The vast majority of parents these days pretend nothing is happening when their kids go bonkers in public. Picture Mujahid Safodien

It was a thought that occurred to me while enjoying a quiet lunch by myself at my local KFC. Sure, the chicken was a bit on the greasy side but it was still a pleasant afternoon, a pleasant afternoon that was disturbed by the relentless howling of a toddler a few metres away from me.

Picture this. I am trying to eat some greasy chicken and this kid goes on and on about God knows what and, needless to say, I find it impossible to enjoy my chicken. The parents of the little critter are trying desperately to shut the kid up. They’re clearly embarrassed which means they were new/first-time parents (experienced parents tend to not give a rat’s ass). The dad tries to resolve the problem by giving the kid what is probably his favourite toy, a rubber dolphin of some sorts, but this is flung to the ground by the child who then starts screaming even louder. I was hoping at this point the parents would take their rascal and leave – instead mommy still tries to reason with him.

“Darren, eat your mash gravy, darling,” she says, holding out a spoonful of muddy looking stuff. What does Darren do? He grabs the bowl and throws it into his mommy’s face.

At this point mommy starts crying and she’s yelling at the husband as if it’s his fault.

“I can’t do this anymore Robert! I just can’t!”

Demon child couldn’t have been entirely Robert’s fault. I’m sure they were both there at the time when it was conceived.

Eventually Robert, his mash-and-gravy covered wife and demon child leave, and I began to wonder about a few things. Are kids more of a handful than they were 20 years ago, or is it just that parents these days have no idea how to handle children?

At least Robert and his partner made an attempt to bring their kid under control.

The vast majority of parents these days pretend nothing is happening when their kids go bonkers in public. Single guys like myself find the sound of screaming kids particularly annoying for some reason.

I’ve been to restaurants where a kid will be breaking china and screaming profanities he picked up from TV, and the parents will just carry on with their meals because either they don’t give a damn, or mommy happened to read in some New Age parenting handbook that one should just ignore a child when he or she is throwing a tantrum. I believe parents who take no action when their kids are disturbing the public peace are terribly inconsiderate and should probably be jailed for being idiots.

Twenty years ago the KFC scene I described earlier would never have happened. The parents, either one or both, would’ve beaten the hell out of the kid, left the restaurant and then beaten the kid again all the way to the car. Parents back in the day knew how to lay down the law with their little ones.

There used to be an unwritten rule in society: if your kid threw a tantrum you’d publicly beat his a*s. It was a sign to the general public that you had things under control in your house and people respected you for it.

What I have noticed recently is a steady decline in the number of supermarket aisle beatings. What we have instead are little runts running wild in supermarkets, ripping open cereal boxes and smashing tomato sauce bottles.

As a kid I remember there was no such thing as staging a performance if you couldn’t get the toy you wanted. My folks would warn me once to put down the Ninja Turtle, and if I didn’t listen there would be hell to pay. I knew this – that’s why I usually responded after the first warning. These days I see parents routinely succumbing to pressures placed on them by their tantrum-throwing offspring. The result is we now have a society where six-year-olds have BlackBerry phones and iPads, discipline problems plague almost every school (public and private) and teens are constantly pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with, all because mommy and daddy didn’t take control early on. The biggest problem, however, is the fact that people go on and become parents without understanding the commitment and responsibility that goes with it. Yeah, sure, kids are cute, but they are also noisy, messy and have a tendency to behave irrationally.

They’re miniature drunks in other words, as someone pointed out to me. Personally, I think people who choose to become parents should undertake that they will not go anywhere until the kid is at least 10. No dinners, no shopping centres, no theatre shows. If you choose to have a kid, at home and look after it. Don’t bring it out in public and ruin everyone else’s evening. The trouble is that “young” couples today think they can still have the social lives they had when they were dating, while managing a two-year-old gremlin.

It’s for this reason that I propose one of two things should happen. Either a system should be introduced whereby prospective parents should be screened and made to apply for a “breeding licence”, or a law should be passed which allows members of the public to kick in the shins those parents who allow their kids to run amok in a mall/supermarket/ restaurant.

The bottom line is, parenting is not for everyone. Don’t become a parent if you don’t have what it takes to do it properly. And if you do decide to go ahead and produce a batch of gremlins, remember one thing, when in doubt – beat. - Sunday Tribune