The city we live in, Bellevue, is an interesting cultural melting pot. I think most people think of Seattle’s Eastside as being predominantly rich and white, but while there are certainly plenty of folks who fall under that category (what’s up, PLETHORA OF RIDICULOUS YACHTS), the neighborhoods—thanks in no small part to Microsoft, I’m sure—are actually incredibly diverse.

A while ago I started noticing how Asian and Hispanic families seem, generally speaking, to have unusually well-behaved kids. I’m particularly drawn to the sight of families walking down 156th (a super busy street), and how even very young children just … walk, like normal humans. In one direction. While staying on the sidewalk. Like, they’re not darting here and there and acting like they have unpredictable, malfunctioning propellors jammed in their tiny rear ends, and their parents aren’t chasing them or barking orders at them or guiding them or reaching out to slam an iron eagle grip on the back of their collar before they step cluelessly in front of a speeding Metro bus. They’re just WALKING. As if they were born with a little COMMON SENSE and SELF-PRESERVATION.

I could give a million more examples of how calm and non-insane these kids appear to me, but I think the gist of what I’m wondering is, are we talking about environmental differences or culture discipline philosophies or what? Why do Western kids—my own, for sure, but also most kids I see out and about—seem so much more hyper and distracted?


92 Responses to “Culture of calm”

  1. scantee on July 13th, 2011 6:56 am

    And also, I’ve had several people comment on how well-behaved my children are when we’re out and about, to my shock and amazement. I think we have a tendency to remember when our kids are acting out and forget when other people’s kids do the same.

  2. Katy on July 13th, 2011 7:16 am

    I really have to agree with posters who have said the absolute KEY is consistency. Growing up, when my mom said “Stop that or else…” she MEANT it and we got the punishment she had stated 100% of the time. One time she had to drag my sister out of a mall while she shrieked that she was starving to death at a whole food court full of people. Was it totally embarassing? Yes. Did she act out again at the mall? No. So yes, that one time was horrible but it resulted in hundreds of pleasant and fun trips to the mall. I see a lot of parents now and to me it seems like they don’t always want to have to put down what they are doing/not enjoy their own meal/etc. I get that having children is exhausting but if you want to have a nice quiet meal at a restaurant then it’s probably a night for a babysitter. My mom says that she never tried to “set us up to fail.” So, she didn’t make us go out to dinner if we were tired. She let us play outside for long stretches if we were going to be subjected to a long dinner party that night where we had to behave. We had the rules explained to us, typically TWICE, once in the house before we left, and once in the car as we arrived (and as we got older we were expected to repeat back what was said to us in the house).

    All that being said, sometimes there was something she had to do, and we had to behave whether we liked it or not. We were NEVER spanked (with the exception of ONE tiny slap to my hand because I kept trying to put my fingers in an electrical socket). I think it’s what’s BEHIND the typical spanking that is important, and that is the “I’m not fucking around here, you WILL do as I say” attitude, as well as probably a consistent rule for using it (i.e., if the situation is particularly dangerous and you misbehave, IMMEDIATE spanking with no warning).

  3. Reagan on July 13th, 2011 7:20 am

    Kinda sad to me. While the parents are lucky to avoid some of the chaos, I think their calm behavior is sometimes because the kids are being forced to grow up too fast. Help out with the family, watch their siblings, do certain forms of work, etc. They SHOULD be bouncing around, being kids.

  4. Nicole on July 13th, 2011 7:33 am

    I live in France and you rarely see (white) French kids as out of control and crazy as I see kids here in the States. Attitudes towards what is considered acceptable behavior are so different. You rarely hear things like ‘Oh, its ok. He/she is too little to know better.’ Its more like the opposite- why are you allowing your infant/toddler/small child to be so disruptive??!! I feel like Americans, especially upper middle class families, consider any and all behavior acceptable. They’re just kids, after all! You have to understand and accept it! Frankly, I find this a bunch of nonsense. Obviously if you don’t teach your kids manners til they are teenagers and let them know that it is expected, they aren’t going to have any manners or sense of appropriate behavior. My impression is that if you don’t start immediately letting your children know what is expected, you never win the battle. I have two kids, ages 2 and 6, and their biggest fear is the timeout corner, not a spanking but they get into line fast if they see me counting to three, no matter where we are because they know they will catch hell if they don’t. I suppose, also, that they have been surrounded by other kids who are expected to behave so it seems normal.

  5. K on July 13th, 2011 8:33 am

    Maybe it has to do with expectations. I remember my mom saying how my brother and I always followed her like little ducklings and she never had to worry about where we were or what she was doing. I think it’s b/c it was the behavior that she expected from us. She never would have expected us to do act crazy, and she would’ve been disappointed if we had. I don’t remember much, as I was little, but I do know that I was very attached to her and never had any desire to leave her side or lose track of her. So . . . expectations and nurturing?

  6. Janet in Miami on July 13th, 2011 8:41 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with Anne, who was in turn endorsing Anonymous at 4:17 PM.
    Very, very well done, and I am also in total agreement.

    “Anne on July 12th, 2011 6:15 pm
    I am in absolute, 100%, perfect agreement with Anonymous (post at 4:17pm). Brilliantly stated.”

  7. Katie on July 13th, 2011 8:57 am

    My son is one of the only Caucasian kids in his preschool class, with a wide variety of other races/ethnicities represented throughout the rest of the kids. I mean, a serious wide variety, this is Southern California. And I won’t say which kids are the least well behaved but I will say that it is not all the white ones. I think it depends on *so* many more factors than race. My white son is well-mannered and respectful. He is rambunctious and energetic too, but he listens when he knows it is important. And we’ve never laid a hand on his rear end. I think it depends on the kid, the parents, the environment, and 100 other things. Race seems very very low on that list to me.

  8. Laziza on July 13th, 2011 9:56 am

    I’ve only read a few of the comments, but I’ll echo what others have said about hitting. Child of immigrant parents here, and my brothers and I were all hit when we were kids. (I won’t say spanked – let’s call it what it is.) As a result, we were extraordinarily well-behaved. However, I now have two kids and I will NOT be hitting them. Ever. I’d rather have them ill-behaved than well-behaved because they’re scared I’m going to hurt them.

  9. Amanda on July 13th, 2011 10:03 am

    I don’t know why this is, but I know THAT it is. When I was in Japan several years ago, I noticed that the children there were drastically and obviously different. More calm, more… composed? If children can be composed? My friend there was coming back to the states after being stationed in Yokokuska for 7 years, and she was very concerned about her daugher- who had been born in Japan and had only been home to the states twice- being able to understand that at home, you can’t run around or someone will take you. You can’t go away from Momma because if I can’t see you, you might not be safe. Whereas in Japan, you see small children without parental escort a lot. On trains, in crowded stations, walking down the streets… Just alone. They never look concerned or lost or scared – it’s just common place. I don’t know if it’s because there’s less violent crime (There is- no guns allowed in Japan. Lots of drugs, but no guns,) or if the children are just more capable (They seem to be. Totally well behaved, to a one, they seemed to be.) but… anyway. That’s how it was there. In the states, you’d NEVER see a 6 year-old walking unattended in a city full of busy traffic and strangers… I don’t know why it’s so different.

  10. Rachel on July 13th, 2011 10:43 am

    It’s all about social hierarchy. In families where the adults clearly outrank the kids, the kids obey. We are socially almost the same as apes. When we have a consistant hierarchical structure we all behave better (adults and children). It’s not about spanking, spanking is just a tool of some parents who also happen to have authority. There are PLENTY of parents who spank who have no authority whatsoever and whose kids run amok. Authoritative parents who spank could just as easily do time-outs, or push-ups, or writing-lines, or corporal embroidery. It is their consistancy in word and deed coupled with unflagging expectations that gets results.

    Most 2nd+ generation American parents of school aged children were raised with the myth of self-esteem, the fabricated notion that it is important that kids feel good about themselves whether or not they have done anything to feel good about. That has completely screwed those parents ability to be authoritative disciplinarians. I live between two in-home day cares in a neighborhood with two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. I work for an organization that administers all the early childhood education programs in the county. I see hundreds of kids a week. I can tell a mile away who the discipline cases are by how the parents defer to them. “Can mommy go to the store before we go home?” “You can have an ice cream when we get home if you get in the car” “Please don’t run, please walk, walk please, please come back here, GET BACK HERE.” All the things parents say when their kids are the boss of them. If they would just consistantly say in a no-nonsense voice, “That behavior is unacceptable” and then follow through with consistant discipline their kids would fall in line.

  11. Tripta on July 13th, 2011 10:48 am

    I’m Indian, and I stay in India. And I can tell you we see plenty of indisciplined kids here as well, especially nowadays. If you ask me, I’d say it’s a direct consequence of the “let’s be friends” approach that simply doesn’t work. I’m just about one generation older from the kids now (I’m 23), and while I rarely got spanked, we had rules that we were expected to follow. My parents made the rules, set the boundaries, and there was no mistaking who was in charge. It worked pretty well!
    But then again, I’ve always been a quiet, bookish girl, and I grew up with two sisters. It might be a gender issue as well. I wouldn’t know.

  12. Amelia on July 13th, 2011 10:54 am

    I;m gonna say it’s a class thing… and my reasoning is that we live up in Mount Vernon (WA) and we have a large migrant population whose children are just as ill-behaved as mine, perhaps more so. Their parents typically work 12 hours a day in the fields in season and I don’t think their children get any discipline during that time and probably not at home, either. However, the culture is also such that these kids and their parents are rarely walking on the sidewalk downtown – they largely stick to the neighborhood of low income housing. And I do hope that none of this sounds racially insensitive, it is merely the truth. These jobs aren’t family-wage jobs, the parents speak Spanish and the kids speak English, and it’s honestly no wonder to me at all why we have a gang problem.

    But hey! Come visit our area sometime for the lovely hiking and biking and tulips and produce and all that… worth the 60 minute drive from Bellevue.

  13. MRW on July 13th, 2011 10:59 am

    You know, when I read this my first thought was the discipline issue because my mom was strict and there was no fooling around, she would spank or take away privileges and that was it. Of course I was an only child so she had all the time in the world to climb up my ass so to speak so I was well behaved in public.

    Then I read Akeeyu’s comment and I realized I hadn’t even considered the other aspect of social pressure on non-whites to be cleaner, better behaved, etc.

    Considering both aspects, I think it is societal norms, consistent discipline, and parental expectation that make these things happen. My mom said to me approximately 1M times during my childhood that she wasn’t my friend, she’s my parent. It used to piss me off, then I found myself saying the same thing to my son.

    My this is a disjointed comment – sorry!

  14. Tripta on July 13th, 2011 11:02 am

    And oh, since I’ve finally delurked after more than a year of reading you, I might as well add this before I disappear into lurker territory again: I LOVE your blog! :)

  15. OHmommy on July 13th, 2011 1:24 pm

    “Children are wonderful but they are not the center of the universe. The sooner their parents make them understand that, the better off we all will be.” From the CNN article “Permissive parents: curb your brats”. Loved the article. Nodded along to every word.

  16. Fidi on July 13th, 2011 4:39 pm

    I also envy the parents of the well behaved kids, but I think (particularly in Bellevue?) there are also some other forces at work: Nowadays many mothers work. Full time. I drop off both of my kids for almost 10 hours every day and I feel guilty at the end of the day. The kids seem to listen fine to their teachers, but not to me. I can’t keep up the discipline when I “abandoned” them all day long.
    Also, both of my husband and I grew up with a little too much discipline in their life. While most of the commenters state that they turned out ok, I can probably say the same thing. However, I don’t wish my childhood of fear on anyone, even though it did not involve capital punishment. My stepfather somehow instilled terror in me and I really, really don’t want my kids to ever have to experience anything like that. I am afraid that they may be afraid of me. Our generation seems to be the first one to not accept this kind of upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, respect is a wonderful thing and I had it for my grandparents, but I am talking about plain fear. However, doing it different is not that easy. We have no role models. Only parenting theories which are much harder to follow. Therefore many of us just overdo it in the other direction which leads to undisciplined behavior.
    Btw, as annoying as it is, I still think thaty this will have no long term harm. The “spoiled” kids that I grew up turned mostly into very pleasant adults. And they don’t seem to carry around all this emotional baggage.

  17. Erin@MommyontheSpot on July 13th, 2011 6:01 pm

    Interesting question. Some of the responses did mention spanking. I wonder if that has something to do with it. . .

  18. Nicole on July 13th, 2011 7:00 pm

    People in other countries generally do not MTOB. If kids act up in France, you will get the hairy eyeball from someone.

    I also agree with some of the others, my dad was a total hardass. He is my father and not my friend.

  19. Jen the Trephinist on July 13th, 2011 7:17 pm

    My sister and I were both incredibly well-behaved (white) kids, and everyone always commented on it. I have to echo the sentiments in a lot of the comments: I behaved well because my parents would simply have ended me otherwise. My dad only had to spank me once, ever, when I was maybe three, and he not only did it IMMEDIATELY, but hard enough to rattle my teeth while hanging onto one of my upper arms so I didn’t faceplant.

    After that, I was like, “Oh, do what you say? That’s how it works? I see. Right then!”

    I have no idea whether that’s a terrible thing or not (my dad still seems cool to me?), and if psychologists say spanking is a bad idea then it probably makes sense to believe them, but dude, you wouldn’t have ever caught me kicking the back of an airplane seat when I was four, I can tell you that.

  20. Anonymous on July 13th, 2011 9:02 pm

    Expectations. Role modeling.

    Our kids have always been “street-able”, (i.e., we have been confident in taking them out with us, wherever.)

    Yes: there have been a few circumstances of civil unrest: hauling one kid or another out of the church pew with a hand clapped over their howling mouths (it only takes once, trust me.), putting one’s face into the child’s face to explain that one does not make loud noises in a hotel room…

    And the very best: a generations-old practice of making a game of whispering. I kid you not: – if you play with your 18-month old, holding your finger to your lips and whisper “Whisper, whisper, whisper…”, your child will get in the game. And then, in the clinch of a christening or a wedding or a funeral, your kid will get it: whisper, whisper, whisper…

  21. Frances Lindsay on July 14th, 2011 2:16 am

    I read a few comments but I wanted to speak my thoughts without others’ influence on discipline or being “culturally insensitive”. I am half Asian. I look Spanish or white. You’d be surprised, a lot of people around FL think Spanish people are loud.
    About behavior. In my opinion, I think there are a lot of rules as to what is socially accepted. Now, to say Asians are well-behaved as children, it’s interesting because some of these things our society find as personality flaws later in life-too quiet, not assertive. I’ve always had a problem because I felt I never acted “white” enough. More outgoing, but I find a lot of it is just assimilating. Deviating from the norm makes life difficult. I hope no one takes offense to this-it’s a cultural topic so I’m speaking in those terms. I hope there is non-judgmental insight to this. As far as behavior-I bet many have said this, but a lot of children’s behavior comes from the parents reaction. I think spanking can cause more discord, problems. I think there are a lot of factors besides spanking or parents who blur their parental boundaries (being a friend) in this-diet, sleep, family dynamics, patience, discipline, parents’ reactions/actions. Have you lessened your reactions toward them? About the anxiety as well. Does it help? I would like toknow since I have two kids.

  22. Anonymous on July 14th, 2011 2:38 am

    Anyone who complains about a migrant/gang problem: but you still get strawberries at Walmart for fifty cents. But listen, it is a cultural insensitive thing to keep minorities down. They wouldn’t walk somewhere they’d probably stick out or have money to spend on $7.99 agave nectar or $50 bottle of wine. As far as behavior, I found it funny watching a bunch of blond Candice’s drunk and driving downtown Santa Barbara being loud and obnoxious-is that how we should all act?but that is the norm. Some parts of California, there is a definite disappearance of the middle class. But as far as being classy or in a gang-lack of education and break down of the home are reasons. And that does not discriminate. To say otherwise is culturally insensitive, which is a nice way of saying you just don’t know.

  23. Cacklin Rose on July 14th, 2011 5:11 am

    When my kids misbehave it’s typically because I’ve been inconsistent. It’s also relative to their temperament. Oldest girl will throw a fit -doesn’t matter to her who is watching, doesn’t matter where she is, doesn’t matter how many times we’ve gone over what is expected and what the consequences will be. She will absolutely pitch a fit if she feels the need to. Middle girl has never had a public outburst – minus the few expected ones in her toddler years. The feeling that people will see her lose control is much more effective than Mommy might spank. Our youngest daughter falls somewhere in between. The older she gets, the more in control of herself she becomes. BUT if I’m inconsistent, the negative behavior increases because “no” doesn’t always mean “no.”

  24. Anonforthis on July 14th, 2011 5:23 am

    This is such a great thread. I’m wondering if anyone can contribute how they handle being out in public with another family and your kids start acting up. Or the other family’s kids are acting up and you aren’t allowing your kid to do the same thing but you are trying to keep the peace? What if you carpooled there? Or have planned a day trip with them? I ask because I’ve been in this situation with friends and it’s awkward. I feel like I’m willing to put up with a lot less spazzy behavior that effects other people in public than some of my friends who have kids. So when we plan activities that are a distance from home and kids are acting up you can’t always say “That’s it we’re going home” because A) You’ve caravanned/ carpooled to the destination (B) Your friend doesn’t see it’s a problem and isn’t doing anything to have her kids cool it.

    I am not implying that my children are never the instigators. I don’t view them as perfect angels. However, it seems a lot of my friends are of the opinion that this is how kids act. I disagree, I believe my kids are old enough now to behave in a way that isn’t rude or disrespectful to the people around us. There is nothing cute about a kid acting out in public.

    Okay, I’m rambling but I hope you and the other readers/commentators have some suggestions. I’m really a a loss as to how to handle this specific type of situation. Thank you!

  25. Val on July 14th, 2011 5:31 am

    I grew up with the fear of the stick. Today’s kids don’t fear the stick because it’s not PC to do so. I suspect kids from other cultures still fear the stick!

    PS: The stick was was varnished (I say mom varnished it to preserve and strengthen, but Mom says no – I just stirred varnish with it – must have dropped the entire thing into the can once…)

  26. anon on July 14th, 2011 7:02 am

    I’m surprised by how many of your readers think Asians are hardcore spankers and hitters! My parents never laid a finger on me and I am not unusual for my generation.

    The biggest difference with a lot of these immigrant families (I’m from one myself) is that they take their children everywhere, from a very young age, so there are simply more opportunities to reinforce good behavior. Don’t worry, I don’t mean they’re out at Le Cirque ruining everyone’s dinner, but given the fact that they live around the world from their families and often work for global MNCs, they’re sort of put in the position of having to cart their children through airports, hotels and restaurants from a very very young age. My sister and I flew for the first time internationally when our age could be measured in months-because we had to. We were moving. Which we did time and again because my father works for one of the biggest global companies in the world.

    The second issue is that there are simply more authority figures in these cultures, and there’s a strong cultural trend to turn everyone older into an authority figure. Ergo when you are out and about, you kind of get the sense that your parents would side with the adults, not you.

    Finally, there might be a bit of confirmation bias going on, like when I get on an airplane and my stomach drops when I see a baby. It’s not that I hate babies and I feel overwhelmingly sorry for the parents because I know they can see it on all our faces, and I feel doubly guilty because I was a airplane commuter tot myself-it’s that I’ve been on 2 flights with unruly children who made everyone’s lives miserable, so those impressions stand out in my mind. I have to actively think about all the other flights I’ve taken with completely unremarkable babies who do nothing with sleep. Which is to say that I see just as many rotten bratty Asians as I do screechy American kids and I see just as many polite American children as I do Asians. However, I think people have an easier time controlling a girl-girl pair or a girl-boy pair. When it’s boy-boy it often looks like a tornado regardless of culture.

  27. cakeburnette on July 14th, 2011 7:26 am

    “When it’s boy-boy it often looks like a tornado regardless of culture.” That made me guffaw out loud, because it’s so true!

  28. anon on July 14th, 2011 8:00 am

    And to be fair, my experience as a girl-girl pair is that there’s a lot more hissy mini-spats, so take your pic of wild-eyed exuberance or glinty malice. Isn’t everyone pulling their car off to the side of the road and threatening to make the little monsters walk it the rest of the way? I know my Asian ‘rents did.

    Also wanted to clarify and say that you don’t necessarily have to be hopping a plane to Brazil like we were (because my father was on extended assignment there) to have kids who shut it in an airport-but I get the impression that if you’re not in that position where you just suck it up and reinforce time and again out of necessity (until it becomes habit for the kids), a meltdown in a public space creates so much stress and shame for parents here that they put off doing it again for a while.

  29. Farrell on July 14th, 2011 10:47 am

    I think it’s dangerous to come to wide-sweeping conclusions about race, ethnicity, class and/or culture (or anything, really) based on such little anecdotal evidence.

  30. Olivia on July 14th, 2011 11:34 am

    akeeyu, yes. Nail on the head. And, I know I’m going to sound over sensitive, but something about (mostly) white people commenting on the behavior of families of color squicks me out. Perhaps you notice them more because they are different. I’d bet if you looked around you’d see lots of white kids who are also well behaved.

  31. Barnmaven on July 14th, 2011 3:44 pm

    Far too much overgeneralization, both in the post and in the comments.

    You might see a family of color walking down your street with well behaved kids, but you can’t assume what level of cultural assimilation there is. I’ve seen kids from all cultures behave well, behave badly – and I’m also not going to generalize as many people here have that its the method of parenting. Look, I’ve got kids who are ADHD and bipolar and my son suffers from sensory processing disorder. Being out in public can be terribly difficult for him, and add in any other factors like hungry, tired, or (like yesterday) his dad didn’t give him medication before he dropped him off with me, and you have a recipe for terrible public behavior. And yet this is the same kid who sat quiety and without whining through an hour and a half catholic wedding complete with mass last weekend – as did his sister. I hate having my parenting skills judged by people who see my children act out in a public place and simply assume that I don’t discipline them.

  32. Another Anonymous on July 15th, 2011 10:19 am

    This just happened and I thought it might be relevant to some of the comments already posted. An acquaintance of mine has promised her son (now 10 years old) that she will never, ever make him do something he does not want to do. She wants him to be HAPPY. So the little shit is doing whatever he wants, acting like a brat and driving the rest of us nuts while she stands aside wringing her hands. Today she actually asked me and a few other adults if we could please talk to the little darling to convince him to do a certain something – doesn’t matter what it is, really – because he doesn’t want to do it, and she promised to never make him do anything, but she really WANTS him to do it, so could we please talk him into it? Jesus. Every kid goes off the rails once in a while – and mine seem to prefer to do so only when there’s an audience – but sometimes we just need to nut up and parent our children.

  33. ElizabethZ on July 16th, 2011 9:36 pm

    My kids are pretty good in public – they don’t do anything stupid in parking lots – there is very, very rarely any kind of tantrum or wandering off or touching things they shouldn’t – and I owe this in part to small bribes, it works like a charm.

    At home they are different, they understand the difference. They also understand consequences of misbehaving in public, and they are harsher than doing it at home. We give the occasional spanking but it is mostly timeouts, loss of privileges, exercises, or chores or for the worst offenses – sent to their room (for the older ones). With 3 boys – twins, 5 and another 2.5 – there is no choice but to let them have fun and explore their world at home, even if it means not always being the best behaved – otherwise when are they ever going to learn how to be themselves, to make decisions for themselves, to figure out problems independently or dare I say to take a calculated risk? It’s a fine line and this is a great discussion, I have enjoyed reading many of the posts.

    Some kids are just naturally more reserved or shy and therefore, well-behaved.

  34. Holly on July 16th, 2011 10:34 pm

    I’m gonna toot my own horn – I’m white, so is my husband and so is my 10 year old stepson. I’m a stepmom (full time – the biomom voluntarily stepped outta the picture) and my stepson is one of the best behaved kids around. We routinely get comments from babysitters, other adults and counselors at the ‘Y’ about how he’s a “joy” and so polite, etc. He is articulate and confident with adults and will shake their hands and say “nice to meet you John” (for example). It’s cute as heck.

    I will say, as a stepmom raising someone else’s kid, I had zero tolerance for bad behavior in public (or at home for that matter) when I first stepped into the picture 5 years ago. I am “the enforcer” in the family and exepct respect and obedience. Don’t get me wrong – he’s not perfect and he’s not a robot subject to my every command – but he is well behaved and respectful and if he’s not, he gets an earful from me (I could professionally lecture kids) and a punishment (we usually take away some amount of allowance). Never corporal punishment – I am not comfortable with it and my husband would probably divorce me if I tried. He is very easily corrected with a stern look and the tone of my voice.

    I have to admit I am secretly *thrilled* when other parents ask “how do you guys do it? He’s so nice and polite!” As a stepmom, I think I view him differently than if he were my biokid – he’s not an extension of me, but someone I’m supposed to care for and am responsible for shaping into a decent adult. If the “shaping” comes from tough love, so be it. I really don’t care when he’s mad at me or pouts about being punished. I experience zero personal anxiety about his anxiety and anger. He adores me and so far my stricter methods have not seemed to traumatize him. He likes the compliments about his behavior as much as I do and he will often point out badly behaved children to me like “Pff – Holly – did you see that bad kid back there? Dude – he needs to chill out.” :)

  35. Holly on July 16th, 2011 11:05 pm

    I just read more of the comments and have to say I agree with those who point out the hierarchy of kids in most families – they come first and their happiness is the greatest concern. I married my husband because it made me happy – not because I had any desire to spend my life making my stepson happy. I love my stepson and spend time alone with him and and we do fun things, but I also drive the homework process and the chores and enforce the rules. I am just not worried whether or not he’s happy all the time – it’s a let down you when you become an adult and realize that the world doesn’t care if you’re happy – you need to make yourself happy. I like to think I enforce the idea that if my stepson wants to be happy he needs to go along with the rules.

    As far as how I deal with his friends when they misbehave – I tell my stepson to “set the example” and I expect him to be the same respectful kid in front of them as usual. He just had his birthday party with his friends and I told him before and during the party, “set the example. You want the party, you lead your friends in good behavior.” Overall, they did quite well. I do tell him that when he hangs out alone with his friends, the fart jokes and burp jokes are free to flow, but not in front of us. I also call out his friends and just tell him “nu uh buddy – you’re hanging with our famiy now – knock it off.” I think as a stepmom I have a distinct advantage, thanks in large part to Disney. His friends think I might grow horns and start entering rooms in a black cloak and surrounded with smoke if they misbehave. I don’t mind using the wicked stepmom role to my advantage, but I like to surprise them by being cool and fun when they deserve it too.

  36. Kathryn on July 17th, 2011 9:48 am

    Fascinating discussion!

    My husband (son of Vietnamese refugees) and I (working class white-bread) have discussed this often. He remembers being spanked. I, funnily enough, am not sure if I was actually ever spanked or not, but I definitely knew the possibility was there and modulated my behavior accordingly! Both of us went to college and med school, and don’t break laws and aside from that whole him-marrying-a-white-girl part turned out ok  I think (j/k…I love my in-laws and they love me…now) I’m definitely not opposed to a judicious, well-deployed spanking when we have kids.
    One thing that really impressed us recently was some dear friends who are pretty young parents, and are the most hippy-dippy, tree-hugging (cf: young parents—went with the “natural” family planning!), type B peeps I know. We were at dinner and the toddler put his sock feet on the edge of the table. Mom took them down and told him no. A few minutes later, he did it again. Mom whisked him out of the room and they had a talk…and when he came back he did NOT do it again. We talked to them about it later and they said they are committed to not being the three-chances-and-even-then-no-consequences kind of parents, because who’s the boss in that kind of relationship? THE KID. Their point was that it is loving to be the boss of your kid…they NEED you to be their boss because they’re KIDS! I think that’s a point that’s often missed and one I fully agree with—especially as I got older, my parents shifted a bit from being disciplinarians to being a bit more “friends” and honestly I lost respect for them. I wished—and still do—that they had been more firm, more authoritative, and given me more direction because that is a form of love—and I think an even better one than being your kids’ friend.

  37. The Discipline Issue | MUSINGS BY MLE on July 20th, 2011 11:08 am

    […] topic was recently brought back to my attention by my favorite blogger Linda Sharps both on her personal blog as well as in an article she wrote on The Stir. I commented myself in both places as this suddenly […]

  38. Christy on July 21st, 2011 12:05 pm

    If I were to guess based on my own personal experience, it’s because they don’t have the grandparents there spoiling their grandchildren rotten and interfering with their parenting, and undermining their established rules. But maybe that’s just my family. *wink*

  39. Gnometree on July 25th, 2011 5:26 pm

    the questions are:
    Why do white kids outrank hispanic and asian kids in the ADHD numbers?
    Why does the incidence of ADHD increase as you head east?

  40. Anais on August 8th, 2011 7:32 pm

    I was born in this country, but my family is Cuban, so I was one of those perfectly well-behaved children with oodles of common sense, as you put it. In my family, the tactic used to instill my good behavior, and that of my brother and cousins, was “fear.” We were threatened with being punished, spankings and the loss of our toys were we to misbehave, especially in public. All my mother or grandmother had to do was give me a stern look if I started even raising my voice louder than “indoor,” and I was to be considered “warned.” I think those attitudes were what kept us kids in line back in the day. We had to constantly strive to remember the rules set in place for us to avoid being grounded and/or spanked.

  41. Rose on September 1st, 2011 6:21 pm

    I just wanted to chime in as someone who grew up in a household with absolutely no physical punishments. My parents talked to me, reasoned with me, explained that the good behavior they expected of me was a)for my own safety and b)out of consideration of others. When I did misbehave, I had to write (or dictate, before I managed to get the knack of letters and stuff) long apologies in which I was supposed to imagine what it must’ve felt like for the other person in the situation. It really worked. Why were my parents so committed to avoiding physical punishments? Because my mother, who is hispanic, grew up in a house with a lot of yelling and swatting, and it made her miserable. Trust me, I wasn’t a wild child (that would never have been tolerated), but I never got hit either, and I am really grateful for that.

  42. Rose on September 1st, 2011 6:46 pm

    Just to clarify, I think my point was that children react differently and physical punishments are not always a necessary component of good behavior.

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