Traits of Trifling Parents
Imagine almost losing your life for commenting to a complete stranger that their choice in discipline may not be the best. Lefenus Pickett could have just as well been anyone of us on June 18 last year as he boarded a Philadelphia Septa bus and shortly after, witnessed 20 year-old Penny Chapman spanking her son when he started to run up and down the bus. After Pickett complained and referenced that Chapman was “abusing” her son, he then said he witnessed an offended Chapman call someone on her cell phone, and when the bus stopped on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, she was escorted off of the bus and two men armed with weapons proceeded to shoot into the bus 13 times. The bus driver sped from the scene and amazingly none of the passengers were hurt.
Unfortunately, this is the reason that many of us choose to say nothing when we witness parents who choose to broadcast their obvious lack of parenting skills in public for the world to witness. We question if it’s really any of our business, we want to avoid confrontation or we foolishly believe that if we haven’t had the opportunity to parent ourselves, we obviously don’t know any better than those who in many instances didn’t plan on becoming parents themselves. It truly does take a village to raise a child. Most of us had parents or parental figures when we were children and have enough of a frame of reference to know who deserves to be “Mother-Of-The Year” and who needs to be meeting with child services.
We’ve all seen it at least once. And while I don’t partake in social work as a hobby, I must say that it turns my stomach when I see a mother proceed to cuss and demean her child, kicking him while he is on the ground crying because she’s upset that he keeps pestering her to buy a dollar toy (which I actually have witnessed). If a child’s own parent isn’t even protecting them, you have to wonder who is. So I am calling out trifling parents everywhere and letting them know that their behavior will no longer be tolerated. Hopefully none of the traits below apply to you, and if they do, there’s no better time to make a change.
1. Letting Your Child Walk Around Unattended
There’s not a day that passes that I am not driving and don’t see a stroller two feet ahead of the parent in the street while I have the green, or a toddler who’s either a block ahead or behind his mother who is too busy texting or playing “Angry Birds” to pay him much mind. And I can’t help but think about how close I keep my Chihuahua to my body when we go for walks, as far as even picking him up when we cross busy intersections. It’s exciting that your child is learning to walk on his or her own and exploring the world around him, but he still needs you to help him navigate the dangers of that world. All it takes is one reckless driver or an adult with dirty intentions to change your life because you were too busy slinging birds instead of holding your child’s hand.
2. Letting Lord Knows Who Around Your Child
It’s understandable that just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean your social life or sexual needs go into retirement. But it also doesn’t mean that everyone you enjoy being around, should be someone you bring around your child. Your friends may agree with you about the best clubs to go to, but they might not share your ideas on parenting. And don’t get me started on the ladies that like to fall in love and move the new man into the house with them and their children after only knowing him for a short time. You’ve probably known your manicurist longer, but wouldn’t dare move her in your house to help you co-parent. The moral of this story is that you never know what people’s backgrounds are as far as discipline and the relationship between parent and child. Your child doesn’t have a choice about where they live. Consider their safety and comfort when it comes to regularly having people in your home.
3. Smoking Around Your Child
In my article “Sick By Association” I mentioned how parents’ second hand smoke can place their children’s health in danger. I don’t defend my parent’s choice to choose to smoke in the home, but I can understand the limited understanding of its effects that they may have had in the seventies and eighties. Most of the smoke from a burning cigarette does not get inhaled into the smoker’s lungs, it escapes into the air. Meaning that anyone nearby is essentially inhaling all of the gases and chemicals in cigarettes right along with the user.
Were my parents trifling? Not by any means, but I can show you hospital bills of bronchitis and asthma treatments that still make me question if that second-hand smoke inhaled in my childhood is the culprit. Many parents get misled if they don’t see the effects of second-hand smoke immediately in their children. But according to the American Cancer Society, about 3000 non-smokers die every year from lung disease as a result of repeated exposure to second-hand smoke. Statewide smoking bans don’t even allow you to put strangers’ health at risk in public places; your children can’t choose where they live, but you can choose where you light up.
4. Not Dressing Your Children Appropriately
When there’s frost on the ground and the temperature dips into the thirties, there is nothing cute about seeing a little child skipping along the streets in a denim jacket. If money is an issue, there are thrift stores and countless programs and services that, with a little research, can be used to get your child a proper winter coat. It may not be the latest name brand, but pneumonia and frostbite aren’t exactly fashion forward. And don’t let me catch you walking through a winter wonderland in your Uggs, while your baby has on Converse sneakers.
5. Embarrassing Yourself and Your Child in Public
Discipline is always a touchy topic when it comes to parenting. When you’re in public and on your last nerve, anything less than perfect behavior from your child may force you out of your center. But before losing yourself in verbal beat down of expletives, insults and violence, keep in mind that your child learns how to conduct him/herself in public by watching your actions. When you put on a show others will watch and when it comes to children many don’t hesitate to contribute their two cents. Think about what the discipline is teaching your child; is cussing him/her out and repeatedly hitting them really teaching them why their behavior is unacceptable? There’s a time and place for everything, and aisle 2 of Walmart in your satin bonnet while I’m trying to pick up a box of K-Cups is no time for you to be experimenting with corporal punishment. Keep your cool, take you and your child out of the situation, and address the problem at a calmer time for the sake of your shopping experience and mine.
6. Being Your Baby’s Bestie
We all want to be the “cool” parent who actually likes the latest Nicki Minaj song and knows what “YOLO” means without a tutorial from your teen. But there should be a clear, definite line between being someone your child feels comfortable talking to about any and everything and being their party partner. Respect for you as an authority and enforcing discipline is, in some ironic way, showing your child you care even if they don’t always agree with your rules. Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you have to DVR Dr. Phil, browse the racks of Sears women’s wear and sign up for Sunday soccer van duty. But if you find yourself trying to find matching little black dresses in Forever 21 for the Friday night house party, it’s time to check the script. You’re a mom now and that means you have to conduct yourself a certain way.
7. Competing With our Child
Parents may have not have always had the best upbringing or greatest opportunities themselves, but that should be something you want to change for your children. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many mothers in competition for a man’s affection with their daughters or who hold resentment for their child’s success in education and career. The success of your child is the biggest compliment that you as a parent could ever receive. It obviously means that you did something right, so it sickens me to see parents who are so caught up in their own defeat that they try to make their children feel guilty for the success they’ve achieved. They already have to watch their back in the street, so the last thing they need at home is more rivalry and resentment.
8. Not Putting Your Child First
Every time I see Janelle on MTV’s Teen Mom 2, my ovaries weep. No amount of editing in the world can create her obvious pre-occupation with herself over the needs of her child. She leaves little Jace behind week after week to chase after on again/off again boyfriend Kieffer and try to make that dysfunctional relationship work unaware of the dysfunction she is creating between she and her child. When she is home, she is constantly disrespecting and cussing out her mother, most of the time right in front of baby Jace. Whether you planned to have a child or not, once you bring a life into this world, it’s no longer about you or what you want. Don’t mistakenly believe that just because you’re children can’t talk, they aren’t affected by what you’re doing and not doing for them.
9. Using Child Support for Everything But the Child
Child support is a way of seeing that both parents financially contribute to their child’s needs. This of course depends on how many parents define the word “need.” A stereo system for your Challenger or an Indian Remy lacefront isn’t really going to make the biggest difference in your child’s well-being. When you use child support to finance your own personal spending habits, you cheat no one but your child. On the other side, men need to understand that as much as you’d like to keep your earnings out of the court system, there’s always a chance that you could end up with a garnished paycheck, especially when you are no longer in a relationship with your child’s mother. It’s not personal, just your child’s right. Keep that in mind the next time you write off safer sex.
What are some trifling parent traits that you want to see stop?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.
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