When I see another child wailing, kicking and screaming on the ground the first thing I do is look at their parent/s. I feel their pain as well as their blossoming embarrassment.

Sometimes I don’t feel anything at all because the parent/s are totally oblivious as it makes as much impact on them as wearing socks. I also look at the faces of all the other adults present. Most hang their heads and try and avoid the whole tawdry debacle. Some frown and tsk and secretly think, “What an awful child. Someone should put that thing out of its misery.”

Then, I watch how the parent responds. There are a few possible outcomes here:

(1) A tantrum from the parent as well. This generally involves anger arising from the self-consciousness that is inevitable when awareness of the growing audience sets in.

(2) Giving in to the child to shut them up. This is done in the surly, reluctant manner of the beaten and downtrodden.

(3) Ignoring the child completely. This can either escalate into WWIII or work perfectly until you have to leave.

(4) Pick up the child and have a quiet firm word, informing them that they will not under any circumstances receive what they are carrying on about. This is usually either accompanied by a louder outburst of melodrama or the child knows you mean it and they eventually submit.

When my children put on the ‘show’, the first thing I would say to them was, “The last thing you’re going to get, if you carry on like that, is what you want.” It gave me a sense of calm because I knew it was right. Children learn very quickly. Yet, if we have taught them that poor behaviour is acceptable and can even be rewarded, they will, of course, continue to act poorly. Can you blame them? If I was blubbering in a puddle of my saliva and urine on the floor of a supermarket and someone gave me exactly what I wanted why wouldn’t I continue to do so for the rest of my life. That is the key here; these children will continue to act unreasonably for the rest of their lives.

Words by Luke Denham

The Collective Parent: A Single father’s Perspective