Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Disciplining Other Children

A few months ago, I noted some good lessons attempting to be taught by an adult to some kids at the movies: Politeness
Overheard in the movie theatre the other night

Two 13-yr-old kids running down steps of theatre, one stumbling: "Sh*t!"

Man with wife, passing them on stairs going up to seats, back at the kid: " 'Shoot!' "
Doug relates a recent example of how he took it upon himself to reprimand some kids who were littering and otherwise making nuisances of themselves:
I watched 3 younger boys, 11 or 12ish, tossing an empty 20 ounce beverage container back and forth like a football. They pause and one of the boys rips the label off, tearing it into 3 pieces in the process, and threw them to the ground. I spoke instantly and instinctively. "Gentleman! I need you to pick up this trash and throw it away."
Doug wonders if he should've ignored it, in today's age of hyper- and micro- parenting, but concludes he was correct - and hopes others do the same to his kids if they see them misbehaving.

I totally agree. Last night at the baseball field I observed Tink, with other younger kids, playing at the playground next to where BrainyBoy was tearing up the diamond. I happened to glance over and saw this young boy, maybe 7 or so, throwing gravel in the general direction of my daughter and other youngsters nearby. I hopped off the bleachers, marched straight over to them, and in a no-nonsense, I'm-the-grown-up-and-don't-you-forget-it voice instructed him to "...kindly stop throwing rocks, and don't throw them any more. DO YOU UNDERSTAND???"

(meekly) yes sir..

"Ok, thank you."

My wife informed me when I returned to my seat the boy was also calling names such as "Cheesebutt" but I didn't hear that part at the time. Plus it was actually kind of amusing. So I let it slide. But that's beside the point.

The point is, every parent - every adult, actually - has a responsibility to look out for the kids in our field of vision, to keep the area reasonably clean when possible, and generally do what we can by working together to help keep a general sense of order wherever we are. This shouldn't be something we even think about - if there's a coke bottle on the ground, pick it up and throw it away if you can. If some kid is throwing rocks in a general area where someone might get hurt or a window could be broken - stop them. If some young hooligans are causin' a ruckus (forgive me, I watched the Jubal Myers/Moonshine/Opie's Secret Club episode of "Andy Griffith" last night and it's on my mind) then you should have no qualms in breaking it up and restoring order. You are the adult, they are the child(ren). It is our job to teach, and their job to learn. Of course, all children have rights but they have to respect the way society works and it's up to us to teach them.

Some people might be apprehensive about correcting and instructing other people's children. Now, I don't advocate attempting to convince the 5-yr-old daughter of a college professor to join the Republican party, or admonish a middle-schooler on paying attention to hot stock tips or whether to invest their paper route money in Mutual Funds or IRA's, but it's up to all of us to build and maintain a productive society. And how kids behave in that society is a huge part of the future.

So I say, if a kid is doing something wrong, never hesitate to correct them. Do it wisely, do it fairly and compassionately - don't lash out. Unless the situation calls for quick and decisive action, take care of your tone of voice.

One last thing - if the parent of the child is nearby and either oblivious of the situation, or just unaware anything's going on, it might be a good idea to bring the disruption to their attention first. Let them discipline their own kids in the way they see fit. It's only fair. But if there are subsequent incidents even after the parent has spoken to the child, you may have to remove your children or yourself from the situation. It's a touchy subject but deal with it fairly.

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