Working Through a Pet Peeve

Posted on Sunday, January 16, 2011 by Alex R. Cronk-Young

I guess it's become one of my pet peeves to get a little annoyed when I see tweets about people being annoyed by kids in public areas. One of my good Twitter buddies sent out a couple tweets like that the other day and I gave him some shit for it. As it turns out, that shit was completely undeserved. We talked about it at length later and it made me really start to think about why that kind of stuff bothers me.

Obviously I was thrown into parenting with no real experience. Pretty much everyone is. An all of those cliche lines like about there not being manuals to being a good parent are completely true. Even though I love doing it, it always brings me close to pulling out my hair on a regular basis, because honestly, I have no clue what I'm doing.

Often I try everything in my power to stop certain behaviors, and it all fails miserably. Emmy has a bad habit of pummeling her cousins when they are mean to her, take away her toy, or in any way annoy her. For the longest time we tried absolutely everything to get her to stop when she hit one of them. Time outs didn't seem to even phase her, nor the corresponding long talk we gave her and the apology/hug she had to give. She would look right up at you and tell you everything you wanted to hear, and then the next time a situation arose her cousin would get another beatdown despite everything.

I would run through horror scenarios in my head about when she starts going to school. She'd likely pound on the first kid that looked at her funny and we'd get a call home. When it kept happening, things would escalate and before you knew it she'd be thrown out of school for the rest of her life at the tender age of five years old.

Yeah, I doubt it would ever play out that way, but I'm trying to say that I was worried. Eventually we decided to adopt a chart system. She has several things that she needs to do throughout the day (like keeping her hands to herself), and if she does them she gets a smiley face for that activity. At the end of the week we count up her smiley faces and if she has enough of them then she gets a reward. This process has proved much more effective.

But it took a long time to come to that solution, and it still isn't a full proof method. Nothing ever is. We haven't experienced any epic temper tantrums in a grocery store, but honestly I'm not sure what I would do if we did. Maybe we never will because when she threw even a tiny fit over being told no we just moved on and didn't give in. Still, who knows if we'll have to face down something like that in public.

Sometimes you just go numb. You watch your kid doing something they shouldn't be doing and you just can't bring yourself to try to stop it this time when you've failed countless times before. I got that way a lot when she was hitting her cousins. After trying incessantly to get her to stop, I'd watch her cousin pick up a toy, Emmy stand up, chase her down, smack her, and take it away; and I'd do nothing. It was defeat. I'd tried what I thought was every possible solution and nothing worked, and I couldn't stand to try doing the same things over again when I knew it wouldn't change a thing.

Maybe that makes me a bad parent, but I suspect every parent has come to that point on more than one occasion. So when I see a tweet along the lines of, "Kid behind me on the bus is screaming his head off and kicking my seat. Parents aren't doing a damn thing!" I guess I sympathize a little bit. Maybe they aren't doing a damn thing because they just don't care, but in my mind I see that haze of defeat. I wonder if that is one of their moments of despair, when inside they are mortified, but outside they just can't bring themselves to try in futility one more time.

They just want that bus ride to end as badly as you do so they can get behind the safety of their home's walls, where no one can judge them for having an unruly child that they don't know how to control. They'll probably wake up the next day feeling a thousand times better, and maybe by the end of the month they'll have discovered a way to stop the behavior, but you saw them when they were at their worst.

Clearly this is probably not the case in a majority of these types of situations, but it's what I think of. I guess just as some people jump to judge people for being bad parents, I jump to assume that people are trying their best. I definitely need to stop letting it bug me when I have absolutely no idea for sure what the situation is like, but it's hard to not let my own feelings of desperation transfer over to those other parents whom I've never even met. I suppose it's nice that I assume the best in people, at least, but unless I'm experiencing it myself I really can't make any judgement calls.

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