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Stopping the Sass

Stopping the Sass

Is it just me, or are kids more sassy these days? And why is it that my son gravitates toward the sassiest of the bunch? I find myself time and again manning playdates with children who literally have no respect for adults.

Point in case: the other day my son asks if a friend from school can come home for a playdate. I say sure. This little boy has some hyperactivity issues, but in general, I’m told by friends, that he’s a typical “all-American, good kid.” Well, that was before he tried to spit on me. Yes, spit. He tried to spit on me and my son and when I told him that wasn’t acceptable he yells, “It is in MY house. My dad spits all the time!”


I seem to find myself constantly in these situations where I feel that I have to discipline someone else’s child, which I just can’t do comfortably. In that particular case, I got down on my knees, looking in this unruly child’s face, and told him that his behavior was unacceptable and that the rules in our house means no back talk, no hitting, no spitting. I also told him that if this wasn’t near the end of the playdate, I would have called his mother and told her to pick him up. To this, he rolled his eyes like a teenager and said, “So!”

Last week, a single mom called me yet again and asked if I’d look after her son as she had a work emergency. This child thinks every item in your house is a weapon. He literally was hitting, punching, and kicking (oh, and also burping loudly) the entire playdate. I couldn’t wait for him to leave. When he picked up a baseball bat, I called his mom and asked if she could come get him. When I told this little boy that I needed him to try to use better manners next time, he literally picked his nose, pulled out the bug, showed it to my son, and said, “Look!” and then popped it into his mouth smirking and giggling at me.

Is it just me, or am I being abused? Today, a friend asked me to take her son home after football practice as a favor. How hard can that be? Every time I asked him to put his shoes on he’d yell, “No!” then commence to run around the football field. It took fifteen minutes. When he finally got his shoes on, this little urchin walks up to me, slams down his backpack and then keeps walking. I say, “Excuse me? Are you going home without your backpack?” The seven-year-old smart ass says, “No, YOU’RE carrying it for me!”

At this, my son giggles and I see the transformation appear. He thinks all these bad guys are cool. He enjoys watching mommy squirm. So, I tell this little tyrant, “Nope, I didn’t hear you ask politely, so it’s staying right there.” And with that I walk off.

The boys screams and yells “Please!!! It’s SO heavy. Geez, my mom always carries it for me!”

Well, the ride home on the subway only gets worse. We enter the train station and the kid starts whining for candy at the vendor stand. I tell him, “No, your parents didn’t say you could have candy, so I’m not buying it for you. You can have crackers or something healthy.”

The kid starts screaming and picking up candy. I point to the crackers again. “I don’t like those!” he wails.

I stick to my guns. On the train platform with the two beside me, I tell him, “You know why I didn’t buy you candy right? Besides the fact that you clearly don’t need sugar, you were very rude to me today and I won’t reward that.”

He doesn’t say sorry, but spits out, “Well FINE. I won’t do that again.”

I guess that was somewhat of a victory, but I’m absolutely exhausted by all my son’s friends. My part-time nanny is telling me to stop all playdates or my son will become “like them.” It’s just sad. Just about every kid my son likes at school is a sass mouth. (Of course they don’t act up at all in school.) Trying to reach out to other kids to help make new friends isn’t helping so much. I invited one other boy from school over and when I introduced him to my nanny he had the audacity to tell her, in a snobby voice, “You are no one.”

Sigh. I have so many more stories like these. And sadly, I really like all of the parents of these children. But I can’t take their rude kids. I can rationalize that the kids are this way because their parents always indulge them and never say no. I can easily figure out that they watch too much violent TV or play too many violent video games, making them hyper—or that they have too much sugar in their diets, etc. But whatever it is, I can’t handle it anymore.

Clearly, my son is living vicariously through them because I don’t put up with it from him. I never have. Plenty of my friends actually suggest that I’m too strict. So be it—if it ensures he won’t become a little monster. Have any of you experienced this? It’s absolutely depressing to think about how many unruly children there are these days. I sound like a cliché, but when I was growing up, you’d get in trouble if you didn’t say “yes, ma’am.” If you dared to talk back to an adult, you’d be in BIG trouble.

Not so much today. I did tell the moms about their children’s behavior—I figured I owed them that much. One rolled her eyes and just said, “Oh, Craigy (name changed), you know better than that.” But she said it to her son in sing-song voice like she was amused and that was the end of it.

Another mom made her son write an apology note and made him apologize to my face later as well. I was very impressed. One mom just cried as she said her son had been acting out at home and on other playdates. It’s sad, isn’t it? I just don’t know where the sass is coming from and clearly, many parents are confused as well. In the meantime, regardless of how fond I am of these kids’ parents, I’ll try to keep the playdates to a minimum and make sure my son realizes their behavior is absolutely not acceptable.

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