I've gotten into a few discussions lately about this new trend of anti-kid weddings and kid-free restaurants. Seriously, it's really disheartening. Not that I think you shouldn't have the right. I mean, it's your wedding, you can choose if you want kids there or not. It's your business, you have the right to not allow children in (though you don't have the right to keep out women or black people or homosexuals or any other group of people so honestly, I'm not quite sure why you have this right.) But regardless, the reason it is so disheartening is not because people have the right to choose but because people do choose it and it is becoming a more and more popular choice.
Now, I understand the reasons that people don't want children around. Sure, they can be loud, distracting and needy. They can bother people or make people feel uncomfortable. (Though so can and do adults for any number of reasons, one of which is drinking, and we know that weddings and restaurants are full of adults drinking. But I digress...) So basically what I'm saying is, so what?
Really, so what? Children are a beautiful part of life and they are human beings deserving of the same rights as adults are (including the right to not be discriminated against). Let's just allow parents to do their jobs, trust that when a kid is being too loud in any given environment, the parent will gently and quietly remove them or at least quiet them down. And for those that are clueless or just don't care? Communication works wonders. It's totally okay for a restaurant to kindly ask a parent to help their child quiet down or even leave if necessary (just like they could kick out that drunk guy). If you're at a wedding, chances are you have some sort of relationship with people there and therefore a quick, "hey, your kid seems to be getting tired and a bit out of control, maybe it's time to head out," from someone is totally acceptable.
Honestly, doing these things may not be all that comfortable, but they are far better than discriminating against children in general, than calling them a nuisance and setting a precedence that they are less than in our society, than having them grow up, having been discriminated against, to go even further and further in their prejudices and discrimination of children. It's a very slippery slope.
Think about it. In our culture, the only group of people that it is legal to hit, imprison against their will without them having committed a crime and discriminate against, is children. Do we ever stop to think what message that sends to children about themselves? Maybe that has something to do with the rush many kids feel to grow up. We act like childhood is a disease, something that adults need to avoid. Is it any wonder that kids become adults that treat kids like garbage, like dispensable beings that can be disposed of, hit, or at the very least, avoided by keeping them out of our events and public places?
If you don't like kids, then don't have kids. But other than that, children are people that deserve to be in our society, the same as anyone else. How dare we as a society treat them as less than? Children should be embraced, loved, cherished and nurtured. Hey, they are our future, you know?
There's this really common school of thought that if parents don't spank their children then the children grow up rude, disrespectful and with a sense of entitlement. Basically, the majority of society's ills belong to these pampered, spoiled, unspanked children. The thing is though, at least 81% of American parents believe that spanking is acceptable and have or do spank their children. So the logical conclusion then is that the 19% of children in America that are not spanked are responsible for the so-called spoiled, self-centered entitlement problem that is raging in our culture. Hmmm.
For the sake of this post, we are going to pretend that's true (even though it's not). We are going to pretend that all of the entitled, spoiled, lazy people in our culture were not spanked as children. And we are going to consider if not being spanked is really the culprit.
To do so, I'm going to tell the story of a little girl. This little girl was a beautiful, strong-willed child. She had a laugh that never ended and a heart of deep passion. Her inborn sense of justice was so strong that she always had to understand, always had to make sure things were "fair." When things didn't make sense to her, when they didn't seem quite right, she would break down in uncontrollable sobs that shook the world. She was just a little girl and didn't know how to control those emotions yet, she only knew things weren't working out the way she wanted them to and that made her sad. So she would sob. And scream. Sometimes her entire body would tense up, sometimes she would flail. When she had these fits she couldn't hear anything, it was almost like she was trapped and though she wanted out, she couldn't find the way.
Her mama understood that this little girl was a person with hopes, fears, desires, wants and needs just as strong as her own. She also understood that her little girl was a child, her brain's frontal lobes still developing, and that the ability to control and regulate her emotions was not yet fully developed. So instead of punishing and shaming her child, she decided to walk her through these times, to show her compassion and just be there for her. In neutral times they would role play to help give her tools to work through her strong emotions and during times of fits her mama would gently remind her to use them. Slowly, they were making progress and working through her struggles, slowly, she was developing the skills she needed to make it through her frustrations and huge emotions. And always she felt loved, validated and understood and was learning to show the same kindness to others.
Now, let's think about this little girl and consider what would cause her to become a spoiled, entitled, lazy member of society. You know, since she is in the 19% of unspanked, that makes her part of the problem. Hmmm. Okay, the next part of the story.
Soon enough there are other factors in this little girl's life. She occasionally has meltdowns at the park or grocery store where people are not as understanding as her mama. While her mama is with her whispering soothing words, she can just make out people nearby saying things like, "What is wrong with that child," "What she needs is a good spanking," "That's the problem with kids these days. Mother's afraid to do what needs to be done," "Put the fear of God in that child!" And this beautiful little girl begins to wonder if there is something wrong with her. Her fits become a bit more frequent and yet her mama keeps on working with her, guiding her.
In school she quickly becomes a problem child. She doesn't understand why she cannot stay out and play when recess is over. Through tears she begs the teacher for a reason and when she is not given one, begins to shake and scream. She is taken to the school office where she is made to feel like a little prisoner. In fact, she becomes a frequent visitor to that office. Her mama cries daily, talks of counseling and testing that the school wants done, wonders if she has done something wrong. And the little girl's spirit is crushed more and more each day. As she grows, she believes the labels she's been given. She becomes cold, distant, defiant, lazy. She still wants everything to be "fair" and refuses to participate in something if she doesn't think that it is. Her mama has given up, also believing the labels and letting the school officials and other professionals tell them what to do to help her.
So. If this little girl, who was not spanked as a child, grows up to be a lazy, entitled, selfish member of our society, is it really the fault of her not being spanked? I don't think so. See, I'm thinking that as a society, if we would see children as human, as people with wants and needs, with thoughts and desires just as important as ours, and if we view them in a developmentally appropriate way, realizing that children will behave a certain way because they are wired to and are still growing wires to help them behave differently, then maybe, just maybe, we would treat them with the compassion, understanding and love that they need. Maybe, just maybe, they would grow up strong, compassionate, emotionally healthy people ready to add beauty and love to this world.
When people talk about children and use language such as, "The world would be a better place if all kids were spanked," "Sure, spanking is a choice. So is raising entitled brats with no life skills or coping mechanisms," "The 'I am my child's friend' mentality is much more detrimental to a child than a rap on the backside," and "The lack of spanking is why this generation lacks respect," it becomes obvious that our society is one that undervalues children and views them as less than. If we do not allow children to be children, to grow at the pace that is right for them, if we live with the mentality that children should be able to sit down and shut up at our beck and call, then we are feeding the entitlement problem, we are creating a selfish culture, because we are showing impressionable children adults that are entitled and selfish! When we undervalue childhood and attempt to mold kids into small adults for our own ease, we are being entitled and selfish.
The problem we have is not due to the 19% of children who are not spanked. The problem is that our society at large doesn't care for childhood, tries to rush it and force kids out of it. We neglect their developmental growth and then bemoan the results. Can you imagine if we tried to force a toddler from taking it's first few steps to running a marathon? And yet that is essentially what we do to our children's emotional development.
Relax. Slow down. Hold your child's hand and guide them gently as they learn to navigate their emotions. Get out of that mentality that lies to you, that tells you that spanking is the only way these people PEOPLE will learn. And please, for the love of everything, stop blaming entitlement, laziness and disrespect on not spanking! Because out of the twenty loud, crazy, fighting, playing, laughing children at the playground, at least 16 of them get spanked.