The March issue of Parents magazine called them "The Brat Pack," alluding to that group of young actors back in the '80s; and as the second headline to the story put it: "They interrupt, demand, sulk, scream and talk back. Why are kids today ruder than ever?" Writer Sarah Mahoney set out to answer every permutation suggested by the query.
As she noted right off the bat: "No one is complaining, of course, about the age-appropriate tantrums that most kids have once in a while. And no one is labeling children as rude just because they occasionally hit, scream or pout. What people are up in arms about is bona fide brattiness — obnoxious public behavior that is totally ignored by the adult in charge. Scandalized, they share stories about the 4-year-old who kicked the back of their airplane seat all the way from Maine to Miami, the sassy 3-year-old who terrorized every checkout clerk at Target, or the 5-year-old Tony Soprano who knocked four kids down on his way to the monkey bars."
Mahoney then turned to experts who say that there are many reasons why children today score so high on "the obnoxo-meter," but the main one is "that parents are too time-crunched to discipline them. 'The real issue is that adults are tired, and when they come home after a busy day at work, they don't want any conflict,' says Parents advisor Sal Severe, Ph.D., author of How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too! 'So parents just let stuff slide more. And if you let rude behavior go even once or twice, your child learns that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.' "
In addition, Mahoney spoke to Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., a psychologist at Harvard University, who's written the book Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age. Kindlon said that while he was interviewing parents for the book, 50 percent said that they were more permissive than their parents. "And while being 'permissive,' " wrote Mahoney, "doesn't necessarily lead to rudeness, there's often a correlation. 'Most of the kids who misbehave in public have never been given limits or told what's inappropriate and what's not,' Dr. Kindlon says."
Still, according to Mahoney, there's more behind this "brattiness epidemic" than the hectic pace of modern life. "Some experts believe that rude children are the product of a sea change among American parents, who are more aware than ever of the cognitive, emotional and psychological needs of their kids. And that leads them to become overly indulgent." There are mothers who want their children to climb everywhere and explore everything to stimulate their "creative" side.
And while that may be okay in a living room, it can be a nightmare in public spaces.