While we were on vacation I had the opportunity to observe at least fifty children in a variety of public places. Most of them acted like typical children: happy, energetic, excited, and a little loud. However, many of them were rowdy enough to be annoying and some were downright rude. One child was openly defiant to her parents. I also observed a group doing something dangerous…with the permission of the adults accompanying them.
The public behavior of children is often very different from their “home environment” behavior and can sometimes provide a clear indication of three things: 1. Their basic training. 2. Their true personality. 3. Their relationship with their parents. My parents always told us that we were expected to be much better in public than we were at home because we were representing our whole family. We were especially cognizant of this when we lived in Caddo, where our behavior in town or at school could be reported to her before we had time to walk home.
One of the things that I’ve noticed lately is that parents seem reluctant to discipline their children in public. They are more likely to cajole, tease, bribe, or sweet-talk their children into compliance, rather than just reprimand them. A young boy was attempting to get over one of the barriers at the zoo and instead of simply saying “Stop that” or “Get down”, his mom said, “The sign says you have to stay behind the fence.” The sign says?? How about common sense says?? The child was old enough to know for a fact that he shouldn’t climb the fence and I suspect just wanted to see his mother’s reaction to his attempt.
When we ate dinner one night we were seated next to a multi-generational family group that included parents, a grandmother, and two young children. The little girl (about five years old) got up and wandered around the restaurant. Her parents asked her to return to the table. She not only said “no”, but the whole scene was repeated at least four times.
At the air and space museum there were at least four groups touring the building. Each rotated through the exhibits independently and then stopped for two presentations given by the docents. I couldn’t help overhearing one group repeatedly warned, by their sponsors and the docents, to behave. The poor man giving one of the presentations stopped several times and reminded them to be quiet and to keep their hands where they belonged.
At the aquarium we were constantly bumped and elbowed by children trying to get between us and the exhibits, even though we were clearly standing there first and in many instances trying to take a picture. I promise you, we were NOT that slow!
At the zoo a group of children hopped up on a statue even though I was standing in front of it, obviously taking a photo. Their mom didn’t say a word to them about waiting for a moment. Another group ran down a ramp directly at us and I had to quickly move over. However, it was in the rain forest habitat that I saw the worst behavior. The bench in this photo is obviously a great place for a “photo op”, but a group of young children decided that instead of simply sitting on the bench, they would sit on top of the wall behind it. I had to turn away because I was so fearful that one would fall. Before you dismiss my concerns, keep in mind that a young child was killed this week by a statue that toppled on him at a popular tourist spot in CA. I don’t know all of the details, but accidents happen.
Kids will be kids…and I know they are enjoying their summer vacation as much as I am. But if you are out and about doing the “tourist thing” with your little ones, please remind them that their behavior is not only observed by others, but can seriously impact the pleasure of someone else’s vacation.