I was recently at a local chain restaurant with my family for dinner. It was a Thursday night and I can imagine most of the other families in the restaurant felt like mine; exhausted and ready for the weekend.
About halfway through our dinner a family with several school aged children arrived and were seated a few booths behind us. Unfortunately, things went downhill pretty quickly for them. Two of the children start in on each other and it is LOUD; there was shrieking and shouting that overpowered our conversation several tables over. My oldest even took notice and asked "Mom, why is that kid screaming so much?"
The two children continued to fight and the noise level continued to rise. You could feel the tension in the room; both from the two siblings, the parents trying to quiet them down, and the rest of the restaurant witnessing the whole ordeal. I noticed two of the waitresses smirk at each other; the look on their face said it all.
Control that child. Make them stop. You're failing as a parent.
When the frustrated, embarrassed mom finally got her two fighting children to follow her to the car, her husband started packing up their uneaten food. It was then that I heard that famous phrase come out of a fellow diners mouth;
If that were my kid, I'd ...
(I'll leave the rest of the quote to your imagination, but yes, it was probably as descriptive as you think).
Stunned at what I just heard, I was reminded that there is still so much work to do regarding how we view and treat children in our society. Do you think that mom walked into that restaurant thinking, "I sure hope my kids act like crazy lunatics tonight and hopefully we can ruin a few other family's dinners while we're at it!" No. She showed up with the same expectations as the rest of us; a nice meal with her family.
The good news is that so many of us are trying something new! We are working to create relationships with our children based on mutual respect and kindness. We are trying to understand and respect our child's developmental capacity. We are working on not taking our child's behavior personally (because it's not!). When we have expectations that go beyond their current capacity; it is a recipe for failure and sometimes we just have to cut kids a break. Next time you're witness to a child's meltdown in all it's shining glory, take a moment to empathize with that parent and child. Realize that they are doing the best that they can in that current moment. This parenting gig is exhausting - let's encourage each other along the way instead of criticizing and assuming we would have or could have done a better job.