Friday, May 18, 2012

The Beginnings of a Difficult Child and an Immature Adult

I saw an older woman and presumably her grandson in a coffee shop this morning. I don't know them and am not looking to call them out specifically. I hope the best for them, especially the little boy and his future, that he grows up better than his manners now.

I was already in the coffee shop with some friends when in comes this little boy, probably 1st or 2nd grade, with his grandmother. He had on a green screen-print t-shirt and his blond hair was spiked up in a sloppy faux-hawk, probably at his request.

His grandmother ordered some doughnut bites and some other pastry and as he hopped up in the chair at he table she sat the snacks down in front of him. She got a phone call as she sat the food down. She answered it as he began to dig into the sweets. While talking she reached down to grab one of the doughnut bites (that she had just paid for) - and here's the part I couldn't believe - the little boy literally slapped her hand away from the food. Being on the phone she didn't notice much and just tried to grab another. He swatted and literally pushed her hand away, glaring at her as if she were some bully.

I thought it was pretty ridiculous that she would let him do this but I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that being on the phone with something important it wasn't a good time to gently correct him in the ways of being respectful to others. My disappointment continued after she got off the phone.

She sat down at the table next to him. He said to her, "...get some more food so you can eat." Translation: I'm definitely not sharing with you but buy some more for yourself so that I don't have to feel bad about not sharing. She didn't respond but just sat there with body language that was totally submissive.

I could be wrong and I hope so much that I am that there is something I'm not seeing. However, what I did see was not maternal care shown to and received by a cute grandson but passive servitude shown to and demanded from a master. In case it isn't clear, this is not a well ordered relationship.

I hope this five minutes scene I saw is not indicative of this little boy's personality but if it is I worry both for him and those he will encounter.

If he isn't able now to show appreciation and respect for his own grandmother, if he can't be grateful for little things given in love by family members how is he ever going to interact well with people once he grows up? Selfishness now will only be amplified later.

If his family fosters an environment of everyone bending to his wants there is pretty much a guarantee that in school he will become a terror when the teachers ask him to change his behavior. If he is taught implicitly that he can have and do whatever he wants that will manifest itself explicitly in bad behavior because even legitimate correction will feel like a personal attack. Tantrums will ensue.

An unchecked sense of entitlement left to come into adult hood will make an employee that is hateful and irresponsible, lazy and unpleasant to work with. So many bad things are the fruit of selfishness and a lack of charity.

I have done lots of hypothesizing but I hope that this was just a small, wrong impression. I hope he grows up to be a respectful and kind young man, I really do. But I also think that it's far from impossible that this might happen. If not him, some kids will unfortunately follow this pattern. We've all met those people, arrogant, untrustworthy, immature etc... Maybe we've even been or are those people. (We'd like to think not of course...) Even the holiest, humblest and most mature people had to become that way through good example and intentional effort.

The Moral

-If you have kids (or are about to) don't let them form bad habits when they're young. They will only get amplified with age. Correcting the bad habits of a teenager is 10,000 times more difficult than correcting the bad habits of a 5 year old. (i.e. laissez-faire parenting is a bad idea)

-If you find yourself or young people over whom you have responsibility living out bad habits be honest in recognizing them and work to change them. It won't happen overnight but it is possible and everyone you or they encounter will be grateful.