What is it about Malls that Bring out the Worst in Our Kids?

The second column is up today. I'm sure I'll get another batch of comments insisting that I'm going about everything wrong. I hope so. At least it means people are reading it! Plus I've planned a column discussing how parents judge each other for after Christmas, so all these comments help.

The idea for this column came a couple of weeks ago. A good friend of mine came into town to go shopping and called to ask if I could join. I think it was my first time shopping without the kids in over a year. And even before that it was a pretty rare occassion.

Not having my own kids there distracting me, I was able to notice more. Like, I had no idea so many clothing stores had started supplying toys, crayons and colouring books, etc for kids!

I noticed how thirsty I got so quickly and felt horribly guilty about the last time we were shopping and I refused to buy my oldest a bottle of water he was whining for because he was - well - whining.

I also noticed all the children. Contrary to what you might think, it wasn't the whining, running, screaming children I noticed. It was the well-behaved ones. One little girl who couldn't have been more than two was just sitting nicely in the cart, thumb in her mouth, while her mother shopped for and even tried on clothes!

I wondered why some children could act like that and some screamed and shouted through an entire shopping trip. Some of it is personality, for sure, but at least part of it has to be the parent's approach. Which is why I asked my facebook fans for their advice.

It seems a lot of us try the same things. Which tells me that a lot of us experience the same things.

That's funny, because when it's your child misbehaving you feel like yours is the only one and all eyes are on you. And you act accordingly. Many parents in that situation decide they have to show their child - and their perceived audience of fellow shopper - who's boss. They draw even more attention to themselves by yelling commands at their child or angrily storming away, pulling the child behind, to administer a firm lecture or, sometimes, a slap on the hand. I know. I've been that parent.

I've also been the audience and, to tell you the truth, what kids often are doing to upset their parents so much is nothing great - perhaps running around a little, poking at stuff, maybe playing innapropriately.

John Hoffman, author of Uncommon Sense in Today's Parent magazine says the way children behave to encourage the parent's reaction is "nothing hugely obnoxious, but the sort of behaviour that makes parents feel the eyes of the world are on them." (For more, read his column)

So why do we react so strongly? Is it because we also are tired and somewhat cranky and this is the end of the line for our patience? Is it because we see the children as "always" behaving that way and want to teach them a lesson? Or is it because of the audience; we're embarrased and feel like the world is watching, expecting us to do something?

What do you think?


  1. I think we react the way we do to our children misbehaving because we all have seen the parents who do nothing to try to control the situation and let their child be disruptive to everyone around them. Therefore we want to show the onlookers that" I am going to do something about this so they know I am to attempting doing something to not disrupt their shopping expreience"

  2. I agree with Mary. We don't want to be the parents who let their children get away with acting out and disrupting other shoppers. But you're right, we need to be cognizant of just how much disruption our children are actually being. If kids are just being kids and not really hurting anyone (or being particularly noisy), why do we feel the need to put such tight reins on them? If you never let a kid be a kid, they'll find other ways to act out.


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