Parents must teach children to behave

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Parents must teach children to behave

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You know you’re getting old when you begin to think that young children are cute. I now understand when older people say grandchildren are lovely. I even think children I’m not related to are sweet. My wife would say I wasn’t so involved when we were actually raising our kids, but I was under such pressure to support my family that I had no chance to appreciate how fun fatherhood could be. Nowadays, however, I find young ones laughing on the playground irresistibly lovely and cute.

But not all children are cute and lovely. Not so long ago, I went on a group tour in another country, and one of the children in my group turned the trip into an unexpected nightmare. The kid whined, threw tantrums and ran up and down the hotel corridors late at night. He was loud in restaurants and lacked table manners. Though other people complained, the parents seemed to believe in their parenting style and did not care to control the child.

Some time ago in Paris, I witnessed a father using “violence” on a young child in the metro. When the kid whined, the father tried to calm him. But as the kid was about to throw a tantrum, the father spanked him mercilessly. I felt sorry for the kid but thought that it might just be French-style parenting. Maybe strict discipline is the reason I’ve hardly seen any children misbehaving in public places in France.

In her book “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting,” Pamela Druckerman compares the parenting styles of French and American parents based on her own experiences. French parents act like dictators with their children, but American parents tend to cater to them. For example, when a child cries and whines, French parents scold him or let him get over the frustration. But American parents try to compromise.

Surprisingly, many Korean parents think it is okay for a child to misbehave as long as the child does well at school. But as I grow older, I’ve realized that etiquette and decency are far more important than academic success. In order to avoid disapproving glances from other people, we need to teach our children patience and consideration. Children need to learn that not everything in the world will go as they please, so they need to be patient and control their needs. They should also learn not to bother other people. You can be a friend to your children, but above all, parents should act like parents to guide their children in the right direction.

by Bae Myung-bok

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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