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It takes a lot to get me upset.  The other day I witnessed something that riled me.  I was at the store running an errand while my son, The Littlest E, was in preschool.  I was in the check out line and had the unfortunate luck to be privy to a mom/grandmother (who was behind me in line) demeaning her children/grandchildren.  Now, I don’t know what preceded this and, obviously, I don’t know their family dynamics.  There were 4 children under the age of 10 and all they wanted was what appeared to be a snack.  They weren’t being loud or unruly, but whatever they asked for was too much for the adult who responded loudly in a disrespectful tone, “Well, we’re certainly not getting that now.”  She threw the item on the conveyor belt and shouted, “Go stand over there,” pointing to an area near the store exit.  The kids silently and dutifully obeyed.

Thankfully, this episode wasn’t physical, only verbal.  I still felt very uncomfortable as a bystander listening to this woman.  I bit my tongue and said nothing.  Had I opened my mouth, I’m sure what I would have said, something like “There’s no reason to speak to your children that way,” would not have been well received.  It wasn’t my place or my business to say anything.

We’ve all seen it before, in a store, on an airplane or elsewhere, an impatient or stressed parent yelling at a child who maybe wants to be picked up, wants a toy, or is in need of something.  It’s unsettling to witness a parent publicly shame, disrespect, or demean their child.  I know children can try one’s patience to the limit; I have a 2-year old and have living proof, but I’m the adult here, and I need to behave like the adult, even if I’ve lost all modicum of tolerance.

I’ll admit it, at home, I have lost my patience with my son before and there have been moments where I’ve stooped to his 2-year old level (knowing full well how idiotic I was being yelling back at him).  It doesn’t make my behavior right either, but I occasionally make mistakes like that.  However, I have never disrespected, shamed, yelled or demeaned my son in public.  There’s no excuse for it.

It’s upsetting on a few levels.  I’m not meaning to judge this person or evaluate the children’s future, but if this kind of thing was a pattern on the part of the adult, it could affect their self-esteem and self-confidence over time, and if they are disrespected growing up, they may continue that cycle, as they get older.  Plus, the children may have felt humiliated in some way whether consciously or unconsciously.  As uncomfortable as I felt, this encounter served as a reminder of how not to act toward my own child.

My task as a parent, when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, and The Littlest E, for whatever reason, is behaving in a way contrary to the way I think he should be behaving, is to not let his attitude get to me, but to let his behavior trickle off like rain on a raincoat.  I need to pause, take a deep breath and let it go, not take it personally, and address his needs in a loving and patient way.  I hope I never behave like this woman, and if (God forbid) it happens, at least have the decency to apologize to my son right then and there for my behavior.

Image: Claudio Gennari . . .”Cogli l’attimo ferma il tempo”

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