Hey y'all. I know, I know, I have a blog primarily concerning writing and video games, and here this is, a blog about parenting? Well, I've been a nursery worker for eight and a half years (with a half year break somewhere in there), and a babysitter before that. And I am dang pissed off about how people act these days around their kids. It mystifies me how horrible some parents are. I see them in public, acting all stupid, and I know for a fact that they're hurting their child, if only with their words.
You will notice, however, that most of the people I mention in this blog are mothers rather than fathers. This is primarily because I usually see women being stupid parents in public rather than men. This seems to be due to the privacy of men; if they do something involving bad parenting, it's not usually in public. Or so I'm going to say. See if this bears out in your experience, either with your own parents or your friends'.
The number one parenting mistake is this: expecting your children to know everything. Yes, this is worse than yelling, throwing stuff, hiding toys, or basically anything short of physical abuse. You see, expecting your child to know everything is precisely where all these other problems come from. A parent screams at a child because he expects the child to know better than to color on the wall. A parent rolls her eyes and calls her child stupid because the little girl was playing with the swingy door on a trashcan at a restaurant (this literally happened right in front of me). A dad will get mad at his two year old son for crying because he was tired.
But you know what? There's a reason why kids do all these seemingly nonsensical things. There's a reason they say "bootie booger butt" and run around in circles. There's a reason they build up blocks and knock them down. It makes perfect sense for a little one to cram everything in his mouth. And that reason?
----Parenting Truth #1----
Children are aliens from outer space.
No really. I'm not joking. I have to exaggerate this just so you get the idea. Children are born knowing nothing. They don't know what's food and what's not, they don't know that you're not supposed to color on the wall, and they don't know that you read books instead of tearing the pages. All of the weird little behaviors that stupid parents call "stupid" are really just children testing their boundaries and figuring out how stuff works.
Imagine yourself in a foreign country. Say, China. You don't know how they live there. You're trying to get along at a nice dinner with some Chinese people, and you stick your chopsticks up in your bowl of rice so that you can get some more veggies. And then all the Chinese people look at you like you're stupid, because you didn't know that sticking chopsticks straight up was bad luck. Heck, you probably don't even know how to use chopsticks at all, and so they're giggling at you already.
This is the reality a child lives in every day. They want to please their parents and fit in with their surroundings, but they simply don't know how. Every step for them is a risk of doing something silly and culturally awkward. To make it worse, they're short and less coordinated, making physical tasks even more hard to understand. It might take you a week to learn proper chopstick use, but children just have to use forks.
Take for example a purse. You, as an adult, know that purses are for carrying stuff. A little child doesn't know this. They bite it to see if it's food. They crawl into it. They swing it against the couch. Why? Because they simply don't know what a purse is. What's more is, they have no logical basis for figuring out what a purse is. If you were someone from a place with no purses, say like a tribal colony, you would figure out quickly because even though you're tribal, you're an adult and it's not that hard to figure out. You see a woman carrying a purse and figure that's what it's for.
A child cannot tell by one or two looks simply because he has no such logic at his age. Bad parents get mad at their children and say, "you should know better", but the truth is the kids simply don't, and there's no one to blame but either the nature of childhood or the bad parent. I hate "you should know better" parents. Few children are more emotionally disadvantaged than ones with "you should know better" parents, because they have to learn to make sure they don't do anything the slightest bit "wrong" or they'll get yelled at.
I've seen it too much in public. I once saw a little boy sitting at a table, and he didn't do anything more than say a word or two when his mother immediately grabs him by the arm and growls in his face, telling him to act right. Look, bad parents, if I'm sitting ten feet from your child and I can't see what they did wrong, then maybe you should calm down. If your child actually does something that is wrong, the explain to them with unclenched teeth and don't grab them. If you believe in spanking, then have a designated "spanking spoon" or something similar so that children associate punishment with an object rather than with your hands.
Later that same night I saw another mother and her two children. Her friend had some goldfish crackers she wanted to give the kids, and they took some. The mother told them to say thank you, but the two kids didn't. So she grabs the son's arm and growls at him to say thank you. Ma'am, if you're stupid enough to think that will make your children obey you, then put them up for adoption. When children are really little, they don't get the whole "thank you" thing unless the parent says thank you herself. Lead by example, and don't expect proper replies from a two year old all the time.
How do you get this right? It's simple. Explain stuff to your kid. Let them play with stuff. Let them figure out stuff on their own. Light a fire in your backyard and let your (older) children poke sticks in it. Bake cookies with your kid. And above all else, don't expect them to be perfect little robots that obey your every whim and stand in a corner complacently when you're not paying attention to them. Have mercy on your child so that they know it's safe to not be perfect.
So please, realize that children are little beings from Baby Planet trying to adapt to our culture. They need to risk making mistakes so that they can learn. If they don't get this freedom, either they'll be too timid in life to get what they want, or they'll rebel against the "you should know better" parent just like that parent deserves.