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When did kids screaming in stores become OK?

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POSTED September 11, 2017 1:01 a.m.

I want to make it clear. Just because I’m closing in on 62 doesn’t make me an old fuddy duddy. Apparently I was an old fuddy duddy when I was 19.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, can someone answer this question: When did it become OK for parents — I assume they’re not kidnappers — to allow their kids to scream bloody murder in a store or a restaurant while nonchalantly carrying on as if nothing is happening?

Before the “we-have-to worry-about Children’s-Protective-Services” crowd gets defensive and says they can’t hit their child, I’m not advocating violence. I’m advocating parenting and common courtesy.

There was a time when parents in such a situation after trying to reason or sternly talking to their kid throwing a temper tantrum and going nowhere, would walk the offspring pushing the limits of their lungs and vocal cords outside the place of business until such time he or she calmed down.

Now many parents act like nothing is amiss.

I used to think it was the so-called “snowflake” theory of not wanting to hurt the little darling’s feelings.

And then I thought maybe it was part of the so-called “free range” children movement that is rebelling against the paranoia over 115 stranger adductions of kids in a given year in the USA out of 2,000 kids reported missing every day according to the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children. 

In reality, it is neither. I’m not calling people who do that bad parents but I do call them inconsiderate adults although learning how to conduct one’s self in various public settings is a skill that kids tend to learn from their parents unless there is an app for that I may not be aware exists.

The kid screaming Saturday in Target for close to five minutes with an impromptu Van Halen performance before he exited the store with who I assumed was his mother was fairly typical.

I know, it’s been happening for years so why complain about it now. Funny, but when people back in the mid-1990s thought standards should be upheld in stores and other places not to allow young men to show their underwear and their cracks they were told to let it be as it was only a passing fad. 

So in the spirit of hoping to stop another “passing fad,” we need to do something about a new trend.

Earlier this month while trying to find where Costco had moved the fig bars in their monthly game of musical merchandise, a young boy of perhaps 4 was running down the aisle gleefully yelling while pushing one of those toy cars that make grinding noises. I was trying my best to ignore him when he slammed the plastic car into me. It didn’t really hurt or do any damage but that’s not the point.

His mother — perhaps 20 feet away checking out the Army battalion can size of nacho cheese — seemed oblivious. I wasn’t going to say anything, but the kid took off laughing and rounded a corner. I interrupted the mother and suggested she might want to look out for her child.

Let me make it clear. She was pleasant and not the least defensive through our brief and polite exchange. She told me her son was fine and wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I thanked her, and ended the conversation. I didn’t want to get into “what ifs” as in “what if “ he had hit somebody who was frail or “what if” he hurt himself running aroiund Costco or “what if” he left such an annoying toy at home?

I get that the ship has sailed on the days when parents taking their children to a restaurant that sets a typical person back for three to four hours of pay would have them decked out in their Sunday best and practicing the quaint concept once known as manners.

But allowing your kid to burn off excess energy in a store while equipping him with a toy encouraging him to do just that is so self-centered that Ann Landers’ head would be spinning trying to smell the cappuccino blast on that one.

I am not the center of the universe nor is anyone else and that includes kids “just being kids.”

It’s a line I’ve been given over the years when I’ve politely pointed out to parents seated next to us in a restaurant that their kids were a bit out of control. My favorite was in the now shuttered Modesto Tony Roma’s where three kids “were being kids” by throwing sugar packets at each other and sprinkling the contents of pepper and salt shakers on the floor as they walked around several tables.

I get the frustration. Our oldest granddaughter between ages 1 and 3 was my responsibility from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. when I left for work. That meant she went shopping with me and to the gym as well. We also took her and the other grandkids when they were kids in the low single digits to restaurants. If they started throwing tantrums and wouldn’t listen to reason, we’d go outside until they got the message we weren’t going back in until they behaved. It involved patience and a lot of frustration and I didn’t spank them.

And I freely admit I was embarrassed each time they made a scene in a store or a restaurant.

Today, a small but growing number of adults seem to think letting their kids scream and horseplay in stores is good parenting.

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