There are increasing numbers of hospitality establishments that just don’t want children around anymore because ‘they don’t know how to behave’ and ‘their parents have no control over them’. This has been a hot topic in my Parenting on the Run workshops for years. But, a fresh spate of restauranteurs and hoteliers complaining of damage to property, ill-treatment of animals, destruction of vegetation, and disrespect for other visitors to the establishment who have come for some time out too, has prompted me to write this blog about ill-disciplined children in public.
It would seem that parents allow their children to run amok with no boundaries, and have little influence over their children’s behaviour in public. In addition, a trap of modern parenting is to try and be a child’s friend rather than parent in order to keep the peace at home to make up for their absence. However, this also means that in public, parents can’t change hats all of a sudden either.
Children thrive on consistency and boundaries. They need to be taught how to behave in public. This is not something they are born knowing, rather it takes years of painstaking training on the part of the parents. And, herein, lies part of the problem: busy parents who are able to spend only 2 – 3 hours a day with their children – most of that time being in a rush to get their children ready for the day or ready for bed, don’t have much quality time to incrementally coach their children so that they develop appropriate social skills.
Don’t abdicate responsibility for your children in public
Understandably, we visit restaurants and stay in hotels with our children to have some downtime where we don’t have to cook, and to enable us to spend some quality family time together without having to do daily chores. But, this doesn’t mean that we can abdicate responsibility for our children in these public spaces – unless, of course, we choose to go to a family-friendly establishment that offers child care services or entertainment programmes for the children giving parents some adult time alone.
Where such services are not advertised or you don’t have to pay for them, then the onus is on us as parents to oversee our children, ensuring that they don’t infringe on other patrons’ privacy and enjoyment of the surroundings, and they are not destructive to the establishment itself. It’s called respect for people and property and it’s something all children need to learn, sooner rather than later.
What children need
Remember that it takes time and repetition to instill social skills in children. Also know and understand this: children resort to negative attention seeking behaviour particularly in public, when they are feeling emotionally empty. This is when parents need to pay more attention and ensure they are spending quality time with their children to fill their emotional cups or risk their children upsetting the peace or getting into trouble.
I know this is a big ask for busy, tired parents, but we owe it to our children and to the future of society to be a positive nurturing influence in their lives. Emotional and physical absenteeism leaves children feeling needy, misunderstood and side-lined, and they do what children do best when they can’t verbalise how they are feeling – they act it out, wherever they may be, and the more inconvenient and embarrassing for their parent/s, the better.
Although this may sound harsh, perhaps it needs to be said: your children would prefer more of your time and less of your money, to have more of your happiness and less of your stress. To find out more about how to cheat time and reframe the time you do spend with your children, click here.