Admit it, noisy kids are annoying. Whether you’re a mom of four or a mom of none, we all dread the sound of a screaming baby on a plane or a disgruntled two year old at the nail salon. Over the decades, our society has grown more accustomed to privacy and silence, and more averse to intrusions and annoyances. Our homes have gotten larger, but also more separated from our neighbors. Headphones, cell phones and even cars have wired us to avoid the chaos of the world around us.
As a result, we’re avoiding more than just annoying neighbors- we’re avoiding children too. Many of us are probably guilty of rolling our eyes when playful noisy kids interrupt the peaceful tranquility of the community pool, or step on our feet while we’re trying to shop for a new blouse. We may feel as if these spaces belong to us, the adults, and despite having evolved from a “children should be seen and not heard” era of child-rearing, we still sometimes hold that very notion to be true.
“Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.” – Kenneth R. Ginsberg
As someone who doesn’t have children, I constantly find myself faced with an internal battle when I encounter noisy kids playing in public. Part of me thinks that parents should control their kids and shut them up. Why should I, someone who purposely chose not to have kids, have to deal with some stranger’s screaming brat? I’ve had a busy work week and I just want to enjoy ME-time in silence. And even if I don’t give off any vibes of irritation when faced with obnoxious kids, it’s not uncommon for an overwhelmed parent to apologize and tell their kids to “STOP!”
It’s easy for adults to let the pressure of those around them effect how they treat children. Whenever I find myself getting annoyed, I remind myself that kids are so unaware and unconcerned with being polite and quiet, and that’s a good thing. Humans are emotional creatures- we get angry, we cry, we laugh, we scream. Adults are no different than children, except that we have been forced to conform to society’s expectation that emotions and expressions are meant to be hidden from view in public. As adults, we restrict our own access to play, and we seek seek to inhibit or control the playtime of children. Who’s to say that this way of life is really desirable, or even healthy?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, undirected play plays a key role in the development of children. During play, children learn many skills including conflict resolution, negotiation and self-advocacy, and it also allows them to stay physically active and emotionally stimulated. Unfortunately, undirected play is becoming more and more rare, and instead is being replaced by academically focused goals and schedule-driven play. On top of that, children are constantly having adults tell them how to play; “stop it” “say it nicely” “let him have it” “do it this way”. Sound familiar? This type of constant restriction on play can lead to anxiety, depression and social problems in older adolescents.
When I see and hear rambunctious kids in my path (no matter how annoying they may be) I smile. I smile because they should be playing without some nagging adult telling them what to do, or how to do it. They are exploring the world and living life without caring what some stranger thinks of them, and they are also learning crucial social and cognitive skills. Yes, a society where everyone behaved like that would be crazy, but sometimes kids need to have space to be kids, and this space doesn’t always have to be reserved to the playground or classroom. My advice to myself, and to all the annoyed strangers and frazzled parents out there, is to lighten up! Kids will feel plenty of pressure to sit down and shut up when they’re older. For now, let kids be kids!
For more advice on entertaining kids in public check out our Parenting section at Daily Mom!
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics