Parents

Back off my bratty kids, would you?

Aug. 26, 2011 at 10:39 AM ET

Got an opinion about my bratty kids? Keep it to yourself.

Look, I know my kids have their moments. I know they can be obnoxious and naughty and defiant ... I know they get tired and crabby and bored. And trust me, I am only too aware that my little darlings can be total brats sometimes. Here’s the rub: I don’t want YOU pointing it out.

Yes, child-free observer, my kid is being a real pill. But if you want to tell me how to fix it, you might get a fat lip.

It’s like when I unload on my husband about my sister and the ridiculous fight we had.  I can call her every name in the book and tell him I never want to see her again ... but if he's smart, he'll keep mum.  Why?  Because it’s MY sister! 

Same goes for the strangers in the restaurant or the mall or the grocery store. The reason you can’t say a word to me about my bratty kid is because he’s MY brat.  And when you question his behavior, secretly, deep down, I know you are questioning me and my ability to raise a decent, well-behaved human being ... and that’s what gets my back up. Way up.   

Kid-free flights and restaurants? Where do we sign up?

Let’s face it: It’s not as if I’d be “right,” no matter what I did.  With so many studies and beliefs, parenting styles and classes, there is no way on the planet that I could possibly discipline my child in a manner that would please everyone, so I just do what I think will work and hope no one is watching.

That’s easy enough at home, but in public places, parents are all under a microscope. As I enter a restaurant, infant carrier on one arm and my 2-year-old on the other, I may as well have a squirrel on my head.  The stares alone are enough to put me into fight mode and I can just hear the remarks flying through your heads as you envision the torture you will have to endure sitting next to “those kids”.  

As soon as Max utters a groan at the food choices or infant Alex lets out a squeak to let me know he’d like to be picked up, a thousand visual daggers fly in my direction. I’m being judged by a jury of been-there-done-thats and I’d better not mess this up.

Does bad kid always = bad parents?

So I take my baby out of the carrier to feed him, and I’m judged. I put him down and let him cry for a minute, and I’m judged.  I tell Max he cannot have ice cream until he finishes half his dinner which makes him throw a spoon, and I’m judged. My husband raises his voice to get Max to settle down, and we are judged.  I take Max outside to talk to him about manners and he is wiping tears when we return, and I’m judged.  I walk the baby to get him to sleep while I’m eating, and I am judged.  Then, as we walk away from the table, Max says a cheerful “goodbye” to every single person in the place ... and you all smile and wave at him as if nothing happened.  And I am left feeling the guilt … and the judgment.

It’s that judgment that makes us defend our parenting.  It’s the snarky comments that turns us into angry, defensive Moms gone wild. So the next time you see me and my boys out and about, if you should happen to catch us in a moment of “imperfection” and you feel compelled to tell me what’s wrong with my kids … please don’t. Because I'm their mom, and they're MY brats!

Moms, how do you handle it when others criticize your child's bratty behavior?

Tara Kennedy-Kline is the author of "Stop Raising Einstein, Discover the Unique Brilliance in Your Child…and You!" She also blogs at www.multilevelmom.com.

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