Monday, February 23, 2009

Kids Behaving Badly

Recently, our family went to a favorite casual restaurant for dinner. During the meal, I was less than pleased with my kids' behavior. "Use your quiet voice." "Turn around and sit down." "Stay in your seat." "It's time to eat now, stop playing I Spy."

As we were finishing our meal, a woman who had been sitting near us approached us. She said to me, "I just wanted to let you know that your kids were very well-behaved, especially for how young they are. I've seen a lot of kids, and yours did very well. You're doing a great job."

I've had strangers compliment me on my kids' behavior occasionally before, and generally it gives me warm fuzzies. But usually it's on days when they actually have been behaving well.

This one caught me off guard, because I didn't think their behavior was good during that time. It made me wonder:
-- Are some other kids really so out-of-control that my kids' behavior looked good?
-- Did the woman merely appreciate that I was trying to get my kids to behave, rather than laughing it off or ignoring it?
-- Did she see how frazzled I looked and offer the compliment as a pick-me-up from a been-there-done-that mom to one who's doing it now?

I don't know. I still don't know what to make of it. On one hand, I appreciate someone thinking I'm doing a good job with my kids. On the other, I know there's a lot of room for improvement. I don't want to exempt them my kids from proper behavior simply because they're young. I don't want to make excuses for them being tired or hungry. I want them to be polite and courteous and act appropriately for the situations they're in.

And yes, I'm thankful for the day-brightening brought by strangers who compliment my parenting, as well as for those who keep their voices low so I don't hear when they complain about my children's misbehavior.

This job of "mom" is not an easy one. That I know for sure.


Stephanie said...

Part of her compliment could come from the fact that you clearly had standards for your children's behavior and were addressing issues you saw. Many parents just let them go.

Amy said...

I agree with Stephanie. I've actually said similar things to parents before, when I can see they're working hard to teach their kids good behavior. Far too many parents don't bother anymore, and that's not good for the kids or the rest of the public they'll grow up with.

Minxy Mimi said...

I think the key is not always how well behaved they are, but the effort made in helping them be behaved. You are trying not ignoring or thinking its cute. My kids try, but the do end up being loud, standing in the chair ect... but I keep trying to get them to behave and they do (most of the time) I applaud the effort just as much as the outcome!

Heather said...

I think we also sometimes expect a lot from our kids, more than they are developmentally ready to handle. I don't know how old your kids are, but I know it's unrealistic to expect, say, a 2-year-old to sit quietly in a restaurant for more than 10-15 minutes. Of course we can't let them run around either so it's a challenge to take kids to restaurants in general.

We avoided going out to eat when my son was really little because he just could not handle it. He still has some problems, but we take him out to eat once in a while now.

Perhaps her children were of this variety where you just cannot take them out to eat at all.

Susiej said...

I'm guessing... she was complimenting your behavior... because she was probably wise enough to know that kids aren't perfect all the time, and it's even harder to be a well-behaved parent even when the kids aren't doing so well. That, eventually, makes good kids.