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?

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Kirsten
Kirsten
10 years ago

I notice this and wonder about it too. I’ll be curious to see what people have to say.

Sandra
Sandra
10 years ago

I don’t want to sound culturally insensitive nor do I want to generalize about any culture in particular, but one thing that is noticeably different between Western kids (especially upper-middle class white kids) and others is that their parents don’t hit them. There isn’t a healthy dose of fear. Not that I think hitting or corporal punishment is okay, however, many cultures (including my own Portuguese upbringing), only knew to discipline with the belt.. and let me tell you, you don’t want the belt. So you stay on the damn sidewalk. The long-term effects of hitting have long been shown to be detrimental, however, discipline-wise that shit can be effective.

ssm
ssm
10 years ago

I don’t know what it is, but my kids are super calm compared to other kids at my sons’ schools, and I can blame or credit it on…nothing. I have no idea. Maybe it’s our skin color, but maybe it’s just how they were born. I was born and raised in the US, just like them. If I were Malcolm freaking Gladwell, I’d say it had to do with like, the genetics of Hush Puppy-wearing, subway-riding mathletes, or some other improbable grouping where he could sieve out a reason for it. I just shrug my shoulders, though.

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

I work in a public library in an lower/middle class neighborhood in urban Texas. This is my 13th year working in a public library. The asian and hispanic kids I see are not any calmer than the white kids I see. I’m gonna say this has more to do with class and race factors than simple race factors.

My middle class white three year old walks calmly unless he is all hopped up on sugar. And I think that is partly personality.

Kristin
Kristin
10 years ago

Being Chinese and having pretty traditional Chinese parents, I can tell you I was never allowed to act less than civilized in public. It’s like Sandra above states, I had a healthy dose of fear instilled into me at an early age.

My parents were considered “lenient” Chinese parents and my brother and I were not spanked nearly as often as some of friends but we were not allowed to run around restaurants, dart around the sidewalk or walk ahead of our parents at the mall, etc. If we did, we were almost guaranteed to have my mom grab us by the arm in a vise grip until we calmed down. If we threw a tantrum in public, we were swiftly whisked away to the car to finish our tantrum in the privacy of the car and…we were rarely given sympathy.

I don’t necessarily encourage such parenting but it worked for my parents and I think my brother and I turned out okay. I will say, my parents never spanked us anywhere other than our palms or butts. Spanking aside, my brother and I learned very early that there was an expectation of good behavior and our actions had consequences.

Kristin
Kristin
10 years ago

Oh, I should add, a lot of the Chinese parents these days are a lot “softer” on their children and it’s more common place to see hyper little Chinese kids than when I was growing up. My parents and all their friends look at these “wild” kids and shake their heads and say “too much freedom!”

Jessica
10 years ago

I do not have a definite answer for this, but I’ve noticed the same as well in other ethnic families. I assume it’s based on their culture and enforced at home. Maybe a combination of higher expectations, spankings, parental authority? I know when we were little, we did not run around like I let my son run because it wasn’t allowed. We actually had to put our hands behind our backs and go through the store that way. I have never done this to my son, but it’s pretty genius. We didn’t have time out, we got spanked. As a culture, many of us have moved away from that and I wonder if it’s changed how our children act and react.

Mama Ritchie
Mama Ritchie
10 years ago

We also live in a Microsoft-y cultural town and I do have to say that two of the rowdiest, least controlled kids in C’s kindergarten class were Indian and Chinese (the other two troublemakers were white). So there’s that. But I have wondered about this myself while driving through my neighborhood. I wonder what role diet has to play in behavior. I wish I could say we were a non-processed food family but unfortunately, my kids like their food in handy tiny nugget form.

annie
annie
10 years ago

Interesting question. I’m a white woman raised by parents who were first and second generation Americans by way of Germany. From a young age I was expected to march up to adults, extend my hand and introduce myself or say hello or goodbye. My sisters and I were also expected to sit quietly for hours at a time while my parents visited with family. We were sitting at the table, but were to be “seen and not heard”. And we did it!

I don’t know what they did to make us behave as we were rarely spanked, but all three of us did what we were told with no arguments and no drama.

My three kids? A different story. Dinner out with my boys when they were young was a nightmare. Stores? A disaster. My kids have just never feared or, dare I say, respected me like I feared my parents and other adults.

sooboo
sooboo
10 years ago

It’s the fear. I was raised by older, OTB immigrant (on one side) parents and we were super polite kids because we were afraid of being hit. We rarely were, but it could happen. Not saying it’s right…

Mary
Mary
10 years ago

I agree with many comments above. I saw this a ton working in adult education. The children of refugee families behaved very differently than kids of adults who were born in our community. I realize that refugee populations may not be entirely relevant to the population you’re asking about, but watching the kids’ behavior was an interesting experience. Having worked with the parents, I think part of it was the cultural no-tolorance-for-BS (which also came with a ton of love), and the other part was that kids and adults alike had a general appreciation for things many of us take for granted. When a kid has watched his infant sibling starve in a refugee camp because mom was too malnourished to breastfeed, trust me, they eat their peas when they’re told to. And do everything else they’re told to.

Judy
Judy
10 years ago

I have to agree, it’s the lack of fear. While I certainly do not condone child abuse, it’s a long way from a couple of swats on a well-padded rear end to abusive beatings. I spanked my kids, and they did not publicly misbehave (they are in their 40s now, it’s a whole different generation). But I know in my own case, although I can’t really remember being spanked, I had a great fear of disappointing my elders, and so I behaved. All the time. So did almost all the other kids I knew. By way of background, I’m Caucasian, of German, Irish, Scots, English and Native American ancestry.

You simply behaved as you were expected to. You also did your homework because you were supposed to do it. We were afraid of repercussions if we didn’t, whether a spanking or just the simple disappointment of my mother if I talked back or ran amuck in the stores.

cagey
10 years ago

My husband is from India, doesn’t spank and doesn’t use the stroller (he thinks the stroller is stupid.) He’s all about carrying them around until they can walk, then he lets ’em walk. Me? I am all about rolling cages – be it shopping carts or strollers. My kids are ages 4 and 5.5 – for quite awhile now, I only use the stroller for our annual Silver Dollar City Extravaganza (Yeehaw!) When my husband goes places with us, we don’t use the stroller, period.

Each kid went through the typical phase of Toddler Dashing, but quickly moved past it because they figured out I get Very, Very Scary n’ Mean when they do that.

Robin
Robin
10 years ago

As soon as my daughter could understand me, I let her know (and still do) before we enter a situation what my expectations of her are regarding her behavior and also her safety.

I think my expectations have always been reasonable for her age, but I do let her know I have them. And if she is too hungry, tired, etc. then I don’t put her in a situation where she actually can’t act okay.

Holly
Holly
10 years ago

it just has to do with different parental expectations, i think. those can be stereotypically different based on heritage, culture, religion, neighborhood, anything.

parents tend to emphasize what’s most important to them with their children. for some parents, discipline and respectfulness is a really big deal. to others, confidence and gutsy-ness is important to them, and kids totally pick up on those things. in my family, we all sang. whether or not we could sing, liked to sing, etc, we all learned to sing.
i could be wrong, but that makes the most sense to me.

adequatemom
10 years ago

I’ve never really noticed a cultural difference so much as a difference between My Kid and Every Other Kid. Mine would be the one with the propeller and no common sense. Please post about what you learn from your survey …. I’m eager to know of other Propeller Children.

Holly
Holly
10 years ago

footnote:
a lot of comments have touched on corporal punishment, and i can’t help but toss my two cents in.
i was spanked as a kid, and i’m fine. i don’t have a huge problem with spanking, as long as it’s rational, calm, compassionate spanking and not an angry adult-tantrum, i just want to say that right off. but from my (admittedly limited) education in human development, human behavior, early childhood education, etc, the evidence really points to negative reinforcement of any kind just not working that well. this “evidence” is all relatively current studies, so maybe in the culture of the last generation it worked better, or maybe it was just the default method of dealing with behavior and the positive results reflect the amount of effort and attention the parents put into their kids, and not the spanking itself.
i just wanted to toss this in, because it kind of changed the way i thought about discipline. i don’t have kids, but when i was a kid i didn’t really fear punishment. i saw it as the price to pay for doing what i wanted to do- like using my own allowance to buy candy. it worked better when i was very young, but overall the rewards of doing the right thing (actual rewards, or just knowing i made my parents proud of me) motivated me much more than fear of punishment.

Monique
Monique
10 years ago

I’m white, and for the most part my kids walk right with me, at least the youngest does. The two oldest did when they were younger too. I had several advantages though – they seem to be unusally compliant in their physical behavior (not so much their mouths, I’ve found with the 2 teenage girls) and I only had to teach one at a time since there are 5 years between 1 and 2, and 10 years between 2 and 3. I know. Way to spread ’em out, right? When they started walking with me, they had to hold my hand, then when they wanted to walk alone, it was with complete understanding that if they misbehaved, they would be holding my hand again, this time in a way that kept them right with me. Further misbehavior and I would say it was time to go home. That usually stopped it, and if not, we went home. I don’t remember going home too many times, and it was usually due to a missed nap time melt down.

Kris
10 years ago

Fear of disappointing my parents, my grandparents, my family. And I am white. That;s what kept me in line though. And the be seen not heard attitude. I don’t use those on my kids, and yes, they aren’t as well behaved as I was. Sometimes I think, what did my family do to keep me so well behaved, and then I remember, and I don’t want to use disappointment as a tool. My mom comes to visit and uses it, and it pisses me off everytime, but if I tell her not to do it, then she gets very very angry with me, and starts putting out attitude worse than my kids. “Fine, you deal with it, I don’t even know why I come to visit you if this is the way you treat me, I’ll just stop coming” etc etc.

Michelle
10 years ago

When I was reading your post, I could see where you were headed and I had a feeling a lot of people would immediately assume spanking was what was keeping kids in line.

As a white middle class kid, my sister and I were spanked and we behaved. I don’t think it left any lasting effects, but I also don’t think spanking is the way to go and it certainly doesn’t teach self-regulation.

The fact is, real discipline isn’t about punishment, it’s about consistently applying the same message and expectation until the lesson is learned.

All that said, my child is very obedient, doesn’t run in malls, sits quietly in restaurants ect and none of that was accomplished through spanking. For us, it was simply saying, “We’re going into the mall, running is not acceptable.” The message was very short and direct. If a correction needed to be issued inside the mall, then it was a stern, no nonsense-sounding, “Running isn’t acceptable” or “That’s not acceptable.”

(No “you” messages, no long boring, nagging, “I told you….blah, blah, blah, this is your last warning except it’s not really because I still have to finish my shopping blah blah blah” — just a super sharp, “That’s not acceptable”)

Anyway, I don’t think it really matters WHICH method you choose to apply when parenting, just that you are extremely (and I do mean extremely) consistent in applying it.

I don’t know that spanking is successful BECAUSE it’s spanking, so much as its successful because of how consistently it’s applied.

akeeyu
10 years ago

Screw it, I’ll bite.

It’s not the kids’ fear, it’s the parents’.

The less privilege you have, the more you have to be concerned with society’s good opinion of you.

If you’re rich and white, you’re much less likely to have people look down their nose at you when your kids are out of control.

People probably aren’t going to make snotty remarks about how Those People Can’t Control Their Kids or make assumptions about the internal structure of your family.

Other rich white people smile at your kids.

If your kids are dirty, the assumption is because they’ve been out playing in the dirt, not because you don’t care enough to wash their faces.

If their clothes don’t match, it’s because they (or you) have a quirky fashion sense, not because you’re too poor to buy matching clothes.

There are a shit ton of perks to being rich and white in this world, and like it or not, white kids start being the beneficiaries of white privilege way before they can walk.

Veronica
Veronica
10 years ago

This is such an interesting post and I’ve OFTEN wondered it myself since I’m mexican descent and my husband is scandinavian descent (white dude from illinois). I have to totally agree with Sandra. And i definitely don’t want to make generalizations either but being in a bi-racial marriage it’s often popped up and i’ve examined the same question many times and every single time I come back to the same thing… the physical discipline. not like i was beat when i was a kid but my mom spanked and she meant business. there was fear involved to a degree. when i watch my husband’s relatives (mother, father, aunts, etc)… there is a lack of that physical element and I just notice a difference in the kids and how they behave when there’s no sense of fear. I’d never want my kids to fear me, don’t get me wrong. But seriously, just a look is all it takes and my girls quiet down. but it’s only because i spank (“not out of anger” as my doctor so wisely put it to me once).. but i spank when they misbehave. It’s prevalent in our culture and i’m not ashamed to say that it’s effective and it works. just my two cents.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

Race/Ethnicity is always such a sensitive topic. I hope the comments stay civil and don’t veer on the side of ignorance. 

As a Latina mom who grew up middle class and very comfortable, but was educated and raised in white, affluent neighborhoods, I would say the difference has much more to do with cultural norms and values than class. What I have noticed (both as a child growing up as an ethnic minority and with my own boys and their peers now) is that Anglo parents tend to want to be their child’s “friend.” Children are seen more as “equals” versus lower in the familial hierarchy. In Latino families, the parents are at the top of the hierarchy with the children at the bottom having to answer to and comply with the parents rules and values. There is no “friendship” going on. And there is a slight element of fear instilled in the children. The children know they will be held accountable for their actions (punished, privileges taken away, etc.). 

In Anglo families, I have almost witnessed the reverse. The children are at the top of the hierarchy with the parents seeming to cater to them and wanting to please them and fulfill their every whim or need in this sort of elaborate dance to keep the kids “happy” at all times. It appears the kids have the control. The parents also seem more wishy washy to me. I get the feeling that “no” doesn’t always mean “no,” but “maybe” if you push hard enough. 

These are obviously just gross generalizations, however. I think it just comes down to different sensibilities when it comes to disciplining/parenting styles. But we all know there are little assholes across all ethnicities and socio-economic stratas. ;)

lindsay
10 years ago

Are your neighbors immigrants? My guess is there is something special about the kind of people who start and successfully complete the immigration process, that they are just the kind of people to have no nonsense kids. I suspect their homelands are full of kids acting afool, and that their future American grandchildren will be all wild Stateside.

lindsay
10 years ago

I gues I should say the future grandkids COULD be wild, but won’t necessarily. I think there are tons of white families with well behaved kids too, but that we see that behavior with a range of other behavior from other white kids so it just doesn’t stick out the way it might with immigrants where it seems like the norm.

uccellina
10 years ago

Ditto Akeeyu. My kids are disheveled, mismatched, and often decorated with peanut butter, and everyone seems to think they’re adorable. People don’t have such positive reactions to equally disheveled, grimy and mismatched brown-skinned children in our mostly brown-skinned city. And if I had brown skin, I suspect I’d be acutely aware of that, and more insistent about brushing my daughter’s hair before we left the house.

Heather
Heather
10 years ago

I can’t believe you posted this question, perfect timing. We just drove home from Bethesda, Maryland. We were at The National Institutes of Health having my (just turned) four year old evaluated for ADHD. As I turned the corner from the very busy main street to the side street that takes us to our house I noticed a young Latina woman standing at a bus stop with her two young boys. Those boys were both easily under four yrs old, they were JUST STANDING THERE. Not jumping around like lemurs, not near the street, not tripping all over one another, not doing anything dangerous. They were just standing there with their mom. I immediately thought to myself, “HA HA HA, my kids would have pushed one another into the street & been hit by a bus within seconds of standing on that busy corner bus stop.” I really admired how well behaved those boys were, but I have no idea how or why they behaved that way.

I totally agree it’s cultural, but not sure what aspect of the cultures hone that behavior. Americans of all colors and backgrounds seems to allow their kids to behave like less civilized people, it’s not just white Americans, it’s also Hispanics, Asians, Africans American… once you get past that 1st and 2nd generation. My mom & her sisters are from Germany. My Oma whooped their asses big time. Old world Europeans are just as good (or bad depending how you look at it) at instilling fear & demanding respect as Asians & Hispanics. I’m not going to whoop any asses in my house just o get my kids to walk behind me like little ducklings. My son was given an ADHD diagnosis today by the experts at NIH so I know why he can’t stand still, why he’s impulsive, why he doesn’t function like the boys I saw at the bus stop. I know that’s not the case for most children out there, but in my house it is for at least one of my sons.

I also see a few of my working parent friends have daycare guilt. I see many parents going over board with spoiling their children out of guilt that they work long hours and don’t have the time they’d like to spend with their children. To make up for it they buy them toys and allow bad behavior. It’s not the case for everyone but it is for some.

I’m white, I was never spanked, I always listened and was never hyper. I’m also a female. Is it a girl vs boy issue?

My oldest is half Brazilian. I don’t judge people based on their skin color or wealth. I wasn’t raised that way and I am not raising my children that way. I touched on the Latina mom at the bus stop because Linda posted this and it was so fresh in my mind that those boys were so well behaved. I have to agree with the poster who said their were little assholes across all ethnicities and socio economic levels – she was spot on!

ccr in MA
10 years ago

What an interesting topic! I don’t have kids of my own, but when we were kids my mother was very clear about what we were and were not expected to do. I cry Amen to two of the above comments in particular:

Kristin: “my brother and I learned very early that there was an expectation of good behavior and our actions had consequences.”

Jessica: “We actually had to put our hands behind our backs and go through the store that way.”

taryn
taryn
10 years ago

i can’t say much about how these cultural differences exist in north america, but while i was in china i noticed that kids there don’t fuss. at all, no matter how young. as soon as i noticed it, i watched for it. there was no visible disciplining because there was no need for it. i have no idea what happens behind closed doors but in public they are all angels. ALL OF THEM.

Jessica
10 years ago

I’m fascinated reading these comments. I’ll admit when reading the post my mind went straight to corporal punishment. I’m enjoying reading the theories of other possible explanations.

At the end of the day, I’m sure there are so many contributing factors its impossible to define them all and follow the “formula” to get your kid to behave. Which is really a shame, because my two-year-old is one of those kids who runs every which way except straight down the sidewalk.

jwoap
10 years ago

We were always well behaved because my mom would whack us if we got out of line. There was this unholy dose of fear. And God help you if you got into trouble for misbehaving while you were out in public with Mom because then Dad found out and we got it double from him.

My father is German, my mother Native American, and we were brought up in a really strict household where one didn’t even think about behaving in an uncivilized manner.

We don’t hit our son, but we raised him firmly if that makes sense. He doesn’t get out of line in public either.

jwoap
10 years ago

PS – the other thing I forgot to add to this, is that my parents will tell you that they were NOT our friends. They were OUR parents. They didn’t care what other families did, they were focused on our family and what we did. And we have carried that forward with our child, we aren’t our son’s friend we are his Mom and Dad.

Basically my mom and dad didn’t care if they pissed us off or hurt our feelings:)

Anne
Anne
10 years ago

I am in absolute, 100%, perfect agreement with Anonymous (post at 4:17pm). Brilliantly stated.

I also agree that this topic is fascinating!

jodie
jodie
10 years ago

I’m as white as can be, and my three sisters and I were very well-behaved children. My parents spanked us, and good lord did we fear our father because of it. I do spank, not often though (its just not effective for us) and my kids are still hooligans at times. I think I’m pretty strict and make my expectations clear, so I don’t know what the answer is here. All kids are different I guess.

mlegreenberg
mlegreenberg
10 years ago

Great post. I have thought about this a lot recently now that I am a Mom for the first time. My son is only 1 so how to keep him in line has not yet been an issue but I know its coming soon.
I am/was raised in a middle-class white neighborhood with parents that used spanking. It was highly effective and RARELY did they have to actually spank us. One spanking and we knew they were serious and from there the threat was usually enough. Those few times that we did get spanked it was not abusive or out-of-control. No bruises were left. It really did not even hurt that much, it was just unpleasant. And boy did we ever deserve it when it got to that point.
We always behaved in public and I think it was a combo of having respect and knowing it would be the end of our little worlds if we acted crazy in pubilc. I have often thought about how we were kept in line and most of it was just the knowledge that there would be consequences for our actions that we would not like. But at the same time its not like our parents went around threatening us all the time. HOW did we know? I am not sure. Maybe just that look on their face that conveyed “you stop now or ELSE” without them having to say anything.
I know that now a lot of studies have shown spanking not to be effective and even damaging in some cases so that concerns me. But at the same time I do not feel we were harmed by our spanking experiences as kids. I think maybe there are different kinds of spanking and different reasons and that is what makes the difference. Even while being spanked we knew our parents loved us unconditionally. That may seem strange to some but somehow there was not any confusion between our parents love and the anger that seemingly would be conveyed through spanking. The scary thing is I dont really know how my parents accomplished that. It makes sense to me that it could confuse a child to be hit but it was NEVER confusing or an issue for us. So I wonder what to do with my son when the time comes. I know for me it worked but I would hate to do it wrong with my son and have him be confused or hurt by it. So for now I am still undecided. Perhaps I will get lucky and he will never call my bluff (HAHAHAHA! Yeah right…).

Michelle M.
Michelle M.
10 years ago

Ok, I read this and thought about how my two boys do both. I mean, sometimes they are perfectly capable of walking and behaving like small humans and sometimes they act like cracked out blind badgers with butts full of angry bees. And then I thought, “Huh, well they are HALF Asian.”

Not helpful. But kinda funny.

Rosie
Rosie
10 years ago

This is an AMAZING discussion.

My kids were raised in the Ci-tay – so they know how to walk or get thrown into lockdown (I kid, I kid) sorta.

But – now I have a girl after 2 nutter boys, and let.me.tell.you – she walks down the street no problem.

Shilo
10 years ago

I’m white, and grew up working class (not even *close* to middle class) in Spanaway, Washington – a pretty depressed area known for it’s meth use, trailer parks, and geographically-separated military families.
Most of the kids I grew up around (not all, but most) were incredibly well behaved in retrospect.
For myself and my brother we knew that wilding out resulted in an ass-whooping/guilt trip lecture/removal of later sweet treats. Conversely, we also knew that being “good” would result in treats or other extra privileges such as more TV time.

I have distinct memories of both/either of my parents reminding us before entering a grocery store or whatever what was at stake both good and bad. We’d be trembling with excitement by the time we got to the checkout line because we knew we had been good and were on the verge of finding out what awesome prize we had one.

Was it bribing and fear-based tactics? YES. Did it work? Beautifully.

Penny
Penny
10 years ago

I am a white woman married to an American Hispanic. We totally agree on parenting. Hard-asses is what we are.You do what you are told or there will be problems. You loose privileges.
My dad was the enforcer in our home and you didn’t want him getting a hold of you when he was mad or sitting would be out of the question for awhile.
I have spanked my kids rarely but they did get a spanking if they were young and required one. By 5 they had it figured out.
We as parents are not these young peoples friends!!!!!!!
We are their teachers, their mentors, the only people in this world who will throw them a life line if needed,give our lives for them.
Unlike you my children are older now. I have a daughter (23) who is serving our country, did a full deployment in Iraq two years ago, another daughter (20) that is in college full time and working full time.
I also have a Son (11) with adhd who gets straight A’s and MOST teacher’s love. He is generous, loving, and would hand you the world if he could. He hold doors for people an says please and thank you.
They are not robots….but young people that know right from wrong. Money wasn’t the teacher…we were.

elembee123
elembee123
10 years ago

Very interesting topic and comments!

I am not sure if discipline is a cultural/ethnic thing. I’m nearly 50 and 1/2 white 1/2 hispanic, though I was raised as “white bread” as can be, as an only child by my single mom.

I was raised w/ consistent discipline; spanking as well as other consequences like loss of privileges or possessions (toys) depending on the circumstances and my age. The punishment always fit the crime.

My mom’s style was to tell me what was expected of me (behavior/manners) beforehand and if I misbehaved I would get a warning, and with continued misbehavior (not often!) I was given a punishment. She rarely disciplined me in public – rather she would remove me from the scene (ladies bathroom or outside).

But the main thing was that she rarely issued (empty) threats. If she said “If you misbehave, I will …” and if I misbehaved, I would get … whatever the punishment was. She always followed through, as I KNEW she would. There was one time when she actually left her nearly-full shopping cart at the front of the store (with a clerk’s knowledge) and took me home without paying for said groceries. Yes, she was pretty pissed about it, and believe me, it only happened once!

Is that fear? I don’t remember being fearful, but I DO remember knowing that if I got out of line, I was going to reap the consequences of that misbehavior. To me, it was more about cause and effect, as well as respect.

I tried my best to raise both my kids that way and for the most part, I think it worked. My kids (both now in their mid-twenties) were (and are) good kids, and they BOTH have said to me “Y’know, as much as we hated the “beatings” (haha, jokers!) we now appreciate that you disciplined us, as we both see the results of inconsistent/nonexistent discipline in today’s world.” (And no, I didn’t pay them to say that!)

I know there are those who are adamantly against any form of physical punishment, choosing to use their words instead. If that style works, GREAT! More power to them! I think everyone has to find their own method.

But no matter their style, consistency is the key. Grounding your kid for something on Monday, then saying “Oh Johnny/Susie…stop doing that this minute” as they off-handedly wave their fingers in the general direction of their little darling as they text a mile a minute on their phones, while Johnny/Susie keeps trying to stuff the dog into the toilet on Tuesday…? Well, that’s just sending the kid mixed messages and s/he’ll never figure out what the parent wants.

I am eager to read everyone else’s comments on this discussion. Thanks for a great conversation!

Amanda
Amanda
10 years ago

I set expectations for my daughter every time I get her out of the car seat. “You need to hold my hand and walk with me in the parking lot, street, shop, restaurant, etc.”

If she doesn’t, there’s a verbal reprimand that quick and direct.I have zero issue with disciplining a child in public. She knows it, and doesn’t push the boundaries. Part of that is that she knows I’m serious, and part of is it her personality. I’ve never laid a hand on her, and I am the biggest positive reinforcement machine on the planet. That’s my parenting style.

I will also say, in our neighborhood (which is very diverse), there are hooligans of all races and creeds. I really believe it’s in the parenting. Which may be harsh, but true.

Rachel
10 years ago

I’m white, my husband’s white, we’re jillionth-generation Americans, middle-class, rural. Our kids behaved pretty much like the kids you describe, although there were a few times in stores when they would drive me bananas when they were small. I agree with Anonymous above, to a large extent, about the idea of being parents as opposed to buddies, about Mom and Dad being the ones in charge and the kids at MUCH lower hierarchical level. (Now that they’re older and their behavioral foundations are well-laid, there’s a lot more friendship involved, but they STILL know that Mom and Dad make the rules and that they are expected to obey, and most especially that our lives do not revolve around their desires and whims.)

I also agree (HUGELY) about the consistent discipline. When we took our children places, they knew how to behave, either because it was a situation they’d been in often (grocery store) or because we explicitly told/reminded them on the way in (“This is a nice restaurant. People come here and pay a lot of money to enjoy their meals in peace. You WILL NOT be the children who ruin that for them.”). They had had a foundation laid since toddlerhood: If you misbehave, there are consequences. Whether the misbehaving is in the form of smacking your sibling or having a tantrum, or even (pertinent here) engaging in behavior that was OK at home but not in, say, a restaurant or the market (yelling, running, whatever), the pre-discussed consequences followed the behavior like clockwork, every time. Which works out beautifully, because the kids quickly learned to behave, and the consequences hardly ever had to happen.

Granted: Our kids were further apart in age than yours (3 1/2 years between them). Handling two who are closer in age is harder not only logistically but also because they are more likely to rile each other up. But still, I do think that the difference, whether tied to culture or not (Caucasians are a minority in most of the cities we go to, and the non-Caucasian kids are pretty much indistinguishable from the Caucasian ones in terms of rowdiness in public, as far as I can tell) is in the family hierarchy and consistent, reasonable discipline.

Rachel
10 years ago

Want to clarify that hierarchy or not, our kids were raised with a TON of affection. TONS. CONSTANT affection: physical, verbal, quantity time, quality time… our goal was that even when they were in trouble they would never doubt that they were loved. But it was parent-child affection, not you’re-my-buddy or subservient-parent-to-child-master affection.

Kris
Kris
10 years ago

I dunno. I didn’t read through all the comments; but since having a kid, I see rambunctious little not-listening, booger-eating, tantrum-throwing, misbehaving, whiny squealy pesky little shits EVERYWHERE.

Thank God. Makes my kid seem almost normal by comparison. =)

Antropologa
10 years ago

This might be a social class issue over a cultural one. If you spend a lot of time walking from Point A to Point B because you don’t have a car or gas is too expensive, it is not as exciting so you don’t go as crazy. Or maybe they just walk more in general. Or get more exercise/time outside in general.

Who knows?

My kid and I spend a ton of time walking together in the forest etc. and she runs about like a sprite, but in the city she is very sensible and sticks with me, but then she is a very cautious person about cars.

Nyt
Nyt
10 years ago

What a great discussion! I agree with all of the posters who mention that we are not are kids “friends”. We are their parents. As an older Caucasian parent to a young Asian child, people comment constantly on how well behaved my kid is. What follows the compliment is usually something along the lines of “asian kids are just naturally better behaved”.

Um…no. She is a quiet, thoughtful kid by nature, but she’s also 5 and is subject to all of the crazy that kids that age get. As parents we discipline clearly and consistently. We’re very big on “if you do A, B will happen”. And it’s all about the follow through. We have her repeat the A+B thing and she’ll almost always follow that up with a “and Mommy/Daddy is not kidding”. It’s hard not to laugh for that one… but, we’ve taken our food to go, left stores and gatherings all because we set the rules and the rules weren’t followed.

Huge props to the poster who mentioned that American culture seems to revolve around the children and other cultures do not. Between that and the idea that we must not damage our kids “self-esteem” I think we’ve created the “entitlitis” that we’re faced with now. I think that it’s less about money and more about the balloon-headed kids who have been told their whole lives that they’re “special” and that “everybody wins”.

Corporal punishment? Has it’s place. I remember being interviewed by a social worker before adopting my daughter. She asked me about spanking and Himself went white. I’m a crappy liar and so I was honest, I will spank my child ( I do and I have) especially when the offending behavior is dangerous to her. Pull away from me on a busy street or in a parking lot? Qualifies. Wander away from me or the cart in the store? Qualifies.

A final word on diet. A poster mentioned upthread that differences in diets may account for differences in behaviors. I believe that whole heartedly. The reality of the American diet is that most kids are being fed a steady stream of simple carbs and sugar. We can’t expect our children to behave while we constantly fill them with the equivilant of rocket fuel.

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

The psych course I just finished placed a lot of emphasis on the differences between collectivistic (most Eastern) and individualistic (European & American) cultures. Studies show kids raised in collectivistic cultures tend to be more aware of how their behavior reflects on their family and community. Psychologically and generally speaking, they seem to have less need to test and push and assert their independence in various nerve-wracking and obnoxious ways.

danish
danish
10 years ago

My 5 yr old boy is a MANIAC at home, bouncing off the furniture, being too loud, too mouthy, too demanding, and too rough with the baby. We want to tear our hair out from dealing with his behavior so often.

However, he has never darted away from me in a parking lot, nor ever had a tantrum in a store, and generally sits well in a restaurant. Not from fear– because he has never acted out in public, so has never gotten spanked in a bathroom somewhere, but because for some reason, he just acts pretty well in public.

One of those head-scratching things i guess.

Lucy
Lucy
10 years ago

I actually have to agree with Antropologa and wonder if it has more to do with the circumstances than the discipline. Kids who rely on walking more (or taking the bus, etc.) just don’t get as excited and manic about it as kids who rely more on being driven places. The walk itself isn’t the point, which it sometimes is for more car-reliant people, so the faster and more directly you walk somewhere, the sooner you get to the goal.

scantee
scantee
10 years ago

It probably a little bit of a lot of the things mentioned here, non-white people face greater censure if their children act out of control; cultural norms where spanking is more acceptable; practice (if you’re walking on the street all the time you know the expectations); different family structures where parents are seen as the top of a hierarchy; and so on.

I had a similar experience recently when I saw a blind woman with three young children that looked to be all under the age of five, calmly waiting for the bus. What the hell am I doing wrong that a BLIND woman can control three very young children on a busy street and yet I can’t control my two feral beasts in my own home?