Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shut Up! You Lie!

Riding on the heels of my Mother of the Year post from Sunday night, here is an article about public outbursts. 

If you click on the title of this post, you will see this article that ran on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch today, stating that it is becoming "in vogue" to make public outbursts.  I am so sorry, I am still trying to figure out how to insert links in my posts.  Soon! 

To briefly recap, in case it's possible anyone's missed the furor:

U.S. Rep Joe Wilson yelled "You lie!" to the President during last week's speech to Congress about health care reform.

Serena Williams threatened a line judge on his foot fault call during her Saturday semi-final match.

Kanye West took the microphone from Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech at the VMA awards Sunday to say Beyonce is the one who deserved to win the award in question. 

Among other things, the article blames a "stressed out society," instant gratification, and not seeing rude behavior being addressed, therefore leading to more rude behavior as some of the reasons for why we are seeing more and more people, public or otherwise, not exert self-control in public.

Does anyone think this sounds like parenting?  Maybe not "stressed out society" so much, but instant gratification and modelling good behavior, while at the same time showing consequences for poor choices, sounds an awful lot like the lessons I try to teach my children.  Every day.  Painfully. 


With children we expect this kind of behavior -  the only ways kids learn to show civility, respect and (hopefully) delayed gratification is to have it taught to them.  We expect them to try and fail many times before they get this right.  We expect them to sometimes not even try because the only way they can know if we, their parents, are serious is to TEST US.  We expect it to take a long time because learning isn't a light switch in our children, it is a years long process of gradually, slowly learning right from wrong.

And for heaven's sake, how can they learn this when everywhere they turn there are ADULTS unable to control themselves in public?  On TV and even glamorized because people keep talking about it!  And really - what are the consequences for these public figures? 

Nothing immediate, nothing swift - which is what all of the parenting advice tells you.  When your really young child hits, bites, pushes, they should go into a time out at minimum.  When your older children lie, cheat, steal, disrespect authority, there should be immediate consequences as well. 

When Oldest is disrepectful to me or another adult, she gets something she cares about taken away from her (TV, computer, the dreaded DESSERT).  And if it's in public?  I double whatever it would have been.

She really acted out at the Brownie's end of year celebration last Spring.  Every time she glanced my way, I would do the cutting motion across my neck, which is our code for "cut it out."  I would bug my eyes out and mouth STOP.  I would shake my head at her.  Nothing registered.  Clucking like a chicken, rolling around on the floor, yelling at a friend, interrupting the Scout leaders, a LOT of completely unacceptable behavior.  I was SOOOOO angry with her, I couldn't even speak for an hour.  I had to send her to her room because I was so afraid of saying something truly damaging.  During that time, I made a list of all of the things I planned to enforce.  The worst was that I banned dessert for a week and we had 1) the end of school ice cream social and 2) our church festival the next day.  So she couldn't have dessert at either of those. 

But you know what?  She wasn't even that upset, she knew she had been completely out of bounds and didn't once try to change my mind, complain or mope about it (it might have helped that I told her I would double everything if she did any of that). 

So what would I do if these three public figures were actually MY children and were young enough to be treated like children?

Joe Wilson - I would have removed him from the audience.  I certainly wouldn't have let him sit there checking the public reaction on his blackberry for the rest of the night.  I would also make him write a letter of apology to the President.  And publish it.  He IS a public figure, after all.

Serena Williams - I would have fully expected the referees/judge to remove her from that game and if they wouldn't have done this, then I, as her parent, wouldn't have let her play in her other match the following(?) day.  Isn't good sportsmanship one of the first lessons you learn in sports? 

Kanye West - I would have removed him from the stage as well.  I would have made him apologize to Taylor Swift - on TV.  Sincerely.  And he would not be allowed back to announce at any award shows for a specified amount of time. 

I mean, really, aren't these just glorified temper tantrums these people have engaged in?  Didn't they all deserve a little time out?  I think yes.

So why am I so upset about the public outbursts from these three?  Because if I'm willing to enforce such consequences AND expect better behavior than what they displayed from my CHILD, then we as a sociey need to expect better behavior from our public figures.  Because if we don't, then I believe our society is in real trouble.  And our kids don't have a chance.  No matter how hard we try. 

That's why I keep MY outbursts behind closed doors.  ;)  No, seriously, we all WANT to have little outbursts every now and then.  And sometimes we do.  But we just shouldn't - we're adults.  We were supposed to learn this throughout our childhood.   And public figures must be held to the same standards. 

I would love your thoughts.  Good, bad, ugly.  Unfollow if you have to, I can take it.  Part of being a parent is making the unpopular decision and sticking with it in the face of dissent.  :)
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