BRAT PATROL: IT'S TIME TO SCOLD OUR KIDS - AND THEIR PARENTS.
IT was a tone of voice I've grown all too accustomed to hearing in the classroom. Insolent and obnoxious, it could only have come from a certain creature: The Child Who Knows No Limits.
I was enjoying some frozen yogurt at a local store in the Westside, far from the schools in South Los Angeles where I teach, when a boy of perhaps 12 years suddenly screamed out, ``I said chocolate sprinkles!'' The demand was not accompanied with the magic word and was expressed with the same amount of disdain one should reserve for terrorists. If you can judge people by how they treat those who serve them, well, this boy was a certifiable brat.
``Please tell me his father is reprimanding him,'' I said to my sister, who, unlike me was facing the proceedings. She shook her head. It turned out that the only adult in the picture was the college-age employee who had committed the unforgivable sin of confusing chocolate sprinkles with chocolate chips.
As she told the boy that there was no need to yell, I wondered why his father couldn't do the same. Instead, the father paid for the yogurt and mockingly thanked the woman in his best mentally challenged voice. I wouldn't be surprised if he gave his son a high-five the moment they were out the door.
If only we had been at the Chicago cafe ``A Taste of Heaven,'' this entire incident might have been avoided. The eatery has been in the national news of late because of a sign on its door reminding ``children of all ages'' to use their indoor voices when they are - get this - inside. The ensuing boycott of the cafe by overly permissive and indulgent parents reminds me of my students stamping the floor in anger during a time-out.
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that parents are acting more and more childish at a time when they are striving so hard to become their children's best friends. The tragic irony is that precious childhood seems to have been replaced by premature adulthood. To put it another way: Our kids are losing their innocence all too soon.
What's to blame for this?
In a 2004 City Journal essay titled ``Who Killed Childhood?'' Theodore Dalrymple observed that ``overindulgence in the latest fashions, toys, or clothes, and a television in the bedroom are regarded as the highest - indeed only - manifestations of tender concern for a child's welfare.'' This trend reached its apogee late last year with a $10 million bat mitzvah for the daughter of a New York defense contractor, at which performers such as Don Henley, Aerosmith and 50 Cent performed.
What happens when children are given everything their little hearts desire? When the only boundaries they are aware of are those they cross on a summer trip to Europe? When they never hear the word ``no'' or have to utter the word ``please''?
I see the answer every day in the classroom: Children with no self- control and an appalling lack of respect for others. Their outward show of defiance is usually a subconscious plea for structure in their lives.
Unfortunately, when their dear ones are finally disciplined, angry parents often express more disapproval with the teachers or administrators who ``could have let it happen'' than with their own progeny. And friends of mine who teach in private schools in more upscale neighborhoods tell me stories of parents of the ``let the children explore by drawing on the walls'' persuasion who are far more challenging to deal with. This is a problem that crosses class lines.
What can be done if parents don't want to be parents?
I'm not sure, but maybe Aerosmith could announce a national tour of bar mitzvahs and birthday parties. In their permanent quest to be cool, parents might experience a moment of self-reflection when, while singing along with their kids to one huge hit from the band, they realize the truth behind these lyrics: ``My, my, baby blue. Yeah, you're so jaded - and I'm the one that jaded you.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jan 15, 2006|
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