Friday, August 18, 2006

Guidance Goes a Long Way in Raising Children

By Christina VanGinkel

I had some shopping to do yesterday. I just needed a few quick items from a grocery store. My fourteen-year-old son and my three-year-old grandson were with me. My son decided he would wait in the truck and my grandson came in with me. As we headed to the checkout about five minutes after entering the store, we got in line right behind a younger woman with three children. There were only a few lanes open and each one had quite a long line of customers extending out from them. I just got in the lane closest to the doors I had come in through, which happened to be the lane with the woman and her children.

One child, about a year old, was sitting in the cart's provided seat, strapped in. One, about two or three years old, roughly the same age as my grandson, was sitting in the back of the cart with quite a few groceries. The third child, again guessing at the age but I would say he was about five, was standing next to the cart. We were fourth and fifth in line respectively, so I ended up standing behind her for about ten minutes.

In those ten short minutes, I watched the older child that was standing next to the cart pinch each of the children in the cart several times, to the point that they screamed. He also punched them both, including punching the little one in the cart's seat right in the stomach as the mother turned to pick up a magazine from the rack next to the aisle. He continued his barrage of hitting, slapping, and pinching without a single voiced command from his mother except for her to tell him to stop once. He never even acknowledged her.

I was beginning to assume that this child had a mental health issue, and maybe she was just at her wits end too, making it easier to avoid confrontation with the child. Personally, I did not accept even this scenario, as allowing any child, even a mentally ill one to punch a younger child in the stomach as hard as he had done to the little girl in the cart is just not acceptable. Then when he asked for a bottle of soda, and a candy bar a few minutes after his barrage had started, he spoke clearly and concisely, and did not appear to have any issues. She allowed him to get both.

She eventually checked out, and headed out of the store. At this point, the checkout person turned to me and just shook his head. He stated openly that the woman who had just checked out lived in the same apartment building as him. He said she let the older boy get away with anything on an ongoing, continual basis. He related in the few minutes that it took me to check out, the previous day's events, when he was at the apartment's play area with his own child and the little boy had been throwing rocks and handfuls of sand at the other children playing, including his own siblings, and she had just sat there. No reaction he said, once or twice, she quietly told him to stop, but never once actually taking the rocks away from him, or trying to get him involved in playing with something else. When he did ask her to push him on a swing, he said she just sat there and told him he was a big boy and could swing himself.

I write this in hopes that if this mother or another parent similar to this reads this that you understand that allowing small children to wreak havoc, to play with no regards to the others around, will only lead to bigger problems. If that mother had simply taken the rocks out of her son's hands, sat down and played with him herself, maybe directing his energy elsewhere, and telling him no, that what he was doing was not acceptable, it might not have fixed it all, but it sure would not have hurt.

My own children, and now my grandson, are high-energy people, always moving from task to task with wild abandon. Guidance goes a long ways, and while parents and caregivers cannot always be right there 24/7, it is their responsibility to keep their kids from hurting one another, and others. If this child was acting out like this on a continual basis, maybe there is some underlying condition, but then it is still the adult's responsibility to try to keep things under control, and to keep her other children safe. Take the time to play with your children. Guide them in their actions. Praise them when they are playing nice, and steer them in another direction when their actions might not be quite so positive. In the end, that is the root of what this task called parenting is all about!

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