When a village isn’t enough…

If you frequent Parenting blogs like I do (and I know you read mine regularly – wink, wink) you’ll notice that some of the most fiercely debated topics are usually around whether or not it is acceptable to reprimand someone else’s child. What’s stood out to me when reading these blogs and their comments is, that people tend to fall into one of two camps, which I call, The Confronters and The Villagers.

The Confronters are more likely to go to the perceived source of the misbehavior – the Parent, and reprimand them with usually a passive aggressive or sarcastic, “Wow, you let your child do anything, don’t you?” or, “You going to get your kid here?” The typical response from the offending Parent is one of defensiveness and sometimes the whole situation escalates into an argument On the other hand there are The Villagers. These folks subscribe to a more “we are all Parents” philosophy and they take it upon themselves to correct the child’s behavior directly. Perhaps 20-30 years ago this approach would be more widely accepted. But nowadays, trying the change the behavior of child that isn’t yours, can land you in some serious trouble if you do not choose the situation and your words very carefully.

Until recently, I was in the “The Villagers” camp except, I would be very mindful of what I was saying to a child as to not cross any line that may exist. It wasn’t until recently, after we experienced a situation at the Dentist office, that I found out about a third group, which I have affectionately called, The Shamers. The other day my daughter had an appointment for a routine dental exam and I decided that this time, I would be the one to take her. As most Pediatric Dentist offices go, they are essentially a playground with dental chairs – and our Dentist was no exception. In our Dentist’s office, he had a small walk space with a couple of chairs that serves as sort of a gateway into the larger waiting area which is full of toys. When we arrived, I noticed that there was a Mother, who was seated, and her son, who looked like he was about 7 or 8 years old, who was in the middle of the walkway, playing with some of the toys. When my daughter and I approached, the little boy said to us, “You can’t pass, I am playing here”! Thinking it was a joke and not wanting to be late for our appointment, I look at the boy and then at his Mother and with a smile I say, “oh, well excuse us but we need to get by”. Again the boy said to us, “no, you can’t pass, I am playing here”. Well now I had had enough of this little boy and it was clear to me that the Mother wasn’t going to do anything about the situation, so we pushed past the kid, stepping on some of the toys as we walked by, causing him to cry.

I rolled my eyes while checking in and as we proceeded to sit down in the waiting room, I decided we would sit directly across from this Mother and her child, for the express purpose of giving her my patented disapproving glare. While waiting and glaring, I decided to text my wife and tell her what had just transpired and that’s when she told me about this third group, “The Shamers”. You see The Shamers combine the best attributes of The Confronters and The Villagers, plus it provides valuable lessons for our kids. The Shamers confront the Parent in a more passive aggressive and indirect manner, while reprimanding the child indirectly and simultaneously helping our children understand that what they just experienced was not acceptable – the trifecta!

Feeling empowered and enlightened by this information, I decided to put it into action. While sitting there with my daughter and in a volume and tone that could be clearly heard throughout the waiting room, I began to explain to my daughter that the behavior she witnessed was unacceptable and it is not the way that neither her nor I (in the case of the Parent) should ever behave. I explained to her that it was “rude” and “selfish” for the boy to block the only walkway to the waiting area. And likewise, it was “disappointing” that his mommy didn’t do anything about it. I concluded our conversation by telling my daughter, that we are “polite” and “respectful of other people’s space and time” and we would “never behave like they did”. Well…the mom’s reaction was priceless! After being made a spectacle of in the waiting room, the Mom immediately told her son to get off the floor and sit still next to her. Although the kid still left his toys in the middle of the walkway causing others to walk around them, in that brief moment, she was embarrassed of her and her son’s behavior. But more importantly than that, my daughter got a real world lesson about life and how to effectively handle those types of situations. I have certainly jumped on the The Shamers bandwagon but I am curious to know what other tactics you have used to deal with these kinds of situations. Let me know!

Failing makes you a great Parent!

Did you grow up thinking Mom and Dad were Superwoman and Superman, incarnate? Whether it was their educational achievements, business success, work ethic or general know-how – they were the epitome, the “gold standard”, if you will, of what it meant to be (fill in the blank). Maybe you still feel that way about them or maybe you don’t but, if you are anything like me, this grandiose image that they constructed – backfired. This is not to say that I do not think the world of my parents nor is it to say that I don’t appreciate, that through insurmountable odds, they were able to succeed and thrive – its just that growing up the way I did was a little overwhelming…I’ll explain.

I am all sure we had the lecture, “When I was your age, I had to walk 10 miles in the snow and sleet to do (insert standard 1960’s  hardship)!” How is this truly relatable to a Southern California kid? There will never be snow and why would I have any reason to walk 10 miles – anywhere? But I think what was truly difficult for me was seeing my parents as infallible beings and knowing that I could never amount to their level of piety. My Parents never made a mistake, that I know of, and they always succeeded at everything they did, as far as I was concerned. Even when times were tough and not ideal, their perseverance was a thing of beauty. So what’s a kid to do? I suppose some of you probably took these experiences and used them as inspiration or even yet, as challenges to rise to the level of the examples set before you. But, if you are like me, you quickly realized that achieving this standard was next to impossible and left you probably thinking, “what’s wrong with me?” (insert sad face here)

What I now know to be true, is that to a certain extent, it was all a façade. My Parents were not perfect – far from it. Their triumph over adversity was a result of trial and error, sprinkled with a little bit of luck and a boat load of divine intervention. Their successes in education and in life were the result of relentless hard work and hard knocks – in other words, they are humans. But as a kid, they hid this from me – not intentionally. I truly believe they thought they were being examples of what success looked like but the consequences of their actions left me feeling like the kind of life they led was unattainable. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were very supportive and encouraged me to live to my fullest potential, but when the bar is set so high it has to be seen by a telescope – well, there could be problems.

Flashforward to present day – I totally get it. If you have read any of my other posts you are well aware of my thoughts and opinions about being that “gold standard” for your children. We want our children to look at us and see us as role models and we want them to  emulate us – not in any narcissistic way  mind you (or at least it shouldn’t be) but we want our children to be the beneficiaries of the lives we have led, the struggles we have overcome and the success we have achieved. But, I am also mindful of the “humanity” within our behavior. Our children need to also understand that we as Parents can falter, we can and do make mistakes, we are not perfect, WE FAIL – sometimes. But perhaps, even more important than all of that, is teaching our children how to overcome the challenging times that they will inevitably face, by witnessing how we as Parents deal with them.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an intense immersion and exam preparation course that was preparing me to take an internationally recognized Professional certification exam. For the purpose of this course, I had to spend about a week away from home, which undoubtedly took a toll on the whole family. During this intense course, my communication with my family was limited and at its conclusion, I was just exhausted. But, it was important for me to explain, in the best way that I could to a 4 year old, that Papi was working really hard and had to sacrifice some quality time in order to prepare for a test. So when test time came along and it was time to use all that hard work and sacrifice – and leave it all on the dance floor – I came up short and did not pass the test! I was personally devastated. I felt like it was all for not. But wouldn’t you know it, when I got home from the testing location, I too fell in to the same pattern of “masking” my failure and behaving like nothing was different – which is probably the same thing my Parents did. Although I have a plan to do more studying and retake the exam, I completely ignored the part about being her example of how to address the eventual and inevitable shortcomings in life. Although she might be too young to understand, its never too late to make this correlation between success and failure and what should be done in both scenarios.

Turning the tables a little bit on you, especially those of you with older children. How have you dealt with your shortcomings as a Parent and how do you explain it to your children when you fail?