Children misbehave in public, offending, irritating and drawing criticism from strangers. My wife and I have a running discussion of State Parenting Licenses – later, at home. I’d love to report that I’m never that ‘other’, imperfect parent. I can’t. It happens to me, too.
The bottom-line is mine and my wife’s. We’ve made parenting decisions about standards, expectations, consequences and messaging for our children. We’re responsible for, and receive the privilege and punishment of that legacy. We’ll stick by those guns and rear those people. Of course we listen to concerns and address real alarms – one-on-one with our child.
The armchair quarterback is everywhere: school, sideline, mall or family reunion. He is never as familiar with our children, their personalities or needs. She doesn’t get to make the call for our children. How we decline, ignore or reinterpret the advice depends on the parent-child-advisor dynamic. In all cases we want to teach ours by example (like those quoted below) – politely, firmly and constructively.
Frequency and difficulty of ‘advisors’ rise closer to home, for me. Retaining dignity, authority and clarity here is so challenging. Doting grandparents and other ‘patriarchs’ dispense a range of interference from favoritism to personal attacks to over-indulgence. Diplomacy here is exasperating but necessary – you’ll see them Thanksgiving, if not tomorrow.
“Thank you, Aunt Edna, but we’ve decided she’s not old enough for the piercings you’re suggesting yet.”
Educators and authority figures are short-term ‘advisors‘, but may be more reasonable. They usually advise on our child’s behalf. While not unloading multigenerational baggage on kids, they’re harder to disagree with. They’re experts.
“Principal Norton, we appreciate you for trying to give him the best learning opportunity. We are working with him on listening skills, but we and our pediatrician don’t think treatment is indicated.” (As I’ve written, we reconsidered when we were ready.)
Strangers can be dismissed out of hand – Don’t. If they aren’t rude, inappropriate or ill-intentioned, don’t escalate faux-pas to incident. Use manners and determination – the kids are watching. When adults forfeit that status by becoming uncivil, don’t reciprocate – pursue it through channels, later.
“Dear League Director, we must bring to your attention the unsportsmanlike suggestion of the Lions’ coach that our child jump rosters and abandon his friends and team-mates because the Lions win more.”
Appropriate responses can often be shared as teaching moments. The kids’ll face future ‘advisors.’ They’ll be wiser chiefs.