I’ve been thinking about this for around a week now and it really is something I feel strongly about. It came up initially because of an encounter I had when I was at the Supermarket with my two children, who have recently turned 4 and 2.
We were walking from the carpark to get a trolley and had formed a mini chain, with my 2 year old holding my hand and his sister holding his other hand. They were walking nicely and this is something we have recently mastered and I must admit that I do take pride in those moments when something just ‘works’. It’s the small things that leave us Mums feeling content!
Anyway, a lady approached us and complimented me on my ‘well behaved’ children and went on to say how lovely it was to see and that it made a change from all the naughty kids she normally sees in the shops.
Whilst I appreciated the compliment and I sincerely thanked her for it, I also mentioned to her that my kids aren’t always so ‘picture perfect’. To this she just shook her head and said ‘oh no, I don’t believe a word of it, look at the little darlings. It’s a pleasure to see well behaved children and not ones screaming their heads off.’ I honestly didn’t know how to respond, as whilst I know she was trying to be nice and was paying me a compliment, I was also suddenly very aware that on another day, or another time (or in 20 minutes!) she would be one of the people frowning at me and my children, shaking their head and tutting at such bad behaviour when one of my children had a tantrum or cried. Eager to get our shopping trip started I just commented that no child is perfect all the time.
As we continued our shopping trip my children were ‘well behaved’, they didn’t fuss or argue (much) or hit or shout or any other number of things they could (and sometimes do) do. I was feeling pleased as it had been a successful and uneventful trip, but then when we went to pay, I realised that my children’s favourite check-out lady wasn’t in that day. Uh-oh! Rajinder has been the highlight of my childrens trips to Asda for many months now. She calls them by name and fusses over them and will give them cuddles and basically she makes them feel important and included and they love it. And as a Mum its always lovely to see someone take an interest in your children and appreciate just how wonderful they are. So on this day I suddenly knew that we wouldn’t be ending the trip on the same high we started it with. I broke the news to my kiddos, who were eagerly scanning the tills for ‘their lady’.
Miley cried, yes she is 4 years old and she cried that she wouldn’t be able to see Rajinder that day. She didn’t wail and scream, but there were tears none the less. Grayson, who is 2, and who is very boisterous and determined, did not take it so quietly and shouted ‘no’ over and over at the top of his voice. As I stood and tried to explain to my two children (as I have done many times before) that Rajinder is not ALWAYS at work, I did think about the lady outside who had said how well behaved they were, and I wondered what her take on their current behaviour would be. I have no doubt that if she had encountered them for the first time at that moment, she would not have thought them so well behaved.
Children are not 100% ANYTHING!
They can not be ‘naughty’ children or ‘perfect’ children, each child is a person and is made up of so many different elements to their personality. In the space of an hour at the supermarket, my children had displayed behaviour that would have people labelling them as ‘good’ or ‘naughty’. Over the course of a day there will be many more instances of both types of behaviour and many more besides. One minute my daughter will happily share her snack with her brother, willingly giving him half of what she has and when he thanks her she will respond ‘you’re welcome’. A couple of hours later they will be screaming at each other as they both pull on a sheet of stickers which my daughter cannot possibly share under any circumstances. If those instances were viewed individually then labels would be produced, she would be caring and kind or selfish.
But none of these instances can define our children.
They are simply moments.
I feel like everywhere I go now people frown on children if they have a ‘tantrum’ or if they are loud, or they express any type of unhappiness. There are signs in shops and cafes that state only well behaved children are welcome.
But what constitutes well behaved, and does the owner of that establishment guarantee that NOTHING will happen whilst there that could bring on ‘bad behaviour’? Because a tantrum in a child is normally just a reaction to a situation they are unhappy with, but they don’t have the maturity or experience to process it in any other way.
Have we never seen an adult raise their voice, or slam a door or be sharp with their words?
All of those things are an adult version of a tantrum. I know I have lost my temper before, its easily done. But does it make me a bad person because of that one moment?
I have read about families being asked to disembark planes because their children were causing a disruption and I’ve seen so many debates about this, with people saying they don’t want to be sat near children on planes. But in all the times I have flown, it has been adults and their ‘bad behaviour’ that has been the issue.
I wonder if the cafes that say only well behaved children are welcome also have a matching sign for adults? Because surely bad behaviour in an adult should be no less acceptable than in a child? Personally I find it much easier to accept a tantrum from a 3 year old than from a 40 year old. But maybe that’s just me.
I should note that I understand there are parents who let their children run around unchecked and who do nothing to try and supervise or ‘parent’ their children when in public. I am NOT one of those parents.
I have 2 children, my daughter is generally quiet and controlled in public and because she is shy she remains close by and doesn’t cause any fuss (I think she’s had 2 tantrums in public in 4 years and they were minor) my son on the other hand is a force of nature and runs, jumps, flys, climbs, shouts, sings, whoops and hollers. He loves life and loves exploring and is very vocal about it, including the parts of life that he finds aren’t to his liking and has had many tantrums in public. But he is not a naughty child.
So please stop labelling my children as good or bad based on the ‘moment’ that you see.
They are neither good or bad, they are just children.
They are exploring the world and their emotions and they are constantly learning. Each tear, each tantrum, each stumble, is a lesson that they are learning. We should be supporting them and helping them but not trying to control them or to squeeze them into a box so that they appear perfectly behaved to the people around us who like to have an opinion.
Yes, it was lovely to receive a compliment about my children, but it would also be equally nice to not make offhand comments about ‘naughty children’ and maybe next time you see a child having a tantrum, don’t frown or tut or shake your head, try giving an encouraging smile, or a few words of support to a Mum who knows this isn’t the best version of her kids, but that it’s a part of them all the same.
Kids will be kids. Lets not forget that this includes the good and the not so good. x