Teaching Common Courtesy

I don’t generally judge other mothers parenting skills. I know all children are different and what works for my kids wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. So, I tend to do my own thing and assume most mothers are just like me: doing our best, making mistakes and learning more everyday.

But sometimes I run into a fellow mother and I stand appalled at her parenting style. Usually this is in response to a mother who is berating or yelling at her child in public.  But this week the moment came in a very quiet interaction that made me want to shake this mother and say, “Are you kidding me? Be a parent!”

Here’s what happened: We took our kids on a pirate cruise down the Potomac River. The kids on the boat were all hopped up on eyepatches and mermaid tattoos. To add to the mayhem, there were only nine water cannons on the sides of the boat and at least 15 children who wanted to shoot them when they turned on.

I told my children to just wait patiently and the other children would share. Right? Surely these other kids would share the cannons or at least their parents would do the math and realize other children were waiting for a turn.

Not so. Kids guarded their cannons like hawks, and their parents turned a blind eye. In front of us, a boy about 7 or 8 years old refused to relinquish his death grip on his water cannon. His mother finally came up and said quietly, “It’s time to give this little girl a turn” (pointing to my daughter.) Her son ignored her. She tried again, and this time the boy simply looked at us and then at his mom and said, “Why?”

The mother looked away from us and walked away as her son continued to shoot his cannon.

I couldn’t believe it. The boy didn’t say, “I don’t want to” or “I had it first.” He said, “Why?” He simply had no idea why in the world he would ever share with another child. How can a parent just walk away and let her child do whatever he wants? How can a mother turn her back when it is clear that her son has zero concept of common courtesy?

Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she didn’t have the energy for a scene with her son. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about my kids firing water cannons, but I felt sorry for that mother. Yes, she avoided a scene, but one day the stakes are going to be much higher and that boy is going to continue to do whatever he wants. Will she continue to avert her eyes and walk away, then? She may wish she had actually parented him when the only thing in jeopardy was 10 more seconds on a water cannon.

In case you’re wondering, my kids did get a turn on the water cannon thanks to a dad who pried his crying son off the handles while the dad told him he had to take turns. It wasn’t pretty. It was parenting.

Have you ever seen a mother or father ignore their child’s bad behavior to avoid a scene? What should parents do in this situation?cannons


  1. John Charity Spring

    Stewart is absolutely correct that the vast majority of today’s young parents should be condemned for their complete and abject failure as parents. Indeed, their failure is creating a whole generation of spoiled, selfish children.

    As Stewart noted, these parents have completely abdicated their responsibility to teach their children discipline and restraint. In fact, these parents have abdicated nearly all responsibility whatsoever.

    These parents would rather be their children’s buddies than be their parents. Thus, they will not do anything that may upset the child or make the child feel bad. They seek to do only what is easy, and not what would benefit the children.

    The real problem is that this parental failure imposes serious burdens on the rest of society, as shown by the example related by Stewart. These children will only get worse, and the rates of crime, substance abuse, and immorality will continue to skyrocket. Shame on these parents for their uncaring attitude towards their children, and towards the welfare of society.

  2. Momof7

    I try to teach my children to be polite and take turns. It really is much easier when they also have to share at home. Sometimes however, sharing should not be required of a child. If my kids are playing with their own toys in a public place, I don’t make them share. Actually I pretty much don’t allow them to share unless I know the other child.

    I also think that whoever put on the pirate cruise should have known the nature of children and either had enough water cannons for all or implemented a time limit for each cannon. I’m sure you weren’t the only annoyed parent there. I do blame the cruise managers more than the other parents who quite possibly were thinking that they’d paid good money and their child should be allowed to use the cannon as long as they want.

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