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On Misbehaved Children

After hearing stories about misbehaving children for so long from so many venues, i did a little science. It's sloppy science, and wouldn't pass peer review, but it's still science.

(Mind you, this is not about someone who doesn't like children. That's an entirely different issue. I respect that people have their preferences.)

I went with Miss Dash to see the Mad Science show in downtown Rockville last night. The show was fun. Many science experiments were demonstrated to an enthusiastic crowd.

Number of Attending Children: Approximately 100
Number of Problem Children: 0 observed over the course of two hours
Number of Children Acting Like Adults: 0 observed over the course of two hours

That number of ZERO is the normal number. I've been to ten such Rockville shows over three years.

Likewise, I go to many children's nights. Again, very little out of the ordinary. Lots of kids acting like kids, but nobody really causing a ruckus.

This lends me to believe that any complaints against problem children are complaints against the problem children who gain the lion's share of the notice, and thus the lion share of stories. The vast majority of kids just don't register and are not memorable. Thus, you have a selection bias.

What's a problem child? That's up to the observer. On one plane ride, my daughter kicked the seat in front of her a lot. She was a problem child to the person in front of her. To everyone else in the plane, she was not a problem child. So, is my daughter a problem child? You see the difficulty in answering that question. The aggrieved person will talk long and hard about the terrible child, but the unaffected observers won't talk even remember her.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2013 05:47 pm (UTC)
But what constitutes a child acting like a child and when is it OK and when is it not?

It seems fairly normal for an infant to spend some portion of its life screaming (hungry, tired, gassy, dirty diaper, etc.). That doesn't make the baby a 'problem child', however, it is a problem to the people around the baby when the screaming is drowning out other activities (e.g. movie, sit-down dinner, church-service, etc.).

A toddler will sometimes have a melt-down. This happens with young children (I'm talking the scream, kick, etc. type of activity). This is a toddler being a toddler (the child may be hungry, bored, tired, over-heated, sick, etc.). Other toddlers will have so much energy that they run around shrieking. Again, normal toddler behavior for a portion of the day. Also something that can be a problem for people around them depending on the situation.

Then you have what I consider to be the true problem children. Older neuro-typical children (6-12) who can't/won't sit quietly for any amount of time, who run past the dessert table and grab handfuls of cake off the plates, who have their sword battles across the table at a restaurant (whether or not the people at the table are part of their group), who play their hand-held video games at the theatre during the show (at full volume), who walk down the street swinging their toys/backpacks/whatever and don't notice that they are hitting cars, plants, people, etc.; the ones who go running through a flowerbed because it is shorter.

So, you are right, it is up to the observer. As an N of one, if I am on a plane/train/etc. and the back of my seat is kicked a few times by a child, it is annoying. However, if it is a long ride and the kicking is constant it can be infuriating. If the child is young, I tend to blame the parents for not trying to stop the annoying behavior (if the child is kicking and the parents are trying, I am more patient). If it is an older child/teen/young adult, I blame the kicker for being annoying.

At what point is it a "problem child" vs. "child acting like a child" vs. "an adult acting like a child"?

So, what to you is 'children acting like children not causing any ruckus' vs. 'child acting like an adult'? What would you view as problem child behavior for a child you saw while out and about from a kid who looks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14?

Jul. 10th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
Part of my definition of a normal child is my experiential normalcy, which is pretty damned vague. That is, what to me, as a personal normally around children, is within normally observed behavior for children of a given age.

For example, at the show last night, the audience stayed on its behind for most of the time, but nobody acted in a way that spoiled the show for everybody. No egregious behavior. When the kids played on the grass during the break, they played well and with usual exuberance, but I observed no woe break out.

When at a wedding reception, the attending kids were pretty good, but there was some supervision needed with the chocolate fountain. Past a certain point the kids needed to be herded upstairs due to rambunctiousness. (They get that way, even if they are good.)
Jul. 10th, 2013 08:01 pm (UTC)
You specified the following numbers:

Number of Attending Children: Approximately 100
Number of Problem Children: 0 observed over the course of two hours
Number of Children Acting Like Adults: 0 observed over the course of two hours

What do you mean "Children Acting Like Adults".

I am honestly curious. I have seen some children that were (to my eyes) out of control and others that were trying to behave but just had too much energy (and yes there is a difference between fidgeting because you have too much energy and being a problem child).
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )