school of hard knocks

I am an observer who at times has a hard time of just observing and not getting involved.  Halloween night was one of those times.  My daughter and I went trick-0r-treating with friends and their kids and their friends and kids.  Needless to say there was quite a group.  Over the months it has been quite obvious that our friends had difficulty with at least one of their kids and Halloween night was no exception to this observation.  It also became clear on Halloween night that the ones in control were not the parents.  The parent’s Bob and Alice have three boys.  Jack the oldest was off with the older kids which were not part of our group.  This was the first time the older kids were not part of our group which will explain some of the comments later.  The other two Joe, age 7, Brandon age 6, and my daughter Lilly age 8.  Their friends kids were much younger except for Trent being around age 6.  Trent, Joe, Brandon and Lilly were sort of a pack on their own with Joe spearheading the group.  It all started immediately, it wasn’t a gradual thing.  Joe was darting from house to house whether any lights were on or not.  Lilly kind of held back, she is not one for going to houses she doesn’t know and doesn’t like scary things so she pretty much was the tail end of the small group.  Brandon and Trent were in the middle, if they saw Joe tearing off down the street to another house they weren’t far behind.  The parents Bob and Alice were constantly calling Joe back, telling him to stay with the group.  We weren’t but a few houses into the night when I heard Bob tell Alice he thought with the older kids gone this would not happen this year.  He must have said this three or four different times throughout the evening.  Several times Bob was yelling for Joe to get back with the group or wait for the group, many times Joe just ignoring this and continuing on his way until his father would give an ear piercing whistle which would make him stop and either wait or come back.  One of the other parents even blocked the sidewalk, telling Joe if he goes past him, he will loose all his candy.  Joe ignored this even after being warned a couple more times as he tried to push past, but he continued and finally pushed past so Bob gave Joe’s candy to the other parent.  Joe got mad and yelled to the parent to give his candy back, when Bob told his son, no he had been told if he went past he would loose his candy, Joe turned on him took his hat and hit Bob with it.  Bob then got mad and told his son that is no way to talk to adults.  I turned from this thinking ‘that is no way to talk to anyone’ and when I turned back a minute or so later, Joe had his candy and he was off again doing the same thing he had been doing all along, running ahead, not listening and going to houses with no lights on. Bob made a comment which sticks with me to this day, that Joe is the difficult one, his is the school of hard knocks.  This continued all night.  There was one time Bob told Joe to hold his hand and Joe got upset and wouldn’t do it, Bob told him if he didn’t he would be going back home, but that only lasted a few seconds and Joe was off again.  By the end of the evening there were a couple times they couldn’t see Joe and wondered where he was and one time Alice said ‘well if he looses us it is his own fault’.  It wasn’t long afterwards that Alice and Bob couldn’t find Brandon and Trent.  Bob and one of the other parents went back the route we had walked, while I went forward to the house because we were only about ten houses away from home.  They had shot home claiming to the parent left at the house that they had told us they were going home.  If they had said anything they didn’t make sure we heard them.

My observations of the evening has given me much food for thought.  I am a firm believer in taking a firm stance with children, the earlier done the better.  There isn’t much mention about my daughter in the above because though she would run ahead a bit she was never more than just the next house and always in the open where I could see her.  Part of this is because she doesn’t like to be far from me but also because I told her to stay with the group.  A few times I heard her yell at Joe to get back with the group or wait for the group, however, I told her to be still and let their parents handle their kids.  This is the hard part of staying quiet.  Have you ever observed people and wanted to say something because it is all so clear to you as a casual observer that their actions or their technique is not helping the situation and you want to offer advice but you know if you do their response will be one of anger and not being willing to listen?  I don’t think if I said anything that there would be anger but I know without a doubt they would not listen.  They have been going to parenting classes for high risk children and that is what they will follow.  I have no training other than my own experience so I am not an expert and they will always follow the advice of an expert.  I’ve had other encounters in the past with them to know this is how it is and it is difficult to watch because the older the child gets the harder it is to get a firm hand and keep it.  I’m close enough that I see and hear things almost daily and it saddens me.  A soft voice doesn’t tell the child the seriousness of the problem.  A gentle approach doesn’t inflict the mechanisms to want a child to change.  And most of all if discipline is not consistent and strong of purpose the catalyst isn’t there.  In order to instill the need in a child to change a behaviour you must have a catalyst that is stronger than the desire that instills that behaviour.  You must provide something that makes that child want to behave differently.  A soft voice isn’t going to do that, a soft voice doesn’t tell that child just how disappointed you are in their behaviour and a soft voice doesn’t tell a child just how seriously scared you are for them.

I have a brother who is a police officer.  I went on patrol with him one time and saw how he presented himself to people when he stopped them and sometimes gave them a ticket.  I asked him about it one time and he told me they are trained to present themselves in a stern and tough personna.  In most cases this attitude will instill enough fear and concern in the individual stopped so that in the future they will try to not do what they had done that caused them to be stopped.  We must be police officers in regards to our children’s behaviour, if we are not then our children will not be engendered to change those behavours that are not acceptable.  I use the same tone of voice with other children as I do with my daughter when they are under my care.  I was asked by Alice to talk to her before speaking to Joe or any of her children because they get so upset when I do speak to them.  She wasn’t sure if it was what I said or how I said it or the tone of my voice but her concern was that Joe would cry and say how much he hates me.  I told her fine I would talk to her first.  I knew instinctively after what she had told me that she would not want to hear my philosophy on parenting.  I have heard her when she talks to her children when discipline should normally be called upon.  She always uses a soft voice.  A voice that is sing-song in sound.  A pleasant voice.  If I were unable to hear the words spoken and only heard the sound there would be no indication what so ever between her voice when gently sending a child off to sleep or lecturing a child when they endangered another child or themselves.  It became obvious to me that she fears hurting a child emotionally in the form of correcting them and disciplining them.  I’m not encouraging nor do I condone hurting a child physically or being mentally abusive to a child, however we learn from mistakes or our actions when they cause us emotional pain and this engenders us to grow and change.  This is the same thing that needs to occur in children in order to have them grow and change for the better if their negative actions and habits are corrected appropriately.  I have tried using the technique that Alice uses with her children but gave it up quickly when I saw it had no benefit in teaching my child the need to change.  After two years I have seen no change in her methods and no hope for Joe.

Back to Halloween night… I do understand not wanting to ruin a child’s fun or anyone in the group’s fun on Halloween night or any other special event.  If my child had acted as Joe had on Halloween night, I would have first warned her if she didn’t stop and stay with the group that we would then go home.  The warning would be given twice each time with a stronger voice and intent, on the third occurance I would have stopped and taken her directly home no matter how much she complained or protested or said she would behave.  With both Alice and Bob being the parents of Joe and Brandon, one of them could have done this very thing with Joe and not ruined Brandon’s night which in my opinion would have started the trend for next year or subsequent events when he doesn’t behave.  It would not have taken long for Joe to learn and correct his behaviour.  To see Joe not disciiplined for his behaviour of not staying with the group and Brandon and Trent not disciplined for running home without the group, I see all too clearly what the future will look like for Joe and Brandon.


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