What If My Kids Are A**holes?

What would you say about someone who exhibited the following behaviors:

  • Demanding things over and over, without even giving you time to respond?
  • Letting every minor inconvenience or frustration spur a complete screaming, crying meltdown?
  • Ordering you around without ever saying “please” or “thank you” unless specifically requested to do so every single time?
  • Dismissing your well-intentioned efforts with a loud “No!” and a contemptuous swipe of their hand?
  • Being completely unmoved by rational arguments?
  • Responding to disappointment merely by increasing the volume and intensity of their demand?
  • Cutting you off with an insincere “Sorry!” when you’re upset in hopes of avoiding a lecture?

Sounds like a real a-hole, right?  But what if they had a face like this:

Only a real douchebag would call them a-holes, right?

And yet… that’s exactly how I would describe that kind of behavior in anyone else.  When I encounter an adult who acts the way my kids do, I distance myself from them as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  I’ve ended friendships over that kind of behavior.  I’ve quit jobs.  I’ve asked to speak to the store manager.

But because they’re my kids, I’m stuck dealing with it.  Even worse, I’m expected to correct their obsessive, petty selfishness and turn them into decent human beings.  Geez, no pressure or anything.

I know this is supposedly a phase that all kids go through, but it’s hard not to worry that what I’m seeing now is something darker, the first true glimpse of my children’s souls.

What if my kids are… just jerks?

What if I’m not dealing with the terrible twos… but with terrible people?

Every short-fused, condescending egotist in the world was 2 years old once.  How do you tell the difference between them and the ones who are just going through a healthy stage of human psychological development?

Can you?

Bennett’s such a happy kid, always laughing.  But sometimes I wonder if he’s laughing at me.  Tell him not to drop his bowl of yogurt on the floor, and he won’t… until your back is turned.  Then you’ll hear a thud, accompanied by a precious little cackle.  He’s a prankster, but what if it’s not just some innocent boundary-testing that he’s doing?  What if he’s a budding Bernie Madoff?

Sutton’s verbal abilities are superior to those of most grown-ups I know.  Drew and I are stunned how quickly she learns and how well she remembers.  It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even have to quiz her on new concepts anymore.  She’ll ask and answer her own questions.  “What does ‘busy’ mean?  It means you have a lot to do!  Who’s that?  Dora’s friend Tico!  What does an elephant say?  [insert trumpeting sound accompanied by upward arm motion]”  It’s impressive and adorable, until we start wondering… are we nourishing a young Cliff Clavin?

Face it.  What’s cute at 2 isn’t going to stay cute much longer.  By 5, it’ll be unbearable.  By 10, it’ll seem downright pathological.  And yet, some kids are undoubtedly headed down that very path.  The world has a long history of a-holes.

I’m sure it was positively adorable when toddler Dick Cheney spat a mouthful of strained peas in his dad’s face.  But spraying his friend’s face with buckshot during a duck hunt?  Not so cute.

What about Donald Trump?  I’ll bet the first full sentence he ever uttered was something along the lines of “I am without question the most admired baby who’s ever lived.”  When he said it, everyone probably went, “Awww!”  Then look what happened.

I try to steer my kids in the right direction.  I give time outs when they’re being particularly prickish.  I reward those increasingly rare occasions when they’re actually nice to their fellow man.  Then they turn around and misbehave again, and I feel like a chump.  Am I painstakingly shaping their malleable little psyches… or fighting a losing battle against their inner nature?

I mean, if one of my kids is the next Newt Gingrich or Shannen Doherty, they’re still my kid, right?  I’m not saying I’d vote for them or cast them in a serialized drama, but I’d set a place for them at Thanksgiving.

So I’ll keep trying… for now.  But at some point, I’m just going to give in and embrace who they are.  It’s not so bad, I guess.  After all, you can get pretty far in life behaving like a 2-year-old.

English: Newt Gingrich

63 comments on “What If My Kids Are A**holes?

  1. 🙂 You’re always going to love them, but you don’t have to like them all the time. That’s what gets me through the ‘prickish’ days 😉
    But yes, I wonder about these things too. Every parent probably does. But in my opinion, that’s what makes you a good parent and shows that you will do everything to make your child as little of a full gown a-hole as possible 🙂

    • I’m hoping you’re right, but I’m sure there are some douchebags whose parents meant well. Just as I was feeling a teeny bit guilty about posting this, they both went psycho on me. Oh please let it be a phase. I can’t unleash this on the world! 🙂

  2. Yeah, you’ll learn em right, and they will grow up to be good people sooner or later. But let me ask you… how do you handle the “time out” thing? I’ve tried to put my Chloe in time outs before and yeah, she’s not quite 2 and she doesn’t quite get it… but how did you get them to start to understand what a time out is (if you don’t mind me asking….!)?

    • We do it Supernanny style. One minute per year of age. They have to sit in a “naughty chair” – no toys, no pacifier, etc. – and not get up. We set a timer to go off when their time is up. Then we sit down at their level and ask them what they did to earn a time out. They have to apologize, then we tell them we love them and send them off. We only started a few weeks ago (they’re almost 2 1/2), so Chloe might not be ready yet. Soon though!

  3. Darling Jerry…don’t fret. They won’t turn out to be assholes because you and Drew are nice people who know the kids are going through a phase and you will, at the right time, teach them the appropriate response.

    I myself have parented two former assholes who have grown up to become rather lovely people who, from time to time, will slip/slide down the hill and engage in asshole-ish behavior. This is true of every decent person I know…we can all be assholes and, I PROMISE YOU, even when the kids are assholes as teenagers and adults, you will love them, but it’s OK not to like them for a while.

    The important thing, and this is the way WE try to look at it here at home, is that they can recognize when they’ve behaved like assholes and they can apologize for it when necessary. You just don’t want to encourage Trumpness (arrogant asshole-ishness,) Gingrichness (pointless, ignorant asshole-ishness,) Cheneyness (malevolent asshole-ishness) or Dohertyness (regrettably unjustifiable asshole-ishness.) Any degree short of those, and you’ll be just fine.

    I’ll tell you something and I mean it from the bottom of my heart: it’s perfectly fine to turn around and tell the person you love “our kids are being total assholes today.” We do it here…and we positively adore our boys, even when we don’t like them for a short while.

    • I love the way you break down the different types of celebrity assholishness. There are so many nuances, aren’t there? 🙂

      And yeah, a little petulance isn’t the end of the world. I guess everyone can be an asshole sometimes… except me, of course.

      • If the asshole-ishness is sustained into adolescence THEN you have a problem. They eventually get over it, and with you and Drew as parents, living in a world that is equipping them to be accepting of everything and everyone, it’s really just a phase for them. They’re trying out their wings in a world where their participation was formerly more subdued…once kids walk and talk they have to learn the finer points of being endowed with those powers. 🙂

        Yes…many, many nuances. This conversation has taken place in this household several times over…a fairly-decent bottle of Barolo is usually involved when it happens. 😀

      • Yeah, I think it’s actually a healthy phase. Testing is part of learning how to behave. It’s just frustrating to me sometimes, as the testee (hmmm… that came out wrong). 🙂

  4. Such a good point!
    I often look at my little cousins, and eye their parents out of the corner of my eye, wondering how much longer they’ll find things “cute” or “funny.” I wonder if they’re just “being children,” or if they just generally suck as people… Or WILL if we don’t FIX them. Lol.

    • You’ve nailed it. Sometimes, what seems cute to the parents is just bratty to outsiders. I have to look at it from other people’s perspective to decide what’s tolerable and what’s not.

  5. I often looked at my children’s behaviour and thought about whether I could tolerate it on an ongoing basis. If the answer was no, I would ensure that we focussed on changing it.

    Today I saw a dad who was so calm in the face of someone being a true jerk to him – all the while in front of his children. That was a perfect lesson for them. He then spoke to them afterward and explained why the other person’s behaviour was not okay. That’s how I tried to live – as a good example.

    As an educator, I see lots of children whose parents forget to be parents. I encourage you to make your children responsible for their behaviour, and not try to be their friend (that comes later when they are older!). They will be welcome everywhere and more successful in life. The simple fact that you are asking the question about what type of people they will be indicates they will be amazing!

    • Good story. Actions speak louder than words, so that dad taught his kids a ton, I’m sure.

      I’m definitely doing my best to stay on my kids’ case about their behavior, but it does get exhausting sometimes. I can see why some (bad) parents throw in the towel and let their kids act like animals. But I’m determined not to become one of those parents.

      • I sometimes did throw in the towel, believe me! And I also apologized whenever necessary for losing my temper because that was just another form of a meltdown!

        Parenting is exhausing, but hang in there – it’s THE most rewarding thing ever.

        I am looking back from the viewpoint of parent of adult children, so it’s easy to sound like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t feel it then!

      • I feel like that’s the Catch-22 of parenting. If you let them get to you and you lose your temper, then you’re just modeling the same behavior you’re trying to teach them to control. I’ve lost my cool a couple of times, and like you, I apologize afterwards, because I don’t want to encourage the same in them.

  6. well if you think 2 is bad–hang on for 3’s–LOL–3 is really tough–but it is also really fun–miss you guys–hope you are all well!!

  7. Well actually, we don’t know how the grown up a-holes acted when they were kids. They might have been little angels,and their parents might have been so relieved that their kid didn’t have the terrible twos and trees everyone was talking about. But as they grew up,they turned out to be complete a-holes! And your kids will turn out to be amazing, that’s what I think! Maybe Sutton will be a big genius to the world; she will invent something smart and her name will be well known. Like Steve Jobs and Apple! And people will think “Sutton is such a wonder woman!” and I will feel like I know her a little bit better than everyone else because of this blog:) And Bennett will be working whit what he loves,and he will be great at it. He will have a wonderful personality and be a person people will fight over to have as their boyfriend – because he’s perfect like that. And you would not only just save them a seat at Thanksgiving; you would be the proudest man whos ever lived when they come to visit! You wait and see;)

  8. And you can think about me; I had a really bad temper as a little child. My world could change in half a second, I went from smiling and talking to laying on the floor screaming and crying. No particular reason,it wasn’t because I didn’t get what I wanted or anything. You couldn’t talk me out of it (or,you could,but then it would only get worse), you just had to wait. And suddenly I turned my face up again,smiling and talking again-like nothing ever happened! My mother didn’t like it though (imagine that),and it was exhausting to her,BUT it stopped and she always tell people that she’s glad I took out my anger in my early ages,because there haven’t been much anger since. No teenage drama, just a little bit of door slamming at a rarely occasion. And she wonder how it’s possible that a kid with so much anger and mood changes could turn out to be so quiet,nice,loving and well behaved. She raised me to be a really good person,if I can say it myself. People don’t belive it when they hear that I was like that 😉

    • That’s good to hear, although my kids don’t so much have anger problems as they just refuse to listen. We haven’t had any screaming/kicking the floor episodes – yet, at least. Here’s hoping… 🙂

  9. I can attest to children being difficult and plain out annoying to everyone around. I was the one with the screaming kid in Wegmans and anywhere else most of the time (my youngest by the way. The others were better). My 2 oldest have grown up and made it to 18 and 22 and are well rounded people and good “kids”. I am very proud of the way they turned out. However, I am still working on my youngest, now 12 almost 13 yrs old. He has been difficult since the day he was born. I have always said he was ‘high maintanence” and he still is. He is a lot of work and it never ends. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel but I look at my older boys and know that I must keep on. The parenting never ends but the rewards of staying the course are amazing! You and Drew make amazing parents and your kids will be wonderful when they hit age 18. Hang in there!!

  10. And here I was thinking I was the only parent who referred to her kids as jerks and assholes.
    I keep telling myself it’s just a phase, but then they keep getting older and are still assholes. The hubs and I are convinced we’re somehow managing to raise douchebags. We can’t help but wonder where we’ve gone wrong.
    Fantastic post!

  11. oh man, you think they’re assholes now, wait ten years! Parenting is about not giving up (among other things). You’ve got the time out thing down – excellent job on that. You’re teaching them. Kids test and test and test and you have to repeat yourself and the lessons you teach over and over and over (are we there yet???). It’s just the way it is. From the moment they’re born they’re striving to learn how to be their own people and that means things like tantrums and attitude and melt-downs and all kinds of things when they’re growing. It’s absolutely a phase and very normal and the only way they’ll stay like this is if you don’t do anything at all about it. When they become adults and you see what cool, awesome people they are, it will be worth every second of every tantrum to get there. There is no other feeling like it in the world.

  12. This made me laugh so much. Thank you.
    All children are monsters and aliens. Sometimes both. They don’t actually become human until about…. 25. I speak as a 29 year old entity, but a four year old human.

    You might wish to seek psychiatric aid (for yourself or your children) if you witness any of the following behaviours:

    -Attempting to pass dictator-type laws.
    -Shooting friends in the face with buckshot.
    -Staging “competition” television shows with themselves as the hose.
    -Naming buildings after themselves.

  13. Jerry, you make me laugh…seriously! I read about “being the testee” and how it came out wrong and laughed so hard my 20 year-old came running to see what happened. I think you got yourself another subscriber there. 😀

  14. What you see is your reflection. Correcting behavior takes time and consistency. The things we say about other no matter the age are the feelings from within you. Seek your answer from within. and forgive yourself so you may learn that they need forgiveness too.

  15. Hahaha. I feel your pain, Jerry. And I have some words of encouragement for you. With the little monster being a few months ahead of your spawn, whenever you write about them I want to say: I’ve been there.
    Well, as you say, it’s just a phase. Mine is just going through a good one. He knows he doesn’t get what he wants unless he says ‘bitte’ or ‘please’ (for now we don’t care which one as long as it’s sincere and he is looking at us). If he doesn’t and just repeats his ‘request’ I simply look at him. I can see how his little brain goes ‘click’, and the next repeat will include the desired word.
    So just hang in there, getting closer to 3 they do get easier. Until the next phase arrives…
    PS: It has been said before, as long as you role model good behaviour, there is no way they will still behave like 2-year-olds by the time they hit 10, so don’t fret.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. They have shown some improvement lately on saying “please” without being prompted, but they’ve got a long way to go. Maybe I’ll teach them “bitte” – that should double the odds of them being polite. 🙂

  16. They do eventually turn into reasonable human beings if you stick at the parenting thing long enough. It’s happening with our daughter at the moment. She’s just coming up to 21, so only about 19 years for you guys to go if yours are anything like the same!

    • Toby, so true! Our son will be 21 in a few months and we see that he’s getting closer to “being done.” We always tell him “you need a little more baking-time. You still jiggle in the middle.” He rolls his eyes, but he gets it, I think. 😀

  17. Hey, as long as they don’t end up as the next Rick Santorum, Steven Anderson, etc., I think you’ll have done okay.

  18. Pingback: My Secret to Getting My 4-Year-Old Twins to Do What I Want | Mommy Man

  19. This is your absolute best. Fabulous and so true. Can’t wait to read your book.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  20. How upsetting that these two jokesters featured in your post 4 years age are now leading our country. Who woulda thunk? Tragic.

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