May 4, 2005

but dad...

When I'm on vacation I tend to do nothing but read. It makes the point of spending lots of money to travel to exotic locales a little silly. My wife digs it so I comply. Anyway, since I'm generally reading I tend to have the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations more often than I normally do. And being a new parent I spent some time on our recent vacation listening to families by the side of the pool.

Here's what I learned: most parents interact with their kids as if they were their kid's age. This is presumably okay until it comes to punishing/reprimanding/disciplining them. If you manipulated the voices between the conversations I heard, I guarantee you would think that it was two kids fighting with each other.

A few examples. One mom was angry and loudly threatening her daughter to stop touching her dad's sunglasses. Huh? No explanation why this was such a big deal. Nice way to cut off your kid's natural curiosity.

Quite a few parents just utterly ignored their kids. The kids at times would try to get their attention to show them something or ask something ("dad?.... dad?"). Even though the parents could obviously hear their kids, they would just ignore them. Even if your kid was constantly pestering you about something, is this the way to get them to stop?

In another case a father was playing catch with his friend and his son. He kind of ignored his son because he couldn't throw or catch well. About 1 in every 4 throws went his son's way. This poor kid just looked on with his hands out praying for some attention. Eventually when they were done his dad just walked off without a glance or word that they were stopping.

Another dad (although I had some sympathy for this dad because he was at least involved with his 2 sons every day I saw him there) would warn his kids about something they were doing every 2 minutes. In general it was all reasonably good advice ('keep your arms inside the bus' kind of stuff), but how much impact are 215 warnings per day going have on a kid's behavior? Exactly, none. They naturally just tuned him out.

I'm beginning to wonder if 3 year olds behave like 3 year olds because their parents behave like 3 year olds. I'm wondering if the precocious kids of friends I've have are that way because the parents treat them with some modicum of maturity.

I guess I'll find out how I behave soon enough.

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