Remember this Mother Goose rhyme?
There was a little girl, and she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
When she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.
I think I met that little girl today. In fact, I’m pretty sure I met a very beautiful little girl who is well on her way to being a bully as a child and a truly self-centered witch as an adult. How can I say such a horrible thing about an adorable 7-year-old?
Quite easily after spending several hours in enforced closeness with this particular child. In just over three and a half hours, here are a few of the “pranks” this little girl got up to:
Kicking another girl in the stomach because she wouldn’t give up a chair that Little Miss Curl wanted.
- Repeatedly pulling other children’s hair.
- Running, screaming, and attempting to break props despite repeated requests and warnings from adults that such behavior wasn’t allowed backstage in the theater where this child was waiting to perform in a recital.
- Pouring six bottles of water on other children, the floor, and the furniture because she was bored.
- Emptying the entire contents of every sugar packet, salt and pepper packet, and artificial creamer packet found in the theater’s kitchenette — an area where she wasn’t supposed to be — onto a tabletop, then mixing in just enough water to make a paste, and smearing it on the $200 velvet costume another child was wearing because she thought the other girl was ugly anyway and “no one would care.”
- Refusing every request to be quiet, leave other people alone, stand in line, or follow even the simplest rule or request.
I’m sure this is only a partial list of the things this out-of-control little brat did. But these are the things I saw first-hand. I heard about many others — and I saw no fewer than four other children in tears because of her actions.
Her behavior was so bad that it delayed the whole process, as other people’s costumes had to be repaired, props had to be found or repaired, and crying children — never Little Miss Curl — were jollied into staying in the green room with the little monster instead of quitting and going home.
I should mention that at least three teenage volunteers — who happily shepherded a larger group of better behaved kids yesterday, and will certainly do the same thing every other day this week — gave up in horror and refused to set foot into the room with this child.
So did I. I know myself too well. I don’t tolerate that kind of behavior well, so I don’t put myself in the situation where I am certain to come into conflict with a parent who refuses to see that they are raising a monster.
I pity the teachers who need their jobs so much that they have to put up with her behavior — but luckily, I don’t have to do so. So I watched, and listened, and thanked my lucky stars that I only have to see this little brat one more time in this lifetime.
Yes, It’s Her Parent’s Fault
This child attends an expensive private school. Her mother, a well-dressed professional woman who was actually in the theater throughout her daughter’s shenanigans carried an iPad and iPhone, and drove a luxury car.
The first time I spoke to the child in my “official” capacity as an adult volunteer asked to monitor kids back stage, I mildly asked several girls who had strayed outside the area where they were supposed to be to return to the green room until called.
Little Miss Curl replied, “I don’t have to wait in there. My mama said I could go anywhere I want and I can talk to anyone about anything I think is important. I make my own rules, and I don’t follow yours.”
She told a teacher from her school, who had obviously had many such encounters with Little Miss Curl before, that if she didn’t want her to throw a temper tantrum she had “better stop expecting me to do things I don’t want to do.”
After Little Miss Curl tore a prop that belonged to an older girl who had asked her several times not to touch it, the teacher appealed to her mother, who responded by cuddling the girl and giving her candy. And then she proceeded to complain about the length of the rehearsal — a rehearsal slowed by over an hour thanks to the damage her child caused to other children, costumes, and props.
What to Do About a Monster Child
If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering what an encounter with a spoiled brat has to do with marketing and technology.
I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is really only one thing that I can do when I am a bystander faced with having a monster child disrupt my day with their behavior. I can leave the scene — taking my money with me.
I routinely walk out of businesses that allow children to run wild. I don’t care how much I paid to get in to an event, if I can’t enjoy it because other people aren’t controlling their kids, I will leave. As I walk out, I make certain to:
- Ask for a refund, making certain my request is addressed to the manager on duty or the owner.
- Get the contact information for the owner or senior manager, so I can follow up by telephone, letter, or email. I don’t just say I am going to put my complaint in writing later, I do it.
- Explain why I am leaving, why I think I am owed a refund, and what action would be required for me to come back — or stay if there is any action that would induce me to stay.
One thing I do NOT do is confront children directly. Aside from a mild, “Be careful, honey” or “I’m allergic to that — please don’t get it close to me”, you won’t catch me addressing a strange child’s behavior, no matter how egregious. Why? Because I live in Texas.
It’s legal in Texas for people to carry concealed handguns even to places designed for children (like party venues such as Jump Street, Chuck E. Cheese, and ice-skating rinks), and at least six adults have been shot by parents who perceived them as being disrespectful, threatening or rude to their children. I do not intend to be the seventh victim of a parent who overreacts when a stranger speaks to their child.
Support Places That Curb Bad Behavior
The good customer service and PR benefit that a business accrues from me and other patrons by doing their best to make their business a place that I want to go far outweighs the loss of one family’s business.
I make it a point to go to businesses that expect parents to control their children. One of my favorite restaurants in north Dallas, India West, recently added a sign on its door that is sure to keep me coming back.
Six Flags Over Texas has rules for the behavior of children in its parks, and park employees are quick to report bad behavior to security in the name of guest safety and comfort. Several of the places my grandkids like to go — such as Jump Street — have adult monitors who enforce the rules.
Those are the businesses where I will gladly spend my money. If you’re a business owner, creating an atmosphere where all patrons can enjoy the experience is sure to result in a higher profits. Here are some ways that local businesses have earned my loyalty by preventing my outing from being ruined by other people’s bratty kids.
- Offering a “cry room” in a theater, where the parents of young children can enjoy a film without disturbing others. (The Angelika Film Center)
- Holding patrons responsible for the safety of their children by enforcing rules against running or climbing on the store fixtures. (Nordstrom at the Dallas Galleria, India West, Fogo do Chao, several others)
- Having a cut-off time after which children under a certain age aren’t admitted. (Dave & Buster’s)
In the case of what happened today, I spoke to the person in charge, and let him know that tolerating this kind of bad behavior by one disruptive, out-of-control child is a good way to get me to stop bringing my well-behaved child there.
It’s an even surer way to get me to stop volunteering to work backstage during future shows. Since I make costumes, help with PR, and perform other useful volunteer services like bringing food for the performers and helping with clean-up after a show, I like to think that my work is valued. I guess I’ll find out, won’t I?
It’s clear that there is nothing that I can do that will convince the parents of this horrible child that she is well on her way to being a bully. I wouldn’t be the first person to tell them — I heard three people try today. But the mother listened to her child’s lies — “I didn’t kick her, so and so did” or “I didn’t say that, she’s lying” after an adult repeated one of Little Miss Curl’s more objectionable comments — and immediately assumed a conspiracy against her little darling. You can’t chip through that kind of defensiveness.
Being a Brat is NOT a Medical Diagnosis
Before parents of children on the autism spectrum, or those who care for special needs children get up in arms and think that I am saying that children with disabilities or learning differences shouldn’t be welcome in restaurants or public places, please pay attention to this: I am NOT talking about children who have a disability here. Being a brat is NOT a medical diagnosis.
For one thing, the parents of children with disabilities aren’t insensitive to the realities of their children’s behavior. They may not be able to stop a melt-down, but they will take action to protect their child — and others around that child. They do it because they love their children, and want to do the best they can for their child.
I have friends who have children with autism, and they would never react the way Little Miss Curl’s mother reacted. The instant they see a problem looming, they are quick to do what they can to resolve it. When there is a meltdown, I have no problem waiting quietly through it as long as the parents are trying to resolve the problem.
If I can help with a child who is frightened or having a melt-down due to a medical problem, then I will gladly do so. For example, I recently corralled a group of kids at a birthday party who were standing and staring at a child who was having a melt-down. By removing the audience, I gave her parents time to deal with their child’s issues in peace. I certainly didn’t complain to the management — and in fact made sure to write a compliment for the personnel file of an employee who offered the family a private room where they could relax in peace for a bit.
It’s the same with an over-tired child who is simply crying and complaining loudly. As long as mama or daddy is rocking them and trying to calm them, I won’t say a word. I have three adult sons, two adult step-daughters, several daughters in law and sons in law, and so many grandkids that when we all walk onto an airplane (especially for a 14-hour overnight flight), people actually shudder.
Parents and grandparents who do their best to plan for boredom and keep kids occupied, teach their children how to behave and remove them when they can’t behave, and actually pay attention to the child so that he or she doesn’t have to scream to get attention have my support and my goodwill.
But the parents who carry on as if their bratty child’s behavior isn’t happening aren’t really parenting the children. They’re just as self-absorbed as their children. And when I run into those families, I leave.
The parents of bratty kids don’t accept the reality of their children’s behavior. Little Miss Curl’s mom is filled with excuses for her child’s bad behavior, and she tunes out the negative feedback in favor of self-deception. What she and her child need is a dose of reality.
Unfortunately, all too many parents only get that kind of reality when their bullying, out-of-control, spoiled brat comes into contact with law enforcement. And many of them buy the kid’s way out of trouble until one day, it gets so bad they can’t buy a solution. Even then, they’ll often ask a judge to put their child (or young adult) into “treatment” instead of punishment…despite a thick file of prior “bad acts” that show the bully for what he or she is.
I’ll climb off my soapbox now, and end with this final observation. My great-aunt Virgie always used to use the phrase, “Pretty is as pretty does, and looks are just skin deep. But ugly behavior goes all the way to the bone, and into the soul.” At 7, Little Miss Curl is convinced that she is special, and that the rules that apply to other children don’t apply to her.
She’s physically pretty, and I’m sure that she can be charming when it gets her what she wants. But her treatment of other children — and their fear and desire to get as far away from her as possible — show the reality. She’s not really pretty at all — she’s just a spoiled brat who gets her way in any fashion that seems to work, from charm to lying through acting out and violence.
Update: Little Miss Curl showed her true colors when it was time for the big show. The children had practiced their routines over and over — and when she performed, she was flawless. When she was supposed to be sitting quietly on the edge of the stage, watching other kids perform — something the kids had also practiced over and over, right down to being shown how to look interested and when to applaud for their classmates — she talked, kicked another child, and pointed at a child who made a small mistake, laughing loudly enough to be heard over the music. A teacher had to pick her up and remove her from the stage because she was so disruptive.
The unfairness of being deprived of a final bow — at least in her eyes — made her parents so mad that they have announced that she won’t be back next year. I am sure that I was not alone in applauding silently when I heard her mother’s backstage rant after the show.