Never frowned in front of a child making noise in the train? Or sighed at a mom who couldn't keep her children still in the waiting room? Or worse, those parents who dare taking their kids out to dinner on Saturday night! What is your attitude with regards to disturbing children? And why is it important to talk about it? Well, let's see!
Italy (and Germany, US, UK..) : no kids allowed in certain restaurants
A few months ago, thanks to the magical powers of serendipity, I came across an article in an Italian newspaper.
A restaurant in northern Italy had banned children from entering. And since then, a ton of comments were published (because, as we know well, the internet frees us from any inhibition) which, for a good part, supported this decision. I even believe that the restaurant in question has seen its customers double.
In fact, I remained speechless in front of people's harsh words : "I can't stand children"; "I didn't want to have kids myself, so I don't see why I should put up with other people's children"; "today's parents are incapable of raising their children well"; and so on.
Some declared that, abroad, "You can immediately recognize Italian children!"; that other cultures are different and parents know better how to raise children in a proper way.
Others responded by accusing them of lack of empathy and support for parents (a minority nevertheless).
Who is right ?
Yes, I happened to surprise myself comparing my (noisy, full of life, always moving) children with calm and silent others'. Indeed, especially abroad.
I was also relieved when seeing other children as noisy as mine, or even more; not only Italian but even German, or French..
As always, it is not by generalizing that we will understand the phenomenon.
Take this episode. Still in Dresden, I went to have dinner with my children, a girlfriend and her kids. We were 6, of which 4 children aged between 3 and 9; we chose a fairly casual pizzeria, and got there early.
As we had improvised our outing, we had almost nothing to distract the children, so we just had to engage in a common conversation.
Sometimes they raised their voices a little, they even got up to go look at the ice creams; and we had to follow them a couple of times to make sure they didn't run nor disturb the waiters.
Behind us, another table of 6: 5 adults and a child, probably 6 years-old.
The child had the headphones on and a tablet; completely isolated from the rest of the world, while the adults were talking. He never got up and we never heard him.
What do you think about it? Is there a better solution than the other? Should we go into more or less violent debates, let our judgments flow?
Children, scapegoat for discontent?
For a whole period of my life, I took the train regularly. Many times I would have liked to sleep or rest, but I had to listen to my neighbors' phone conversations.
Many times, I found the toilets in such a state .. which I will not discuss today. Then, there are those who push you to go through. Those who don't say hello. Or, those who eat making noises and leaving everything dirty around them.
There is a lack of respect for the other behind all that; and of course, if we don't teach that to our children, they will not learn by themselves.
But here's the thing: we can't forbid access to disrespectful people in public places, can we?
On the other hand, we can identify certain categories of people, such as children. Is this reaction, then, a kind of general "fed up" thing that scapegoats children ?
The reasoning behind the "no kids allowed" movement
Maybe it happened to you too. To come home tired, want to do something and not being able to because your child starts crying / protesting / screaming / messing up.
Or, to want to rest on the train or plane, and not be able to because a kid next to you doesn't stop screaming, laughing, talking aloud, moving..
What makes someone lose all tolerance and think only of their own well-being? People who commented on the decision of the owner of the restaurant gave different reasons.
One person wrote :
"I regret when I was a child and people had more respect. The parents thought of the children first, before thinking about themselves; the children had to sit at the table and eat everything on their plate."
- Did these children suffer from being forced into rules that did not respect their development?
- Did these parents suffer from neglecting their own needs, reversing their frustration over their children?
- This bitterness is therefore a reaction to an injustice suffered in childhood?
Connected : Theory of mind and children's social development
I can clearly identify some main basic needs emerging :
the need to see that the rules of living together are respected by everyone;
and also the need of parents to be supported in their daily struggles (let's not forget that 50 years ago, life was slower and families could easily live with a single salary).
to conclude, children's need as that their development and possibilities are taken into account
On a large scale, that's what sometimes happens at home!
When my husband comes home, he gets easily upset when he sees our children's mess.
For my part, I get angry because I would like him to understand my efforts to be empathetic with children, to spend time with them even though working.
Children are not always able to focus on their movements and avoid spilling stuff on the floor, and they react in their own way to fatigue, dad's cries, the urge to play instead of tidying up etc.
Does it ever happen to you? How can you find the balance between a fair amount of discipline, respect for each other's needs, while often having little time and energy?
What is a happy child ?
Let's come to the hard core of the matter. A child learns, all the time.
He learns to know himself, to know his internal limits and the external ones; to express himself and to bond with others.
He discovers his body.
A happy child is not a child without rules, on the contrary!
Connected : why children do need rules and discipline.
But he is, on the other hand, free to express his needs and his emotions, although he doesn't yet know how to do it (and besides, the development of his brain doesn't allow him to completely control himself).
A happy child, therefore, cries and screams. He hits, sometimes.
He plays a lot, he dances he moves he jumps he laughs. A child who obeys us all the time, who remains in silence and without moving, seems to me rather a suffering child, whose needs are denied. And, don't forget, a child is happy when his parents are, too !
Hence the importance of not neglecting our own needs either.
The advantage of a happy child in the long run
A child who can express his emotions learns to identify them, express them and relate them to his needs.
He learns to bond with other people, to respect the limits of others too.
To make it short: a happy child becomes more easily a balanced and responsible adult. An adult who is self-disciplined, communicates with empathy and respects others.
Don't we need a world with more adults like this? Who, ultimately, love life and will work to transmit their enthusiasm, their happiness, their love?
No kids allowed.. Which consequences ?
My son absolutely wanted to take his little bike to the market.
It was sunny, a warm winter sun. I knew that otherwise he would have made a fuss to go .. and besides, how can he learn if I don't let him use it?
So, I recalled the rules, and hop we went.
For about half the time, I couldn't help but yelling : "Stay on the right!" (But what's the right mom?!) "Don't stop in the middle!" and so on.
I was so stressed out because we were on a bike lane where people normally like to ride pretty fast (me included when I'm childless).
To my surprise, they were all kind. So many smiles!
Even though we were really bothering them.. !
Now the problem is that when people start looking bad at you, making comments or worse, then you end up stressed and panicked every time you need to leave the house.
You try to control your kid; and if on one side, it is a very good thing for him to know the rules, especially when it comes to safety and respecting others, you don't enjoy life a whole lot nor learn much with a helicopter parent barking at you and limiting your possibilities to experience things on your own.
Moreover, unconsciously, this favors a tensed atmosphere, where you feel observed and judged.. where you can't let go.
Consequences of judgment on parents
At the base of any relationship, but especially with a child, there is empathy.
Remaining attentive to the needs of the child, to accompany him with the right balance of kindness and discipline, is a tough job.
It requires a fair amount of work on oneself.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to stay connected to our child if we are tensed and worried of other people's judgment. Maybe they'll think I'm a bad mother!
That I'm not capable of raising my kids..
This kind of thinking settles in from birth, and according to the person, it can really be a source of stress.
Now, a little empathy for the parent: when the child "disturbs", the parent is in trouble!
And sometimes he doesn't realize it: let's see the case of all these parents quoted in the comments that just sit at the restaurant's table letting their kids run among the waiter's legs.
I'm not defending that parent, but I say: instead of generalizing, and of judging, we could offer some help.
The consequences of judgement on the children
- There's a direct effect :
the judged child feels labeled and will either try to take revenge, or feel void and incapable - in one case, rage and frustration will be directed outwards, in the other case, towards himself.
- And an indirect effect:
Parents who feel judged, under stress, will have trouble connecting to the needs of their children.
The children, therefore, may be reprimanded, punished, controlled; in any case, they will lose an opportunity to get to know themselves and to learn to express themselves.
Of course, all this has no serious consequences on a single episode; but if that becomes the norm, then there is a big risk: for parents, to feel more and more isolated, not understood; up to either hating being a parent, or "hating society" under its different aspects.
And for the children, to grow up in spiteful, frustrated adult, not well in his skin. Yes, raising children is the parents' business.
It's up to them to take responsibility and not wait for an external entity to take care of it.
BUT in the end, making sure that parents have the best conditions to grow their children under the best possible conditions, that's everyone's business.
Because the more balanced and responsible adults we have, the better our society will be.
Each one should take his share of responsibility.
Why are we disturbed by children ?
I think what bothers us is the loss of control and benchmarks.
We live in a time when everything is accelerating, where it is easy to lose contact with our inner self, and with others.
We don't always take the time to look within ourselves and understand what is important to us.
Forgetting to take us into account, we accumulate frustrations..
We therefore seek to "rest" in our free time by putting our little pleasures first: outings with friends, a beer on the couch; the silence when we wish it, the noise and the mess when we are looking for it.
And we explode when the children come out of this frame where we had the impression to manage everything, to control everything.
Because a child is trying to connect with us all, including our hidden child part. Children do not try to control, they live, they carry their noisy integrity, they express their imperfect world.
Individual or society ? An eternal debate
In the end, the debate for me comes down to one question.
What is more important to you?
Are you willing to put the well-being of society at the same level as your personal well-being, or does the individual take over? To you the answer.
For my part, I think that the community will always be stronger than the individual, because no man is an island.
It's just a matter of time .. Will we look beyond the present moment, and let our children save us tomorrow?
Resources and references
I share with you some articles that I have taken as a reference, and useful readings as always! Links to Amazon in this page are affiliate links.
But first, I ask you 3 things:
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What do you think? I'd really like to hear about your experience 🙂
You liked the article and you're interested in joining the club and receiving food for thoughts and inspiring suggestions directly in your inbox? It's over here!
How can we raise happy kids ? 10 steps and their scientific basis.. food for thoughts!
And to continue: happy children do become happier adults! Some evidence..
A very interesting article about the "kids banning" in Britain
And on a similar note, this is what happened in the US. (apparently, it's a world-wide problem)
Excellent article : do we want our children to be obedient?
This book, Marshall Rosenberg's "Non-Violent", is source of great inspiration for me and I can't recommend it warmly enough!
A little, but funny diversion off topic.. "French Children Don't Throw Food" is a funny, yet full of insights on the different cultural perspectives there might be on raising kids I read it while pregnant with my first daughter, already living in France.. and it gave me some interesting input to reflect on how different it would have been than raising my child in Italy.