Before I get to the topic at hand, let me congratulate anyone from the O.C.A. on the election of their new Metropolitan Jonah. Andrew sent me an e-mail earlier in the week to let me know about it, though he prefaced the letter with an apology; he did not want to give me the same impression that he received from his Latin friends with their flurry of “Habemus Papam” e-mails upon the election of Benedict XVI.
Andrew, I have worked with papists. I know many papists. Papists have been friends of mine. Andrew, you are no papist.
I have nothing contemplative or edifying to offer today; rather, I wish to complain about unruly children in the liturgy. I know that children are self-absorbed, irrational, foolish, appetite-driven humans in the making. I know that they are “our future,” and I know that Christ told his disciples to suffer the little ones to come to him. I do not have any problem with children walking around during the service or doing their little squirmy dances. I actually find well-behaved kids rather endearing, with their exaggerated signs of the cross, attempts at singing, and sloppy kisses.
However, it is one thing to welcome children into the temple and quite another to allow them to act like monsters. There are two fathers at the parish where I go who refuse to control their children. Both men seem very cordial and polite, but their kids disrespect the services and their fathers. One father has a boy, probably seven years old, who hangs off of his dad and torments the poor man throughout the liturgy. He grabs his father, fishes through his father’s back pockets, throws himself on the floor, and sometimes even mocks the services. The other father has two small children, a boy around five and a girl around three years old. The girl today was awful. She kept on throwing temper tantrums, whining, hitting her brother, smacking her father, stamping her feet on the ground, and generally acting like a vicious little ogre. At one point, her father tried to take away a blanket that she was using to hit her brother, and she pulled back, shouted no (in that vile bratty tone), and hit her father. When she wasn’t doing violence to her father or brother, she was whimpering in that blood-curdling fake cry to gain sympathy and attention, and her foolish father obliged. Like Pavlov’s dog, you cannot reward such behavior without reinforcing and encouraging it.
The whole time, I was trying to pay attention to the liturgy, but, as you can imagine, my attention was diverted to the little goblin at my feet. I can just hear some of you now—“Oh, if you had kids, you would understand”—no, I do not accept this empty argument. I have worked with kids for most of my life, and I see the results of poor child-rearing every day. Besides, there are scores of parents with well-behaved children who do not act in such a manner in the liturgy. They may twirl or wander around the floor or get uncomfortably close to burning themselves on candles, but they are generally orderly children. For children to act in such an unacceptable manner as the three kids previously mentioned, their parents must have long abdicated responsibility in maintaining order.
Both of these men mentioned appear as gentle souls. When their kids act up, they try to soothe them, hold them, and attend to them. Occasionally, the first father will straighten his boy by his shoulders out of desperation, though it never achieves more than a minute’s break from incivility. I think that they are sparing the rod and spoiling their micro-brats.
It is clear that the children are totally unaware of how their actions are disrupting everyone around them. I do not blame the children for that; awareness of others and of their needs is an attribute of maturity that even many adults do not have. However, the fathers are rudely allowing their kids to be a nuisance instead of trying to drill into their heads that their behavior is affecting others negatively. As they cannot control their kids, I was tempted several times today to lower myself to the little girl and tell her that she was acting inappropriately in church. I suppose that our Dr. Spock Dad might get annoyed—it has become fashionable for Americans to get offended when an adult corrects their children when they refuse to do it themselves. Everyone is entitled to be an arse, it seems, and that unalienable right is bestowed upon the youngest among us.
One of my co-workers and I have proposed a new public service campaign, “Have you beaten your kids today?” Stickers could be given out in governmental offices. “The more you know” commercials could be aired, detailing the practical benefits of beating misbehaving children. We could even get another ribbon for people to wear—blush red—the color of whipped booty flesh. People just do not beat their children enough anymore, when it ought to be a regular feature of child rearing. The Left has ruined pedagogy—with their concerns about violence and egalitarianism. Act like your child is a fully reared, rational, mature human being, and you set your child up to be despicable . . . in the meantime, he will become a dreadful little tyrant with a shrill piercing yell and an unconstrained will.
It is sentimentalist nonsense that holds that children are innocent angelic beacons of kindness and virtue. Augustine was more correct; even in the unreasonable demands of babes, one can see the fall. Without self-discipline, without reason’s command over the appetites, without a cultivated habit of considering others’ needs and wants, man is a monster. Yet, children are such men; they need the dictates of their parents to guide them and to mold them into rational beings who have been trained to work against their innate selfishness and self-absorption. Rousseau was wrong; such a process does not happen on its own. Left to their own devices, without guidance, most children develop little tyrants in their souls—spoiled brats who grow up to be insufferable selfish manipulating dragons.
I do not deny that there is such a thing as child abuse, but the West has gone much too far in the opposite direction. Some children have innate dispositions to please others or to do well. A verbal correction is all that is needed for such children. Others need consistent firm corrections, lest they unravel to the extent of the little demon in ribbons next to me today. Once they reach such a nadir, you have to bust their behinds—each and every time. Consistency is important—kids need to know how to behave and what the consequences will be when they do not behave well.
I understand that these fathers might worry about what such corrections might do to their children’s perceptions of the services. One does not want his children to resent being at church. Yet, if kids know what is expected of them generally, it would not become an issue for the liturgy. Beat them at home so that they behave in the grocery store, at the zoo, and in church. It is painful to smack your children, but think of it as an investment . . .
I lived in fear of my mother as a child. I think that such was probably a good thing. Parents should not be their kids’ pals; they should be their loving overlords. It is more important for your child to be good than to be pleased at any given moment; so, do what is necessary. As unpleasant as it might be, temporary pain, or deprivation (of goods such as toys or fun time), or whatever works may be the price for cultivating decent people later on.
Only somewhat related, in that children are like puppies who need good training, here is a Shiba Inu puppy cam:
Yes, they are adorable. Is this how parents see their wretched little spawn? Is this why they won’t correct them? News flash: puppies sometimes need newspaper swats, too.