Saturday, March 03, 2007

N.M.K.



N.M.K. is an acronym coined by hubby while we were in Egypt.

My cousin's 7-year-old son was having a hissy fit one morning because he hadn't yet had his Nescafe. In the throes of his ostensible caffeine withdrawal, my aunt (his grandmother) hurriedly made the cup of coffee without any apparent sense of concern over injecting a young child with a lifelong addiction to caffeine. Hubby and I looked at each other in horror and he said "n.m.k." - not my kid.

This has since become our secret code (not so secret anymore) when we witness what we believe to be bad parenting; the other cousin who allows her 1-1/2 year old to drink 7Up out of his sipper cup; a friend's girlfriend who lets her 2-year-old eat Doritos like it's going out of style; the woman on the plane last weekend who succumbed to her young child's cries of "I want soda" by ordering Coke from the stewardess.

Short of molestation or severe physical abuse, most people will accept that it is no one's business what a parent does or does not do with her children. Raise them to be diabetics, bigots, caffeine addicts or religious fundamentalists and no one will question your ultimate authority as the parent to make those choices. Feed your children McDonald's and I assure you that no one will say a word to you, no matter what you order.

My sister, a pediatrician, has endless stories about 10-year-old diabetics, nurses who find McDonald's wrappers in the trash after a parent visits a child who the doctors have placed on a strict diet because of high blood pressure and other behavior she labels "criminal". She speaks with disdain of the parents whose kids are "frequent flyers". Is this not child abuse too?

The concept of n.m.k. is tough. It is painful to watch a 1-1/2 year old who can otherwise say few words but cries, arms outstretched, "seven". To know that his teeth are going to be rotted by the time he can enjoy food, it is very difficult to be silent. But I am not his parent. So I turn my head and find conversation to distract us.

Is this wrong? Is it apathy or respect?

There are a few friends and relatives who I now choose to spend less time with. It is very difficult to enjoy their company and think of them as good people as they thoughtlessly endanger their children's health. My friend whose daughter was eating Doritos is mature enough to be approachable for such a conversation, he was equally as horrified as I and has since put a stop to it. That was a positive, but there are many more who are extremely defensive about their parenting skills and are not open to it. What is one to do?

28 Comments:

At 8:35 AM, March 03, 2007 , Blogger skip sievert said...

My approach is usually to try and have fun in no win situations. What have you got to lose.?
If you flash on people, at least there is no mistaking for them how you feel.
Many people are afraid to tell the truth.
Truth, which is one of the few really great and precious things in life, cannot be bought. It is recieved as a gift, like love or beauty.

 
At 8:45 AM, March 03, 2007 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Good point. One of my cousins has a beligerent, undisciplined 4-year-old who can be quite bratty. Although I think the kid could use a swift kick in the behind, and to disguise my attempt at parenting, I tickle him when he gets out of hand. I make it playful and warn him that if he keeps it up, the tickling will begin. And it usually works.

 
At 8:37 PM, March 03, 2007 , Blogger Birdy said...

I've thought about this very same thing, at times. I usually have the same reaction as it seems you and your husband have - walk away. Not my kid. But I think of this too - The kind of parent who allows their kid to drink soda, or be an unruly brat, or whatever the case may be, is not really the kind of parent who accepts that these kinds of eating habits, or behaviors, are necessarily bad. And thats the bigger shame.

 
At 8:57 PM, March 03, 2007 , Blogger skip sievert said...

Isn`t it though.

 
At 11:19 AM, March 05, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

N.M.K.

It depends upon where the event happens. If it is my home, my rules apply. If it is in a family gathering, and I see a child acting in an inappropriate fashion, I will address the child directly, and explain what is ok, and what is not ok.

If "the" parent had verbalized behavior guidelines, and the child was violating those guidelines outside of the parents eyesight, then I enforced the parents verbal guidelines.

In a public setting, if I see a child acting in an inappropriate way, and "in my judgement" is not immediately being watched or supervised by a parent, then I will engage the situation.

I am consistent, and have had some run-in's with parents.

I coached youth sports for many, many years, and treated everyone the same, with one set of rules.

I had many parents come up to me and say "how did you get my child to do that".

It was as simple as establishing and maintaining consistent boundary's. Often the kids who seemed the most troublesome to their parents, thought I was the greatest. They craved and responded to firm boundarys.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

MrSleep, aka, "The Hammer"

 
At 4:05 PM, March 05, 2007 , Blogger Denmark Vesey said...

Wow. "N.M.K." Courageous act of self-determination. I like that Insurgent.

Hat tip to you and hubby.

As a parent of 3, most of my energy is consumed protecting my children from ingesting bad food, negative thoughts and spiritually corruptive energy.

There is tremendous pressure upon parents to abdicate responsibility for their children to the state and to the marketplace.

 
At 6:04 PM, March 05, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

These days, parents are reticent to discipline their children. I don't know if we are exhausted from work, watching too much TV or what, but most people I know let their children trample all over them. I have a cousin that is 11 years old and 205lbs!!!

Yesterday, I took my wife and 16 month old son to a restaurant for brunch. My son started acting up and I grabbed his hand and said "no" in a firm tone. The lady at the table looked at me like I was a murderer. Real fathers are in short supply these dayz.

Strict parenting is looked down upon. People think it's better to let your kids "be free." But kids are like dogs--they need discipline and, in fact, WANT it.

But I feel you on what to say to others. One of my best friends sits up in the house with his daughter ALL weekend watching rap videos and BET. Can u imagine? But I'll say some shit. I can't stay silent. I've never been able to do that--which has cost me some friendships, but fuck 'em anywayz.

Big J

 
At 8:28 PM, March 05, 2007 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

But kids are like dogs--they need discipline and, in fact, WANT it.

J, you are so right on this point. If the discipline makes sense and is consistent, children thrive. I am ridiculously strict on my mentee and her friends, more than any other mentor in the program, yet she and her friends jump at the chance to hang out with me and my 101 rules. :-)

Mr. Sleep & DV -

How do you handle the parents who don't parent their children? A friend of mine doesn't allow sleepovers because she doesn't trust the nutritional/tv habits of other parents.

 
At 11:13 AM, March 06, 2007 , Blogger mrsleep said...

How do I handle parents who don't parent their children?

When I was coaching, I parented the kids directly, right in front of their real parents.

If our kids had friends who had parents who were parentally challenged, then that would influence our decision whether or not we would allow our kids to stay over.

I concur that children crave discipline/consistent boundary's. I never had any problems with any child I coached while they were on a team I coached. They learned the rules, respected their teammates, and learned to work together as a team. The sad part is I saw lot's of kids who had incredible potential, but fell far short of their possibilities as I watched them grow up from a distance. I maybe was a direct part of their life for a couple of years, but that was it.

I have a younger sister who parents some, but allows her kids to negotiate everything. How's in charge here? My wife and I had a policy in terms of dealing with our kids. We tried to be as reasonable as possible in providing options and boundary's. If our kids tried to renegotiate those boundary's, then our second offer, had more restrictions. Our kids soon learned not to negotiate. Now as the kids got older and demonstrated more maturity, and accountability we would be more open to discuss things.

Lot's of parents are open to feedback in an indirect fashion. Many parents struggle with the role of being parents, and might ask "what did you do?". I would explain to them our approach and the associated benefits. I wouldn't directly tell them what they were doing wrong (in my mind), but in an indirect fashion if this makes sense.

 
At 11:47 AM, March 06, 2007 , Blogger Denmark Vesey said...

"How do you handle parents who don't parent their children?" I.I.

Honestly Insurgent, I don't.

I'm pretty good at minding my business.

I've stopped allowing my kids to watch studio movies (Shrek, Shark Tail etc.) Often friends will ask why not, which tends to spark discussion.

I am very conscious of the trend to remove authority over children from the parent to the state. The media is used as a mechanism to enforce that.

Notice how fathers (competing authority figure with the state) are displayed in sit coms and movies: They are either bumbling idiots or sadistic abusers.

They are passing laws in CA that allow teenage girls to get abortions without even NOTIFYING her parents. They are bills being considered by over 30 states that would make HPV vaccinations mandatory for 12 year old girls.

Orwell was a prophet.

 
At 12:42 PM, March 06, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Mr. Sleep. Right in front of a parent, I'll take their children and teach them something or present a different way of thinking. I do not care. The truth of the matter is the parent probably doesn't know any better.

Big J/Bombs

 
At 3:47 PM, March 06, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised this topic hasn't gone off on a tangent and somehow explain it all as being Bush's fault! This whole blog seems to do that with most topics.

 
At 4:45 PM, March 06, 2007 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Thing is, though, that kids always reflect their upbringing. If you're confronted with a brat, blame mom and dad.

 
At 5:09 PM, March 06, 2007 , Blogger mrsleep said...

bush lover, see Stalin's comments.

 
At 8:11 PM, March 06, 2007 , Blogger Denmark Vesey said...

"I'm surprised this topic hasn't gone off on a tangent and somehow explain it all as being Bush's fault!"

Noooooo ... of course not! Don't be silly. Bush? At fault? No way.

Come now. What possible fault could be found with Bush?

Our troops found WMD's all over Iraq and proved Saddam was behind 911.

 
At 9:07 AM, March 07, 2007 , Blogger Boris Yeltsin said...

What a great topic! I have 2 step-sons, and three biological children. Let me tell you about the value of a good diet.

Before I came along, my step-sons were practically raised by their grandparents. Maw-maw and Paw-paw spoiled these kids rotten, letting them eat only what tasted good to them. They both got separate breakfasts, separate lunches, and separate dinners - all junk food. (Hot pockets, Coco Crisps, brownies, Pepsi, you name it!)

We had a family reunion for my wife's side. They insisted that our kids were allowed to eat anything they wanted. I was treated like a complete control freak for even implying that we were going to have some control over what those kids ate. Everyone was encouraging them to eat exclusively from the dessert table. The reunion was a four hour drive from our house.

I got sick of being treated like a control freak, so I dumped the cake and brownies the kids were pigging out on, and we drove right back home - after being there for only 20 minutes.

I was the biggest asshole ever -still am.

Fast forward 10 years, and take into account my biological children weren't allowed to spend anywhere near as much time with Maw-maw and Paw-paw as their half brothers.

We lived near a factory that was torn down. There was a 6" build-up of benzyene on the interior walls of the factory that was never cleaned up before the demolition.

My two step sons? The one either has an obscure form of cystic fibrosis &/or Addison's disease, and the other has neurological problems. (We'll find out more as more tests results come in.) My biological children? So far, they haven't had any ill effects at all.

What would have happened if the strong moral sense that I was a control freak was allowed to prevail, and the opinions of wife's family took precendence over mine? My biological children would be just as sick, because they'd be just as malnourished.

That's why I don't meddle in other peoples' affairs, unless there's some obvious physical or sexual abuse.

I'm greatful we live in a society where people are discouraged from meddling in your affairs - at least more discouraged than they are in other countries.

 
At 3:45 PM, March 07, 2007 , Blogger mrsleep said...

One treat I would get for my sons would be to buy boxes of "Fruit Loops" when they were on sale at the Grocery store (maybe once a year). Normally we would never let our kids eat that crap, but on a rare occasion, we brought it home.

When we did the boys would sit down and demolish all the boxes in one sitting, eating bowl after bowl after bowl until all the cereal was gone.

 
At 2:46 PM, March 08, 2007 , Blogger Denmark Vesey said...

Great post Boris.

I'm going to relay this story to my wife.

I like the self-determination you exercised in rearing your sons as opposed to the go along to get along parenting most Americans employ.

Good for you.

 
At 7:19 PM, March 08, 2007 , Blogger Boris Yeltsin said...

Denmark Vesey: thanks! The control I excersized as a parent doesn't come without a price. You read the benefits. The price comes as you being thought of as an asshole, and all the in-laws piss in your childrens' ear, telling them what an asshole you are. Now, they see the benefits, but it's a little late for "I-told-you-so"s to feel good.

Like I told the 17 year old step-son (the one with the mild neurological problems). He's seriously dating a girl, and they're crazy about eachother. Her mom and dad don't like him. I said, "You think breaking up with her now is messy, try getting married, and having her mom and dad telling your kids what an idiot you are all the time because they don't like you. That's messier yet, as you now know."

He hasn't taken my advice - they're still going out - but he can never say he wasn't warned.

I know I'm not the only person who has problems with in-laws. I really feel for Raymond's wife on Everybody Loves Raymond. In fact, I have a hard time watching that show, because it hits a little too close to home. He built an entire comedy franchise on peoples' problems with their in-laws, and the spouses who just don't seem to understand why everybody on the face of the planet doesn't see their family as the coolest thing ever even though they're annoying, meddling and know-it-alls who try to cram their family's ways of doing things down your throat.

I told my step-son, if you marry this girl (which I think is real soon) you better move as far away as you can, and don't look back. If you're stuck in the same county as in-laws who don't like you, you're on your knees begging for a lifetime of hell.

I am greatful I stuck to my guns and paid the price, because at least my biological children are so far, healthy.

 
At 3:37 PM, March 22, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Denmark... Thanks for making my point! (about Bush)

:-)

 
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