If I had a Rand for every time someone has said this to me, we’d all be going out for dinner, right now, in Paris. I have the “good” child. Mine is not the one starting fights on the playground or getting detention on a Friday. She is polite, pleasant and disciplined. She applies herself in school, eats her vegetables and does not slam doors in my face. Not yet, at least (dear teenage years, please be kind to me…)
I love that people notice she’s kind, and not prone to wigging out a tantrum in the toy aisle at the mall. It means a lot to me that she be recognised as someone who takes sharing seriously in life, and does her best to be kind to everyone around her. I am beyond grateful that she is a sweet and gentle child but – this did not happen by accident. When people say “lucky”, I think “You have no idea how hard it is to make that luck. There is no luck. There is only hard work”.
I always find it so interesting when people pass judgement on children’s behaviour in public. I sometimes feel like people think some children emerge, fully formed from the womb, with sensibilities, manners and discipline all wrapped up. And that others arrive in the world with the complete opposite set of characteristics. Here’s the thing I want to tell people who tut-tut at the kid careening down the shop aisle, or beam at the one picking up litter on the kerb – the primary miracle of a child is that they are born. Beyond that, it’s circumstance, situation and hard work. That child is the product of sleepless nights; uphill battles; mountains of tears and at least one parent convinced they’re completely screwing it up 80% of the time. That goes for every kid, every situation and every parent. I promise you that now.
So that’s why, at 9am on Saturday morning, when my kid stepped out of line and I yelled at her (I’m a shoutie parent. I shout. Some people smack, I shout. We’re all different), and someone who knows me looked at me aghast, and said “How can you shout at her?! She’s so good!” I wanted to rip off my mom boots and beat them over the head with them.
It's all about discipline
Here’s the truth – the only reason why my child is seen as a ‘good child’ is because it is a learned, enforced and emphasized pattern of life. The only reason why she understands that there are consequences to actions is because she’s experienced consequences. She has been grounded. She has had toys taken away and she has been through the harrowing childhood experience of having television banned. She has had a time out chair. She has had to apologise to people for being rude before. She has learnt that lying about something (even a little white lie) is wrong, will not be tolerated and will be found out. She has learnt through these experiences, and will continue to do so as she grows up. You see her as the “good child” because anything else is plainly not acceptable in our life.
Her behaviour is not some weird miracle. I am not some parenting wizard who produces genetically perfect children, who know that they have to say please, thank you and pardon me, from birth. No parent is that wizard.
So, please, people – the next time you see the ranting parent popping off a “NO YOU CANNOT HAVE THAT” to a kid in the aisle, don’t judge. Heck, that could be the only time they’ve shouted in the last month. And the next time you see mom and dad sitting quietly with their kid, reading a book and think “ah what a sweet scene, they’re so lucky to have a quiet kid!” – please remember that it might have taken some sort of wrestling match to get to that picture perfect place, and that may be the only quiet moment they’ve had together in the last year.
Most of all, parents, stop judging yourselves. You are not here to become some sort of parenting expert. You are here to love your children, raise them as best you can, and get through each day without falling to pieces completely. Oh, and don’t be afraid of shouting. It’s okay.
Do you have a 'good' kid? What are your secrets?
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