, as long as it doesn’t descend into violence, I certainly don’t subscribe to the “children should be seen and not heard” school of thought, but hers were riding their scooter up and down the restaurant, fighting and running around and their mother didn’t try and stop them. In other words they were misbehaving and annoying the waiting staff and other customers.

But the fact that her children were being obnoxious didn’t seem to have occurred to this blogger. Not. One. Iota. She showed no remorse for her offspring’s behaviour at all. No, she was annoyed that the staff were complaining about her and her children as she was leaving. Good for them I thought.

I see more and more parents like this these days. Whose standard excuse for their, as I see it lazy parenting, is “kids will be kids”, “they’re only letting off steam”. If you try and intervene as their little darling barges past and spills hot coffee over you, they upbraid you for daring to protest at their kid’s behaviour, even if you’re being polite and reasonable.

Eventually some of these parents will get annoyed by their kids misbehaving and then they will erupt in anger, going completely over the top, when if they’d nipped their kid’s behaviour in the bud early, this would’ve been completely unnecessary. The rest of them, this blogger included, believe that their kids are entitled to behave this way for the simple reason that they are kids and f**k what anyone else thinks.

Well I’ve got news for you. What you don’t seem to ┬árealise is that the rest of the world, me included, is judging you. We can’t help it because it’s part of human nature. Think about your sub-conscious behaviour when you first meet someone and you will realise the truth of what I am saying. Before they have even opened their mouths, you will have judged a stranger’s social group, how clever you think they are and if they are “your kind of person”, solely on how they look: their dress, hairstyle, make-up (if a woman) and whether they have a tattoo or piercings etc, etc. Once they speak, you will usually have your opinion confirmed. Their accent and the type of vocabulary they use will reinforce what you think about them and this first impression is the one that counts and tends to stay with you, even if you find out you’re wrong further down the line.

Well, people also judge your parenting in the first few minutes of encountering you too. They have sussed out in no time whether it’s you who are in charge or your children who rule the roost. And people usually pick up on what they see are the negative points, like when you can’t keep the kids under control, compliments are few are far between and always a delight to receive.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that this parenting lark is easy; no, it’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is no how-to book, you learn by doing it and especially from your mistakes. I have two boys, whose standard volume is 11/10 and who love to wrestle and wind one another up; they are far from angels. But, I have always, from the time my boys were babies, had consideration for the effect their behaviour has on other people and I have instinctively felt that people were judging me on my parenting too.

If this blogger had tried to control her kids then my attitude would’ve been different, certainly more sympathetic, because there have been many times when mine have been acting up and I’ve heard the tuts and felt the disapproving stares as I’ve wrestled to control them. It was the fact that she excused their behaviour with “they’re only kids” that annoyed me. With an attitude like that what chance do the rest of us stand against those who think children should be banished from public places altogether?

We have been going out to eat as family since the boys were babies and right from the start we have considered the other diners. Many is the meal we’ve had when one of us ate and the other one walked the baby up and down because it was grizzling; even going outside to calm it down if it’d really kicked off, and then swapping over, so the other parent and the other diners could eat in peace.

When they were toddlers, we would bring a bag of stuff to do to keep them occupied while we were waiting for our food. It usually worked well. Any squabbling was quickly and firmly dealt with and most importantly we would tell them why. Something along the lines of, “there are other people in this restaurant who don’t want to hear you screaming/smacking your brother/ whacking your spoon on the table repeatedly. Why don’t you think about them?” And usually it was enough to get them to be quiet. If you take the trouble to explain your actions to children, they understand – even the little ones.

We have even carried out our threat to leave if they carried on misbehaving. It may sound a bit drastic but if you’re going to make a threat like that, you better be sure you’re going to carry it out, or you will never have any authority over your children ever again. Even a two-year-old can play a parent expertly if they know you will go back on your word continuously.

Parenting is hard, really hard and there have been lots of times I haven’t got it right but one thing I try never to do is give in. Once you let them keep winning, you have made a rod for your own back and it will become harder and harder to regain control. I have witnessed this first hand.

It was the total lack of courtesy that I found so irritating about this blogger, for what she was in effect saying was, “I don’t care that I disrupted your dinner and I’m not even going to attempt to teach my children any manners. My children are entitled to behave like that because they are children and their actions are normal.” Well in my opinion, her attitude was selfish and arrogant.

Sadly, what she doesn’t seem to realise either is that in a few years her children will be teenagers and their lack of manners will have turned them into rude and aggressive people, the kind of kids that there are far too many of at secondary school. The ones who believe they are entitled to behave however they like and how dare the teacher tell them off for acting the class clown, being rude or bullying other kids and so on. They are the bane of the teachers’ lives and disliked by those kids who do want to learn ┬ábut can’t because of their disruptive behaviour.

Time and time again, these parents fail to connect the dots between their poor parenting and how their children behave. “Oh, we’re going through the teenage years, all of them are like that”, they tell themselves. Er no, I know some really pleasant teenagers and I’m not talking about my own boys. They are courteous and polite and can hold a conversation with you. Yes, they have their off days, (with one who is nearly 13 we know that to our cost) but on the whole they are a reflection of their parent’s parenting.

So the next time you go out to eat and let your kids play hide and seek in the restaurant, smack their brother’s head repeatedly with a fork and ignore them when they swear continually to the waitress, know that I will come and yank that mobile phone that you can’t stop looking at out of your hand and ask you politely to control your kids.

I guess you’ll probably judge me as an interfering busy-body as I judge you for being a lazy parent but in reality what does that matter? We’ll never be friends, will we? And the next time your kids start misbehaving, if instead of ignoring them, you remember what I said and finally realise that your kids are not the little angels that you so misguidedly think they are, maybe just maybe you’ll start to parent them properly before it’s too late.