Enjoying positive parent-child interaction
On a recent visit to the McDonald’s Restaurant on Route 443 in Mahoning Township to enjoy 99-cent hot cakes (with a coupon) and a senior coffee (with free refills), I was seated near a father and his 3-year-old daughter.
During the half-hour or so that we were there, I couldn’t help notice how kind and patient he was with her. Aside from helping her to eat, he talked to her almost nonstop in a pleasant and loving voice throughout the entire meal.
Even when she became a little sloppy, as kids that age tend to be, he instructed her constructively, not once shouting, losing his temper or showing signs of exasperation.
She, on the other hand, never cried out. She followed her father’s directions, and she answered questions he asked her. She was a happy, contented child who was enjoying having breakfast with her daddy.
This was in contrast to what I am normally used to seeing at some restaurants and fast food places. Parents are on their cellphones, oblivious to what their child or children are doing or saying.
Younger children will scream, prompting a “shut up” or threat from the parent. What had probably started as a “treat” — taking the child out for a meal or ice cream or whatever — now has turned into a test of wills with me and other patrons as the unintended audience.
When parents talk on the phone, kids feel left out. Throwing a tantrum, whining or hitting a sibling is a great attention-getter, even if it’s negative attention.
Sometimes kids cannot control their feelings. They may become easily overwhelmed when they feel angry and could become aggressive.
One key reason why children misbehave is because it works. If breaking the rules gets them what they want, and parents give in to shut them up, they learn.
When the young daughter had finished eating, the table needed attention. Usually, patrons with young children at fast food places remove their trays but rarely clean their tables.
This father sought out the McDonald’s associate who was in charge of tables and floors and offered to wash down the table. The associate was as astounded as I was and told him she appreciated the offer but that she would take care of it.
Normally, I don’t intrude on strangers, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to tell this father how impressed I was with his kind and constructive interactions with his daughter.
He said that he appreciated my comments, and we chatted for about five minutes about how civility in child-rearing as well as in society in general has seemingly fallen by the wayside.
The man, who lives in East Penn Township near Bowmanstown, said he has other children but had his daughter “later in life” — he was in his mid-40s. He said that he promised himself that he would try to be a good father by paying attention to her and trying to spend as much quality time as possible, especially during the critical early years. Their Saturday morning breakfasts are the result.
There seems to be a division about children in public places. Some think they should be seen and not heard (maybe even bound and gagged). Others feel that children have every right to be there, just as any other person.
I belong to the latter group, but I am eternally grateful when children respond to their parents’ guidance and direction when it comes to appropriate behavior. Some parents are unconcerned when their kids scream and misbehave. “They’re kids. Get over it,” they seem to be saying to the rest of us.
Critics, I am sure, will point out that I can expect to encounter small children at a McDonald’s. “That’s why I stay away from family restaurants,” one of my 70-something friends told me.
If I had followed his rule of thumb, I would have missed this beautiful father-daughter moment.
By Bruce Frassinelli | firstname.lastname@example.org