Parents who fail to set limits are raising a generation of brats, writes Martin Booe in the Memphis Flyer. He tells the story of a five-year-old boy at a mostly adult party. He starts by biting Booe, then goes for the window.
The youngster begins kicking the floor-to-ceiling window, which fortunately is made of Plexiglas. His father finally intervenes, taking the child by the arm and pointing out some of the window’s unique features. “You shouldn’t kick this window because it’s a very special window,” he tells his son. “See how the frame …” And I’m thinking, Kid, you shouldn’t kick the window because in another universe your father would have some vague concept of parental authority.
Then there’s a barbecue given by a professor named Donald John.
The party was underway when the sound of violin strings being plucked alerted him that something was amiss. Upon investigation, he found that the 6-year-old son of one of his guests had removed his grandfather’s antique Italian violin from its case.
. . . The boy began darting through the house, swinging the violin by its scroll, clipping it against walls and furniture as he led a merry chase. The mother declared that only she could defuse the situation, but each time she squared off against her son, he scurried into another room. “It turned into a hostage negotiation, but it was all appeasement,” John says. “She would offer him ice cream, and his eyes would light up for a second before he ran off again.”
By the time the violin was retrieved, its bridge and neck were damaged. “The perplexing thing is that some of these parents seem amused when their children do this sort of thing,” says John, the parent of two grown daughters. To avoid unruly children, John, a nonsmoker, requests the smoking section when dining in restaurants because he finds secondhand smoke less irritating than the kids in nonsmoking sections. (It was a child skateboarding in a restaurant lounge who tipped him over the edge.)
“The Me Generation is raising the Me-Me-Me Generation,” says educational psychologist Michele Borba.
Books on how to assert discipline are selling well, says Booe, so there are parents who see juvenile mayhem as a problem. Personally, I raised my daughter to be the sort of person I’d want to live with for 18 years. I frequently said (or shouted), I’m not raising you to be a brat!” It worked. I like her. Other people like her. She likes herself.