I’ve been working really hard with Nathan on cleaning up after himself when he makes a mess. We clean his room twice a day… once before nap time, and again before he goes to bed. I tell him that if he doesn’t want to clean up a huge mess, then he should either not get a bunch of stuff out or clean up as he goes.

So today, I walked past him as he was playing in his room. I heard him say, “Time to clean up!” and as I peeked my head through the door, I saw him picking up his Hot Wheels, one in each hand, and transporting them to their proper place into the basket on the toy shelf. He did this multiple times until all 50+ Hot Wheels were picked up off the floor.

I could not be more proud. I know plenty of adults who are too lazy to clean up after themselves, so seeing my two-year-old do it without any prompting makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I tell him all the time how important it is to clean up after himself because if he doesn’t do it, then that means someone else has to, and that’s not right.

For instance, I used to be a waitress when I was 16 years old. And out of all the different people that I served, guess who I hated waiting on the most? FAMILIES WITH KIDS. I especially hated, HATED waiting on the families with small children. Why, you ask? Well, because the majority of all the parents that came in apparently thought it was perfectly fine and “normal” for their kids to fling food all over the table and floor, spill drinks, be disruptive, and make the most God-awful messes I’ve ever seen. And the kicker? The reason why I hated serving them so much, aside from the irritation of dealing with a child who has no discipline?

SHITTY TIPPERS.

I tell you, parents with messy kids tended to leave the saddest tips I’d ever seen. You see, servers don’t get paid crap. At the time (over a decade ago), the hourly rate was $2.13 an hour, and to this day, it still hasn’t gone up to minimum wage. That’s because servers are expected to make up the difference with tips. So here I am, busting my ass cleaning up after these bratty little booger-crusted hellions and for next to nothing. No matter how great of a server I was… never letting their drinks empty, bringing their orders out in a timely manner, etc… they still only left a dollar or two. Even if that tip was 10-20% of their bill, when they allow their child(ren) to leave such a horrendous mess, they should tip more because the server now has to go above and beyond to take care of something the parents apparently didn’t have the capacity to take care of themselves. And the more time I had to spend cleaning up after a table, the less turnover I had, the less tables I could wait on, and the less money I could make.

It was really such a welcome relief when the few families with well-behaved, respectful kids came in. That’s probably why whenever we go out to eat, our server inevitably comments on how well-behaved Nathan is.

Here’s the deal. People who let their kids make these disgusting messes pretty much look like complete Parenting Failures to all who observe them. Typically speaking, the messy kids are also the ones throwing tantrums, screaming, standing up in their seats, flinging food across the room, climbing up on top the tables, being disruptive and disturbing the other patrons, etc etc etc etc. Lazy parenting at it’s best, folks. So what gives me the right to say that?  Well, my two-year-old would LOVE to do those things. I’ve never, NEVER allowed him to drop his food on the floor, take food off his plate or play with it, stand up in his seat, climb on the table, or any of that. Don’t get me wrong, he definitely tries. But I am the PARENT. It’s my job to prepare him for the next stage in life, and letting him do all those things teaches him nothing but how to be self-absorbed, entitled, and bratty. My child will not be allowed to be a brat. I know he is capable of better, therefore I expect more of him. I teach him what I expect of him when we’re at the table. And when he doesn’t comply, there are consequences (like putting him in time out, for example. And there have been many, many times I’ve had to get up from the table, take him outside, and put him in time out for not minding me at the table.)

Time and time again, I see parents “check out” while their kid runs amok at restaurants.

There is no excuse. None. Put on your big girl (or boy) panties and BE A PARENT. Teach your child the right way to behave. It’s not the kids’ fault that their parents suck, and believe me they will pay for your failures as they grow into adults, and that’s not fair to the child.  They usually end up becoming bratty, self-absorbed and entitled adults who won’t be able to get far in life.  What a shame.

I can’t stand to see bad parenting because it’s so selfish on the parents’ part and is nothing but detrimental to the child. Your child deserves better. Your child deserves a parent who is going to at least TRY mold them into becoming a responsible adult. I have friends whom I am embarrassed to go eat with because their own children, who are older than my son, are hellions at the table. When we leave the restaurant, my son’s area is clean. There is no food on the floor, no spilled drinks (I understand it’s inevitable, but some kids spill their drink nearly every single time they eat) and no disruptions such as standing up in his chair or getting up and running around the table.

The world doesn’t revolve around a single one of us. We have to be respectful of others, and we have to understand how our actions affect those around us. It’s our job as parents to teach our children those same principals. Anything less is letting your child down and inadequately preparing him/her for life. That’s not fair to the child.

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