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Why Do I Try to Fix My Brother's Kids?

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Lori Curley: They come to visit every summer, and I unconsciously make a list of what they should be doing. This past week, I worked on getting them to use plates and sit on a chair facing the table when they eat. You may think I'm describing a battle with toddlers, but these kids are 8 and 9.

kid bad manner
It makes me wonder how my brother and I managed to grow up in the same home but exit with such different values. I am certain my mother tried to instill in us -- at the very least -- a sense of decorum. We often had candlelit dinners and linen tablecloths. We were congratulated for properly holding forks and knives; we got in trouble for burping. We knew which was the bread plate and what to do with the butter knife. Mother did her best to make us "country club" kids. But my brother's kids are pure McDonald's Playland.

I never let my kids walk around while they ate -- not when they were in diapers, not when they were in preschool and not today, when they're in middle school. But my brother and his wife don't seem to care if their kids roam around dripping yogurt or busting crumbs. Our dog is thrilled, but it is making me do one of those internal screams.

The other thing my brother's kids seem not to notice is how often they interrupt an adult conversation. I don't remember teaching my kids this very adult skill of patience (maybe they are inherently more shy), but my kids rarely butt in. They especially don't butt in when they enter a room where adults are speaking. They step in, listen to the topic and then wait for a break -- or try to catch my eye. My brother's kids seem to hail from another planet. They always have something to say, and they say it on top of -- intentionally getting louder and running over -- adult voices. My husband has corrected them several times over the past week, but I have not noticed any change. 

Next spring, I will be sending my daughter to spend a week with them in Washington. I wonder what sorts of habits she will come home with ...? I am already gritting my teeth!

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
momof3 July 12, 2010, 5:58 AM

Perhaps your mother trying to turn you into “country club kids” is exactly why your brother didn’t do that to his children. I suppose he didn’t like it! That’s okay. When they are in your house, they need to adhere to certain boundries ~ granted ~ but you need to get to a point of accepting who his kids are and enjoying their company instead of criticizing their behavior for not measuring up. Once they figure out your feelings, they’ll grow to dislike you for judging them. Just sayin’. In the meantime, be a grown up and have a conversation with your brother about boundries at your house, while not expecting them to act exactly as you want them too. They’re children for goodness sake and they’re not yours.

As for adult conversation, they should say “excuse me”, I agree ~ but from your tone you sound as if adults are on a higher plane than children. That’s wrong and they’ll catch on and resent that vibe as well. Chill ~ please!

just saying July 12, 2010, 8:09 AM

Adults SHOULD be on a higher plane then children. No wonder so many kids these days are so disrepectful not only to their parents but also to all adults because we as parents no longer teach them manners. My kids know that I will NOT answer them if I am speaking with another adult - unless it’s an emergenecy.

Alison July 12, 2010, 10:25 AM

My children have several friends that visit us regularly and only one of them has decent manners. It is disgusting to eat dinner with them! 9 year old boys who eat everything on their plate with their fingers and 11 year old girls who chew with their mouths open as food falls out are common! We have had many times that we had to ask children to sit when they eat. My kids wouldn’t even attempt to act this way and say it is difficult to eat at the lunch table with them at school because they are so gross.

It really doesn’t take much to teach this to children but starting young is the key. I can’t imagine how they will act as adults.

momof3 July 12, 2010, 2:47 PM

Hey just saying ~ I’m sure you subscribe to the belief that children should be seen and not heard and speak when you’re spoken to and all that blarney too, huh… All I can say is you get what you give. To get respect, you have to earn it and you have to give it. I certainly hope you don’t interrupt your children’s conversations unless it’s an emergency ~ but something tells me that doesn’t apply to you…

The boundries in the house of the original poster should be adhered to by all means. She needs to grow up and speak to her brother about it.

It’s sad that you see yourself on a higher plane than children ~ like they are less than human. We all are humans and we all, young and old alike, are deserving of the same amount of respect.

just saying July 12, 2010, 4:57 PM

Oh Please Momof3, I completely respect my children and they respect me. I NEVER said that they are not human. That’s just plain stupid of you to assume that or to assume you know me or how I interact with my children. Trust me, my kids are seen and heard! My point is that it is up to the parents to set rules and guidelines for their children and if you don’t when they are young, you will end up with teenagers who will walk all over you. Look around you, look on tv, look in our school system and you will see how many teenagers how no respect for teachers or adults or even the police these days.
So, if I require manners out of my children and that makes me a bad mom then so be it but my two kids (10 & 15)are good kids with good manners that I never have to worry when out in public and at other peoples homes that they will act bad.

XXXX July 12, 2010, 6:01 PM

Are they broken?

edisney July 12, 2010, 7:48 PM

i agree with just saying. our kids have enough friends and don’t need us to be on their same level…we are the parents. kids respect limits, rules, boundaries but they wont tell you to your face…i found this out after my daughter was grown. for your brother’s kids behavior and lack of manners…could you maybe explain to your brother that you need visitors to respect YOUR guidelines while in YOUR home…including his kids? knowing that your brother’s household is chaos, can you ask your brother to encourage your boundaries with your own child? if he doesn’t then tell him your child won’t visit him anymore cuz her well being is the most important thing…not hurting family feelings??? just a thought…

quesadilla July 13, 2010, 11:39 PM

Yeah, I’ve noticed that about 95 percent of mothers I encounter (and that can mean as little as passing them at Target) are quite incompetent in the field of mothering. Hey, if you’re not going to watch your kid to make sure he’s seated in the kid-seat of your shopping cart correctly, I will, and I’d better not get any lip from YOU when I help your child back into a safe position, or when I bring to your attention your lousy nurturing skills. If you’re really “quite capable of handling [your] own child,” then why are you looking at a product on the second-to-bottom shelf in the toy department of Target while your one-year-old is climbing out of the cart that you have only one hand gently resting on? Get a clue and get a babysitter, or give up your baby. There are so many loving people who would be so happy to care for your child, considering YOU can’t be bothered to.

Micaela  July 14, 2010, 10:58 AM

quesadilla? Are u kidding? You’re being sarcastic, right? Why are there so many mothers on these blogs that think they are holier than thou? We all have our imperfections, nobody is perfect. You don’t know what else is going on in EVERY other persons life. Of course, if you see a child in danger, it would be your HUMAN responsibility to make sure they are ok, as well as any other person, or animal for that matter. It is not your job to judge everyone else. IT seems to me ppl that are so judgmental & act so much better than everyone else is not only very LONELY, but also, not perfect in the least. LORI-you should be enjoying your niece & nephew, sounds like you expect them to act like animals. Have you thought maybe your brother tells them to act fools just b/c of the way you act? No, they should have better manners, etc. You are correct. But you don’t have to put that added stress on yourself to make them perfect, & they just may have different priorities in their home. Geez! I just can’t get over quesadilla, trust me, police would have to be involved if I came across you anywhere.

Lilith Ruby August 21, 2010, 11:18 AM

hahaha you sound like my mom and her sister. My mom was the strict Type-A mom and my aunt was “Fun-time Mom”. It was awesome to hang out with her and my cousins for the day but we only made it two weeks into our (only!) summer vacation with her. After days and days of debauchary lol we called our mom to come pick us up. You would think it would be great to stay up as late as you want, play video games all day, eat junk food and have no chores but it was AWFUL. I can’t imagine living that way ALL the time (though a couple of days here and there is great). Fast forward 15 years-my sister is a published author and my brother and I own housekeeping and landscaping businesses, respectively. We have all gone to college and received degrees(AND paid our own way through via jobs and scholarships). My cousins are STILL sitting around playing video games, eating junk food, not doing chores and sadly, neither one made it past the 10th grade. Naturally neither one of them has a job. Our ages are 32, 26, 23, 20 and 19 (with my brother being the youngest). We all grew up in the same town and attended the same schools (even sometimes having the exact same teacher) so parenting style is definitely A (if not THE) factor in how we ended up.

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