I Hate Large, Homeschooling Familes

Okay, okay, I admit it. The title was just a ploy to get you here to read this post. Before you pull out the knives, please agree to the following conditions and hear me out.

1) Put aside any personal affront you may take to what I am going to say and ask yourself “Does he make a valid point, in spite of any insult I may take from what is written?”

2) Don’t post a reply that consists of some version of “Who does he think he is?” “I can’t believe he is so judgmental!” “Does he think his family is above everyone else’s?”

3) While it is always nice to read comments that affirm what I write, I am far more interested in hearing from people who can make a valid argument against what I am putting down here.

Agreed? Great. Let’s get started.

To any of our friends who read this, please know that we love you, love your families and hope that this post won’t do anything to harm that friendship. The only reason I am writing this post is because I truly think that the issue at hand is more important than the feelings that may get hurt.

I started writing this post eight years ago on the night before we moved from Dallas, TX to Denver, CO. That day we had several friends help us pack up a Ryder truck at our apartment and one family with several youngsters stayed for dinner. At this time we didn’t have any children but had noticed a general tendency among our friends to be very lax about discipline and in many cases to be oblivious to their kids’ behavior. We served pizza for dinner and one or more of the children thought that wiping the pizza on the dining room wall and on a pillow was a perfectly acceptable thing to do with pizza. To the best of my knowledge, the parents never knew this was happening. We took the pizza away from the kids and spent the latter part of evening cleaning the dining room wall (pizza sauce on a white wall) and washing bedding. What struck me about the incident is that the kids did this as if such behavior was normal and that the parents made no effort to keep the kids sitting in a safe place in the house while they were eating.

Over the years, we have witnessed in our own house:

  • company who brought red koolaid in sippy cups that got spilled on our carpets
  • numerous kids who wouldn’t eat what was served and complained about the food
  • numerous children who thought that telling their parents “no” was acceptable – and got away with it
  • several occasions where a child would yell at mom, and dad wouldn’t correct the child
  • countless instances of “if I have to tell you one more time” or “this is your last chance” when it wasn’t and neither were the next dozen times
  • kids who intentionally dumped food on the carpet in front of their parents without any correction
  • parents who let kids wander around with food after we had told the kids to stay in the kitchen to eat
  • a caned headboard destroyed because a child thought it was a great thing to stick a toy sword through. Many times.
  • a bathroom covered with poop. I am not exaggerating, I really mean covered.

All of this I have been able to handle over the years because these things happened in our home and not in public. However, last week I realized that this behavior wasn’t confined to the privacy of homes where the general public couldn’t see. Last Friday a Mass was celebrated by the bishop for the homeschoolers in our diocese. Apart from the bishop, there were three other priests and a deacon assisting at the Mass. After the Mass, the children descended like a Mongol hoard on the reception tables and carried off plates piled high with what they didn’t destroy. By the time the priests and bishop had gotten their vestments off and come out of the sacristy, the reception tables looked like a pack of wolves had been romping on them. After this incident, I decided that it was time to write this post, come what may.
We homeschoolers and we with large families take a certain pride in being “different”. Unfortunately, that difference is frequently only visible by the magnified chaos that comes with having five undisciplined children instead of just one. Whether or not you want to admit it, homeschoolers and large families especially are highly visible in public, and people watch you. They watch you for two reasons: to snear or to find hope.

When they see you, which person walks away satisfied? Which one do you want to walk away satisfied? The Bible calls us to be lights on a hill. Pope John Paul II called the Church “a sign of contradiction” and by extension, parents who live out the Church’s call of generosity to life and take seriously their call as the first and primary educators of their children are also that sign of contradiction. Can you honestly say that the way your children behave in public and the way you react to their behavior fits with that light on a hill? Is your children’s behavior a sign of contradiction in a world where respect, manners and decency have been all but lost?

I would ask, no, plead with you to consider what impact you may have on those you encounter. When that unwed pregnant girl sees you with your five hellions at the grocery store, is she going to think that her boyfriend was right about a visit to Planned Parenthood? When the couple with two kids who is being pressured by their “friends” to “get fixed” see your family, are they more likely to agree with their friends? When the person who hates Catholics, Mormons or Christians in general because they “breed like rabbits” sees your family, are you giving them one more excuse for feeling the way they do?

Or, when those who live in the dreary reality of hedonistic America see your family do they think “This family is different. They have something I want”? Do people come up to you in restaurants and tell you how wonderful it is to see well-behaved children? I don’t mean those that say you have a beautiful family, I mean those who specifically mention “well-behaved”. Are you actually able to take your children to a restaurant nicer than McDonald’s without ruining others’ meals?

If you are unsure of the reaction your family provokes, you need to take a serious look at how your kids are being raised. Like it or not, your family is a tool of evangelization and by taking on the responsibility of a homeschooling and possibly large family, you are also taking on the responsibility of being a “poster child” for those actions. I would suggest that the following list is a good “public behavior” standard to work towards. By public, I mean in Church, in society and in friends’ homes. I fully understand (from personal experience) that for some reason getting the children to behave as wonderfully at home as they do in public is not always feasible. But I also have yet to meet a family whose children are angels at home but demons in public. What goes on at home always shows in public.

For the kids:

  • I say “please” and “thank you” consistently, and, in general, without prompting.
  • I greet and say goodbye to adults when I see them.
  • I eat what is served without complaining.
  • I don’t say “no” to my parents or to hosts when they tell me to do something.
  • I do what I am asked without arguing.
  • I help clean up any toys so that the play area is at least as clean as when I arrived.
  • I do not throw tantrums.
  • I do not break toys or furniture at a host’s home. If this happens accidentally, I tell the host right away and apologize.
  • If I am old enough, I help clean the kitchen.
  • I don’t constantly ask my parents to buy me things when we are shopping.
  • I do the best I can to help when my parents are running errands.
  • I say “thank you” when I receive a compliment.
  • If my parents say “no” to a request, I say “okay” and don’t pout or ask again.

For the parents:

  • I pay attention to what my children are doing. If they are out of sight, I check on them regularly.
  • I do not let my children wander around with food or drinks. I make them eat at the table or I take the food and drinks away.
  • I don’t let my children have food or drinks outside of the kitchen that can permanently stain carpets or furniture.
  • If a child tells me “no” I correct him. If he continues to say “no” I start taking away privileges until he either complies or is stuck in a corner for the rest of the visit or we leave.
  • If I make a threat of punishment, I mean it.
  • If I am the father and a child talks back to my wife, I discipline the child.
  • I clean my kids’ faces and hands before they leave the table.
  • I make sure that my kids only take what they can eat or I serve them myself.
  • I make sure that clergy are served before my kids.
  • I insist that my children help clean up toys.
  • I do not make excuses for my children’s behavior.

Getting to the point when you can be reasonably sure that your children will make a good impression in public takes three things: consistency, resolution and patience. It will not happen right away but if you consistently expect a high standard, your kids will step up. If you mean what you say, your kids will respect you.

In the end you will find that not only do you get a lot more compliments about your family, you will also find taking your family out can be enjoyable.

So what’s it going to be? Are you going to be a sign of contradiction? Are you going to be the kind of family that an old couple with fragile antiques and a white carpet would feel safe inviting over for dinner? Are you going to be a ray of hope in a world that despises children? Are you going to be the encouragement a couple needs to be open to life?

I end where I began – by saying that I am not trying to hurt people’s feelings, nor am I trying to insult anyone. This issue – Is your family a positive or a negative influence on the culture? – is too important to get tied up in hurt feelings. If we are truly going to build a Culture of Life, we are the ones responsible for making it a place people want to be.

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73 Responses to I Hate Large, Homeschooling Familes

  1. charlotte says:

    You do have to allow for the fact that children are all different and respond in different ways. No these are not excuses to “not do my job”. We are typically the parents who get stuck watching everyone else’s kids when their parents would prefer to sit and chat about more intellectual things and yes, my children have been complimented regularly on their behavior anywhere from restaurants to the post office. Also, you seem to have made no consideration for age of the child. Some of these expectations would be completely unrealistic for a 1 1/2 to 3 year old, in my experience. I would agree that some of the behavior you mentioned is completely unaaceptable, but I would argue on a few points.

    1. A 2 year old throwing a temper tantrum that is met with discipline on the part of the parent even if he doesn’t stop, so long as he is not given into is sometimes something to be endured as a teaching moment. The lesson of the moment might not be fully realized in the child until later.

    2. My chidren are what you would probably consider picky eaters however, they do not complain when they are served something they would prefer not to eat- they just don’t eat it or they eat the things they do like and leave the rest. I remember from my own childhood that our palate and tastes grow and develop with us. There are textures that will induce the gag reflex. I remember having a similar problem when I was a child. Here is my point. I think you have forgotten that sometimes you have to look at the motivation. My children used to refuse food that was new and different because they thought they might not like it. We have worked very hard to institute the “you have to try it before you decline it” rule. When they do decline somehting, they are not permitted to make a scene and fuss or complain, but they are allowed to determine for themselves what they like and don’t like. (Yes, we have also gone over the concept that just because it might not be your favorite thing to eat, you can still eat it!) I want them to feel free to determine their own likes and dislikes when it some to non-moral issues like food. I think the point that you are trying to make is about parents instilling the virutes and ideas of proper decorum in their children. Just don’t forget that it its a learning process.

    3. Last point, I think parents today are too concerned about stepping on other’s toes and are afraid to make their rules known. I have seen this in other large families who happened to be homeschoolers. (I don’t agree with making the homeschooling connection because I don’t think their is anything inherent in homeschooling that creates this situation other than Catholic people with big families tend to be homeschoolers. I think this issue is a total parenting issue, not a homeschooling issue.) Every person has different rules for their house and children assume that everyone’s house is the same. We do not have an “only eat in the kitchen rule” because our kitchen is too small to eat in. We have a small nook and a formal dining room that is right now used as the schoolroom which is attached to a formal living area complete with foyer and dry bar. The carpet in the schoolroom is carpet that we need to replace and hope to someday when we can afford to put down an nice hardwood floor. In the meantime, my kids know that they can have food at the school table (not when schooling) because I know the carpet is not worth saving. Food on the furniture is not allowed except on the occasion of a movie night when we let them have popcorn. However, if we were to come to your house and you were to TELL me that you have this rule, I would make sure that my kids obeyed it. I think as parents we are too afraid to make our preferences known when it comes to our kids for fear that it might offend someone else or that they might think we are insinuating that they are bad parents for doing it differently. Sorry if there are typos. I don’t have time right now to check.

  2. Ian says:

    I certainly agree about the age appropriateness of things. Younger children are prone to be insane sometimes and in these instances the problem is more with the parents’ reaction – ignoring the kid or telling the kid to stop and then go back to whatever they were doing regardless of the response from the child.

    As far as picky eaters go – if you know your kids are unlikely to eat what is served, don’t serve them full plates of food to be wasted. When you are specifically asked if there are things your kids don’t eat, don’t say that your kids eat everything. we have experienced both issues with multiple families. We have also found that parents are very tolerant of picky eaters – almost every picky eater we know is picky not just at our house but even in their own.

    As far as telling people the rules about where food goes, it seems that some common courtesy and civility has been lost here. We have seen kids wander off to bedrooms and the living room with food as if this is a normal thing to do. While it has become necessary to specifically tell people that food stays in eating areas, the fact that you have to do this shows a general lack of courtesy on the part of visitors.

    I include homeschoolers in this post because, at least where we live, homeschooling is big among Catholic families. We homeschooling families are very visible in our community, and the legislature here tries very hard to restrict parents’ rights to homeschool in each and every session of Congress. So far they have not been able to pass many of these restrictions into law, but if everyone sees that homeschoolers behave badly in public (regardless of whether public schoolers behave the same or even worse), then they have one more justification for taking away our rights as parents to educate our children.

  3. charlotte says:

    I agree that we should be a good example to the world of a family that cares about raising good people. We don’t live in your part of the country, so we don’t have the same issues with the legislature. I know for us, being members of HSLDA is very important because I believe they are doing the most to defend parents’ right to homeschool. Also, in our area, it is usually the institutionally schooled kids (public and private) that cause the problems.

    The eating thing is one area where I have some issues. I absolutely agree that the clergy should be served first unless they decline (which we have had happen before) and that you should always start with less when it comes to something your kids might not like.

    How do you define a picky eater? Do you allow for the possibility that we are such a diverse nation (culturally speaking) and we all cook differently. My SIL’s children have experienced more Italian food because of the Italian heritage of her husband. My Eastern European background has subjected my kids to foods that use the ingredients of those cultures. The first time my kids tried ricotta cheese in a lasagna, my son “lost his lunch”. I guess I am more willing to excuse a child’s picky eating since I remember having food issues myself particularly with certain textures that I grew out of and other flavors that I grew into. I do agree though that a child’s preferences should not be the problem of the hosts, and the child should not be allowed to have fits over their preferences. I know my son doesn’t like the texture or flavor of beans, but every now and again I make him “retry” them just to see if his palate has changed. Kids should be allowed to decline what they know they do not like, but should not insist on being catered to.

    Yes, wandering into bedrooms and living rooms might be normal for some people’s homes, but they should be teaching their children to respect the rules of others. To ask permission first is usually a good rule of thumb and to be understanding if you are told no. I used to be uncomfortable telling people what my rules were because they might think I was being judgemental about their lack of rules or lack of discipline. The other day at the arboretum, I told a whole group of public school kids on a field trip to slow down, settle down and watch out for the babies that were in the same area. I think I have gotten better.

  4. Megan says:

    I have to say, your title irked me, but I appreciate your concerns.

    I agree with all of your guidelines for proper behavior for adults and children. And I’ll be the first to admit that my kids are still “works in progress”. I’m trying to teach my 8 year old to respond properly to adults when they greet him. My 7 year old seems to get it just fine.

    Some rules you listed are no-brainers, such as the consumption of food in proper places. We host an Easter party every year, and every year the clean up is atrocious. I have found food plates shoved under beds, unidentified foodstuffs in the bathrooms and even way on the other side of the house. We rent a jump house for the kids, and usually my husband or I end up standing at the entrance supervising while the rest of the parents eat and chat in the house. Every year I wonder why we continue the tradition! A little common courtesy goes a long way. Simply asking, “where would you prefer they eat?” and then, enforcing the rules of the house!

    However, there is something I take issue with, and I am not even sure if you have this opinion. This opinion would be that children should behave like little adults. Like, when we eat at a restaurant, my 4 year old should never be curious about the pictures on the wall and want to get a closer look by standing on her bench (btw, I’m talking about a family friendly restaurant….not white tablecloths and china) or that she should stand perfectly still next to me in line at the post office, etc. She is a CHILD. And while I do not tolerate her running around and creating a disturbance, a little exploration on her part in understandable. She is CURIOUS and needs to learn. Obviously, again, within reason.

    I have experienced both warm smiles and looks of disdain when my children are behaving nicely. Their very existance seems to put people off. If my children behave like children, it’s ok, because they are children! However, they need to learn rules of etiquette and good behavior, and I am al for that. Just please don’t expect them to have mastered them by the age of 6 or 7 or even 8!

    Works in progress.

  5. […] Ian presents I Hate Large, Homeschooling Familes posted at Musings From a Catholic Bookstore. […]

  6. […] Ian presents I Hate Large, Homeschooling Familes posted at Musings From a Catholic Bookstore. […]

  7. Lisbet says:

    This was a good read! I have 8 lively children that are well behaved most of the time. They are, like myself, a work in progress. There is alot of pressure on large families, especially the mothers, to be ‘presentable’. It can be exhausting, but, I digress…
    Most of the time we get positive comments (once the shock wears off! LOL) But some people just can’t get past the numbers and are just disgusted that anyone would have SO MANY children, good or not!

  8. erin says:

    Hi! I’m new here.

    This is an interesting post. For the record, I’m from a large homeschooling family and I am now homeschooling my small family. My three girls tend to be excruciatingly well-behaved in public; I’d agree this doesn’t mean they’re always good at home. Girls are pretty good at developing a “public” persona, after all! 🙂

    Your lists of what children/parents should do is thought-provoking. I think you sum up the obligations of guests pretty well. The only thing you’re missing is a list of the obligations of hosts/hostesses, specifically when they are hosting families with young children. I’ve made a start, here; perhaps others would add to it?

    For the host/hostess:
    –I will inform my guests in advance of the rules of my home.
    –I will tell my guests what I plan to serve, even if I think it’s ‘kid-friendly’ food; there are children who don’t like mac n’ cheese. This way, the parents can feed a picky child ahead of time or offer to bring some food to my house.
    –If I expect young children to be confined to a certain room (i.e. kitchen) while eating, I will make certain that this area remains reserved for them. (I have personally been at a party where the adults grabbed all of the tables/chairs which were supposed to be for the kids, forcing the kids to wander the house with food. Obviously not the hostess’ intention, but something that could have been avoided with a little foresight.)
    –If I am worried that the children will waste food, I will 1) ask parents to help them serve themselves, and 2) provide smaller, kiddie-sized plates for the children. (Most children don’t mean to take too much food, but many aren’t used to an adult-sized plate.)
    –I will make sure that the children’s table, wherever it is located, contains a few additional seats for the mothers or fathers of the youngest children. Putting children in a room by themselves and then expecting them not to leave the table (with or without food) is foolishly optimistic, as many of them will leave in order to look for their moms or dads!
    –I will make sure that the children’s table is well-equipped with napkins, as walls and pillows are poor substitutes.

    Aside from meal-related issues, here are a few other rules for the host/hostess:
    –If my guests are going to include children under the age of three, I realize that it is my obligation to remove easily broken and/or valuable things. The best-behaved 14 month old in the world doesn’t know the difference between a priceless statue and a toy, and the most attentive parents in the world can be momentarily distracted.
    –If there are rooms which are “off-limits” to guests, I will at the very least close the doors to these rooms. Young children generally explore their surroundings and have less understanding of boundaries. Also, I will tell my own children that for this party, I’d rather they didn’t play in their rooms.
    –If I want to cut down on toy chaos/clutter, I will remove some toys from the living areas of my home before the party. My own children are capable of creating quite a mess during ‘playtime’ (or they were, back in the day) so I can’t expect a large group of the under-ten crowd not to pull out toys if they are readily available. So, I’ll put away the really loud toys, along with the 300 piece sets, before the party.
    –If I witness some really bad behavior (such as a child deliberately spilling food on the floor) I will not hesitate to speak to the child’s parent about it. This should be done out of earshot of the child and of the other guests, if possible; otherwise the parent will probably become defensive. Most parents will correct a child if informed of really bad behavior.
    –Finally, as a good host/hostess, I will try to enjoy my guests instead of being afraid they will destroy things and waste food. I will also remember that the seemingly good behavior of my own children may not always be consistent (I’m sure their aunt is tired of the fact that they always want to play dress-up with their cousins, for instance!) but that, as others have said, they are a work in progress too.

  9. Megan says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Ian. It’s nice to know someone’s background a bit when responding to their “philosphy of child-raising”…

    Your bookstore looks inviting and your family, lovely. We’ll have to stop by when visiting my parents this Christmas! (My parents work for the diocese there.)

  10. Owlhaven says:

    As a mom of a large homeschooling family, I also have to agree that this has less to do with homeschooling and more to do with parenting. I agree, though, with your standards for good behavior.

    Mary, mom to many

  11. Elena says:

    I don’t think you really “hate” large homeschooling families as probably a good percentage of your income comes from that sector! ; )

    What you dislike are children with bad behavior and clueless parents.

    I live in the inner city surrounded by smaller families who are public schooled, where the problems range from scratching the paint off of a new car on the street to continuously shoplifting from the local drug store – and that is the 12 and under crowd!

    Your 13 points are very good and I will share them with my kids, but I’d much rather deal with those things than some of the stuff I see going around in the hood!

  12. Catholic Carnival 89: Potpourri

    Its a varied collection, but the fragrance is beautiful. Dont worry, theres some controversy thrown in to keep interest up: Kicking Over My Traces starts us off strong with Benedict and Reason. The Regensberg speech was not the first time…

  13. Michelle R says:

    Although my own children get great compliments on their behavior MOST of the time (we ate at a sit-down restaurant this past Sunday and an elderly couple approached my husband who had immediately removed our just-three year old for a quick counseling session on appropriate behavior and told him that our kids were well behaved), I am very aware that there are simply some bad days. I cringe at the thought that my family or my child or my parenting is being judged on a day when conditions are bad. And, difficult as it may be, I try hard to give other parents the benefit of the doubt when their child misbehaves and assume, if I don’t know them, that the child is just having one of those days.

    I do try to do head-counts every 15 minutes or so on all my kids (and every few minutes on the littler ones) when at someone’s house, but a 2 year old can do much mischief in 3 minutes. I would hope that a host would inform me of pizza on the wall or carpet, so I could clean it myself. I also appreciate hosts who put away breakables and excess toys to mitigate damage and messes. I recently had a party where over 60 children attended. Most of the kids played outside. The 3 to 6 year old girls managed to trash my daughter’s bedroom only because my sister-in-law, unaware that the toys were all on the top shelf of the closet for a reason, got down the boxes of dolls, doll clothes and My Little Ponies. The mess was so bad that all that could reasonably be done was make one huge pile, which they did. Lesson learned: lock the closets.

    I also have picky eaters (my older kids, not the little ones), and I’m working hard just to have them tolerate food they don’t like being on their plates. It’s an on-going, hair-pulling struggle. I’m sure my kids would drive you nuts, since they drive ME nuts.

    Bottom-line: we’re aware that we’re on show for the world, but we’re not perfect. We try hard, but we fail sometimes. And yes, I know perfect behavior does a LOT to promote the culture of life, but more so does JOY. I’ve seen lots of dour-faced moms who rule with an iron fist. Yes, the kids are perfect, but the lifestyle appears rigid and unhappy. ‘Tis better to have fun-loving kids who are happy to make faces for a baby they just met or push a new toddler-friend on the swings or who can romp happily in the yard and leave the adults alone for grown-up conversation, than silent children with downcast eyes who only say please and thank you and sit quietly for an hour while mom and dad visit with Aunt Bessie. Perhaps these ideas are not mutually exclusive, but perhaps, more realistically, is a happy compromise.

  14. […] The second-click-through award goes to Musings from a Catholic Bookstore for “I Hate Large, Homeschooling Families” because one of my pet peeves is bratty kids. I do not tolerate bad behavior from my own (five) children, and expect them to be helpful and polite in public. The look of bewildered joy that crosses the face of someone in the grocery store who has just been handed a dropped item with a polite, “You dropped this, ma’am,” — with no overt prompting from me (anymore) — makes my eyes twinkle. Even better: the kid in question wonders why anyone would act differently! When asked how I managed to raise such paragons of virtue (really, they’re not; it’s just in comparison), I smile and say, “Dreary repetition and obstinate consistency.” Start young. It it’s too late to start young, start now! […]

  15. Ian says:

    Some thoughts on the responses so far:

    First, I don’t expect kids to be little Edwardian dolls who can sit in suits quietly in a drawing room for hours on end. There is a huge difference between a boy pretending to be flying a jet while riding on the end of a grocery cart (which I don’t mind at all) and a kid screaming at mom because she won’t buy him Froot Loops. There is also a big difference between kids being noisy and rambunctious while they play knights and kids who think that destroying furniture is acceptable behavior. When we have a bunch of kids over we pretty much let them do what they want in the bedrooms (only one bin of toys is ever out at a time) as long as they stay off the top bunk and until someone starts crying. When they go outside, they pretty much have free reign of the property.

    In regards to the pizza on the wall, neither of us noticed until our company had left what had happened. No amount of napkins would have helped either because the kids weren’t looking for a place to wipe their hands, they were looking for a place to wipe the pizza.

    I guess the biggest problem I have is with the parents whose kids behave this way. If this was a rare occurrence, I would certainly be understanding. My kids have days where they meltdown and there isn’t anything you can do except put them away in a room or cut an outing short. What bothers me the most is the parents’ response to their children’s behavior. Many of them are oblivious to what their kids are doing – even when it happens right in front of them. Many of them repeatedly threaten their kids with punishment for talking back, fighting, etc. and never follow through. Many of them fill their kids plates with food even though their kids eat two bites – every time they visit. The other thing that I have noticed is that many dads seem to think that if mom is there, mom should do all the disciplining. Even when the kids are talking back and refusing to obey mom, I have seen dads who are either oblivious to the situation or ignore what the kids are doing.

    If the kids’ behavior was a one time or even rare display, I would never have written this post. Unfortunately, for the past eight years (and even before), this has been the norm in my experience with the parents who actively watched their kids and had well behaved children being an anomaly.

    The reason I put homeschoolers in this group is because I have found that this kind of behavior is not limited to large families even though they are the most noticeable. Homeschoolers, regardless of family size, are also highly visible because they go shopping, go to the library and run other errands when most kids are in school and people notice. The final straw that prompted me to finally write this post was the behavior of exclusively homeschooled children at a homeschooling event in front of the bishop and three priests and a deacon.

    With regards to picky eaters, and this could be an entire discussion on its own, I believe, based on observation, that kids are picky because their parents allow them to be. Now, I am sure there are exceptions where a child, like Charlotte mentioned above, had a visceral reaction to a specific texture. Apart from that I have observed that parents don’t expect their kids to clean their plates, even at home eating the standard fair that Mom makes. Instead, they are given their own special meal usually consisting of the same thing you find on every kids menu at restaurants. I know kids who will eat what is served as long as their parents aren’t there but as soon as mom or dad show up, suddenly everything is inedible.

    With our kids we have found that almost all of them have started out with an aversion to salad and one of our kids still isn’t crazy about peas. When we have salad, it gets served first and the child doesn’t get dinner until the salad is gone. Sometimes the salad is a symbolic two lettuce leaves but they have to eat that first. Occasionally they won’t eat it and miss a meal. They also know that before they get seconds of anything, they have to finish all of their firsts. Bread is never served until after firsts are gone. Between each serving of something they really want (bread, spaghetti, etc.) they have to have a serving of some other part of the meal. Sometimes someone decides that he doesn’t want to eat a meal so he gets it reheated for breakfast or lunch and don’t get to eat dessert or have a snack depending on which meal it is. This procedure has worked for seven years and it is a very rare day when our kids don’t finish a meal. In fact, they all like salad now (most of the time) and our older son will quite happily finish off an entire casserole of vegetables if it means he can have bread between each serving. The key here is being consistent, firm and starting young. If you threaten no dessert, mean no dessert. If you expect your kids to eat everything served, you have to expect it all the time. If you don’t start when they are old enough to eat what everyone else is eating you are going to have a heck of a time trying to correct later.

    I realize that society at large is much worse than the average family we encounter, but that doesn’t excuse us from setting a higher standard. And that standard shouldn’t just be a step above the norm. It should be a constant based on our calling to be a light to the world.

  16. Mommy2Lots says:

    I agree with what you said, for the most part. I homeschool my children as well. I am also a Christian, which is not the resaon we homeschool, but is a part of our curriculum. We have 6, 4 of which are mine and are homeschooled, 2 of which live outside the home with their mothers, but spend alot of time with us.
    Our children have always gotten compliments in public as far as behavior, manners, and being well-kept for such a large family.
    I have a friend who has 5. She doesn’t homeschool, but her idea of discipline is letting her children yell at her and climb all over her until she is frustrated. Then, she tells them to sit on a bottom step of the stairs for 5 minutes, after which they continue the behavior that got them there in the first place. Now, if this behavior was done only behind closed doors, it would be forgiving at times, but they act like this evrywhere, including school, restaurants, stores, friends’ houses, etc…By the way, my house is not one of them because they already know how I expect them to act. LOL.
    My point is that kids who misbehave are not strictly limited to homeschooled kids and not all homeschooled kids are bad.
    However, I do agree with you that people need to look at what they are representing when they are in public because one person could make a whole group/organization/family look bad.
    In general, I agree with most of what you said, but just because one group of homeschoolers has kids who misbehave, it doesn’t mean they all do. Also, I assure you that if the party you hosted was for all different types of families, or even just families with children in traditional school, you would’ve unfortunately seen the same types of behavior.
    I cannot speak for all homeschoolers, but we homeschool mainly in public. We only do internet research and some book research and reading at home. Most other work is done in public all around the city, so my children are well-socialized and well-mannered, as our homeschooling requires it.
    I will also say this. Kids are kids. Some kids require more attention than others and while this is the parents’ job to attend to, the parent may be tired or having a bad day, or simply just did not see the kid act up. Also, some parents are afraid to discipline their kids in public, due to all these laws about spanking your children. Some children do require a spanking in order to get their act together, thus making the parent look bad for a moment, but the parent could be spnking the child later. Will a child know this and take advantage? Of course they will. That is a child’s nature, to seek opportunities, be they good or bad.
    My point, if this happens with a friend once or twice, be forgiving. Parenting is a tough job and no matter what you do, kids are not perfect, just like adults.

  17. Becka says:

    I just want to comment on the picky eater points.

    One thing I’ve noticed about picky kids is they tend to have picky dads. If Dad doesn’t have to eat anything green, why should the kid? I have seen many times when the wife will cook a separate meal for the husband because he will only eat a few things. It is important for fathers to teach the children to appreciate Mom’s efforts, which should also lead them to appreciate the food that any one else makes for them.

    And Charlotte, you are absolutely right about living in a diverse nation. Praise God that we do! There are so many cultures with so many exciting ways to prepare food that we should teach our children to appreciate different meals as an adventure and an opportunity to know someone else’s heritage a little better. Food is one part of every culture that anyone can appreciate and share. Megan’s point about children being curious and needing to learn can be tied into my point about parents teaching their children to be open to new tastes, smells, and textures found in other people’s homes. If parents teach their children that every meal in another home is a chance to experience something new and exciting, then their very attitude makes the children actually want something different than they get at home and will in turn feed their curious minds as well as tummies!

  18. charlotte says:

    Please do not interpret my comments about cultural differences to mean that I only expect my children to eat what they have been exposed too. I am simply saying that a child who is regularly exposed to Italian food at home might be hesitant to try his Indian friend’s Badami Chicken because of the unfamiliar flavors. Ian even said that it took hard work to get his kids to like salad. Would you really expect that the first time (say at a lovely family dinner party) a child was presented with a foreign dish they should sit down and eat it with gusto? I would expect them to give it a good try (not just a lick) and not make a fuss about declining to eat more.

  19. Spunky says:

    Your title got me to read your post. I agree with the previous commenters who said that this is more about proper parenting than homeschooling. People tend to scrutinize homeschoolers more closely because of an image that they must be “perfect.” I’m not a perfect mother, so I can guarantee you my children won’t be perfect children. But by God’s grace we are growing and learning together.

  20. erin says:

    Ian, I think a thread about picky eaters might be quite enlightening!

    My girls aren’t even remotely picky eaters, for the most part (though the oldest has a few dislikes). But this is NOT because I “made” them un-picky by forcing them to eat or withholding food! They are adventurous eaters, and it’s a blessing, but it is NOT because of anything I’ve done other than set an example of adventurous eating. (I’ll try nearly any food, and so will my husband.)

    I don’t want to get too personal here, and I don’t want to interfere in how anyone else raises their kids. But I’ve struggled all my life with weight/emotional eating issues, some of which might be linked to the “you must clean your plate to be rewarded with the food you like” mentality. Though I do agree that kids shouldn’t expect to “order” their favorite meals at home or refuse to eat whole layers of the food pyramid, it troubles me to see food being withheld as discipline or desserts/bread being used as a reward. This can set up a child for a lifetime of making an inappropriate connection between food and emotions, which in its turn can lead to some types of eating disorders. Just “food for thought,” so to speak.

  21. Leanne says:

    Honestly, I think this is an across-the-board generational thing, and hasn’t got much to do with Catholic, large or homeschooling.

    I’m appalled by the behavior of the majority of children I see in public these days, but then I’m appalled by the behavior of their parents, so I’m actually more inclined to give the kids a pass while mentally lambasting their ill-mannered, selfish, boorish, loud, nobody-in-the-world-but-me parents.

    You do have a point, though, about large, religious, homeschooling families being scrutinized when out in public. Thing is, those of us who did not opt to homeschool are SO sick of being looked down upon by our homeschooling neighbors, that we do get a little mean-spirited when we see them make arses of themselves in public. But that’s what happens when you’ve loudly and snobbishly declared your way the best way or the only worthwhile way. You’re gonna make enemies and they’re going to be more than happy to focus on your faults rather than the whole picture.

  22. charlotte says:

    I know Ian said he didn’t want an echo chamber, but I wanted to add to an earlier comment. My husband and I have experienced on many occasions the phenomenon that Ian has mentioned where parents at a social function stop watching their kids. We have typically been the ones to watch other people’s kids to keep them from doing something dangerous to themselves or others, but have not stepped in to discipline other’s children unless it was at our home and a situation where we felt comfortable explaining the rules. I have seen children running wild and free (mostly not homeschooled) while their parents are in another part of the house having intellectual conversation or just complaining about how hard their life is. It seems to me that there are just some parents who instinctively trust that someone else is watching their kids. I have seen this from strangers, family members, big families and small. I used to think it was because our society is filled with people who want someone else to be in charge. Teachers are supposed to teach my kids, not me. Babysitters care for my kids, not me. Maybe most people don’t want the responsibility because they are afraid of the blame or they just don’t care. I really don’t know. I have seen it all over in too many social circles to pin it down to one group or one reason. Maybe someone else has some other ideas.

  23. Becka says:

    No, I wouldn’t expect my children to eat something new with gusto, but I would expect them to eat whatever they were served without comment or faces, regardless of whether they liked it or not.

    I think one thing that can help your kids not be picky, though, is serve your children at home a variety of things. I’ll never forget my darling niece, Lucy, when she was just over two, telling me how Mommy made such yummy mahi mahi for dinner. Because she was exposed to fish very young and many other varied foods, she is not fearful of new dishes and doesn’t even look at something unfamiliar with the suspicion that it might be gross. Attitude is everything. If kids are afraid they won’t like something, their fear is often all it takes to make sure they don’t. At home growing up we were never allowed to say “I don’t like” at the table and since that wasn’t in our vocabulary concerning food, we were taught to be open.

    Do I like all foods? Nope. Do I like every style of cooking? Nope. In fact, by having an amazing cook for my Mom, I am probably picky in my own way, too. But I am always grateful when someone makes the effort to prepare a meal for me, which is an incredible gift that takes time, expense, and thought, and would expect my children to be grateful as well. Perhaps the best focus for parents and children alike at someone else’s home should be on the effort that went into the meal instead of whether we like it or not (which ties into my previous post about appreciating the cook’s work).

  24. Tony says:

    Becka says:
    : No, I wouldn’t expect my children to eat something new with gusto, but I
    : would expect them to eat whatever they were served without comment or
    : faces, regardless of whether they liked it or not.

    I love tripe (sheep stomach lining). If I served it to you, would you eat it? If so, think of other things that this dad eats like liver, beef brains, etc.

    If there’s a new food, we encourage our girls to take a “brownie bite” because they might like it. If they don’t like it, well, there are things we don’t prefer.

    Our girls have always been polite, selected foods that they prefer, and not made a fuss. If a hostess (let me be sexist for a moment) accosts them with something like “what’s the matter, don’t you like so-and-so” I, for one will jump to their defense.

    We also have choices. I’ve found that the question: “would you prefer the squash or the carrots” gets a much better response than: ‘you can’t have any dessert until you eat some vegetables”.

    I also will eat anything that my wife places in front of me without complaint.

    That reminds me of a story when my wife and I were first married over 20 years ago.

    I came home from work, and my wife had prepared some stew with wine sauce with a recipe from a friend of mine. I sat down at the table, and got ready to eat. I glanced across the table, and she was looking at me intently. My “spider sense” went off. I took a bite of the stew…

    It was horrible!

    My face never changed expression. I took another bite, then another. My wife asked me: “How is the stew?” I said: “Great hun”. She said: “You lie!” 🙂


    I said: “You’re right, but I wasn’t going to be the first to say it”.

    So she scooped the remains of my dinner into our schnauzer’s dish. The dog walked over, took one sniff, and turned around and walked away. 🙂

    My wife has been training me to comment honestly about her cooking. I do, now, and I couch it in the gentlest terms. If she becomes offended, I stop commenting and eat everything on my plate until she relents. 🙂

    When my wife explains to our daughters about how to graciously eat what you’re served, and uses me as an example, my girls say: “But dad likes everything!”. And I said: “No I don’t. But I know that mommy tries to make things we all like, only sometimes they’re not all on the same day”.

  25. Becka says:

    if I was served tripe at another person’s house, I would eat it. Tripe is actually a traditional dish with my extended family, but for whatever reason, it is considered a “man’s” dish and none of the women eat it. I’ve eaten far worse, though. In Japan I was served raw, whole fish (eyes and everything) for BREAKFAST. Although death did seem like a more pleasant alternative to the meal at the time, I made it through alive and got a great story out of the process. That same trip I was served sushi, pickled plums, tongue, fish soup, and shrimp flavored potato chips. Unless someone has an allergy, then I really don’t see a reason to turn down what another has generously served you just for your own preference or comfort.

    You are blessed with an understanding wife. I would venture to suggest, though, that it is one thing to be frank with each other (husband and wife) about dislikes and quite another to tell your hostess that her stew is gross! 🙂

  26. Kailani says:

    I try to teach my daughter manners. If she were to ever misbehave at someone’s home, I would definitely have something to say about it. Pizza on the walls is not acceptable!

    Here via Carnival of Family Life.

  27. charlotte says:

    I guess this is one point on which we will have to agree to disagree. I choose to allow children to have preferences and to express their opinions respectfully and politely. I am not so proud of my hosting skills as to be offended if a child (or anyone else) declines something I have made since I am an adult and they are children. Since my children are well disciplined in many other areas, I think the issue here is simply a difference of opinion.

  28. Chris Naaden says:

    I agree with what you are saying and I think it’s sad that you need to say it. Parents (especially homeschool parents who are trying to set an example) SHOULD be paying attention to what their kids are doing and discipling them as necessary. It’s unacceptable when they get lax. *sigh* I guess that’s what makes us human, but it would be nice if there was an improvement to the parenting standards!


    Here via Carnival of Family Life

  29. kitty says:

    Tony, I am not Becka, but if you served tripe, beef brains or liver if you invited me to dinner, I would eat it and not say anything negative about it. I would probably not serve myself a large portion, though. However, I know that most people do not like tripe, beef brains or liver (as do you, I imagine), so I would not serve them at a dinner party, especially if there were little kids coming. I always ask the parents if there are any allergies or strong dislikes, and I tell the parents what I am thinking of serving so that any objections can be raised BEFORE I purchase ingredients and spend time preparing a meal.

  30. Leanne says:

    Kitty has the right of it – there’s a responsibility to being a good host/hostess, too. Serving unusual meals with less known ingredients at a large gathering where there will be children is selfish. One hosts a party to do something nice for one’s guests, not as an excuse to make all your own favorite things. Those of us with large extended families and who host the usual family gatherings know that it just makes sense to make sure there’s a safe place for the children to play, that there’s something they can eat easily, and that when kids get together they get a little more rambunctious, so some understanding is called for. The moms and dads should have an opportunity to enjoy themselves, too. Besides, there’s nothing worse than the parents who’ve conditioned their children to sit passively and mindlessly in front of the idiot box for hours on end rather than have to bother with watching them run around outside. I’d rather have kids running in and out of the house than see those sad, unfit, unimaginative kids sitting around with no spark in their eyes looking bored because no one is entertaining them.

  31. Sarah says:

    I don’t see any connection at all between large or homeschooling and misbehaving/crazy in public. Homeschoolers are marginally more visible, and larger (especially if the total in a group exceeds 7) families are usually highly visible, but the bad behavior happens just as often in small families. There was a family in my church whose oldest daughter was an absolute terror… until she acquired two younger siblings in about 15 months’ time, and her mom got less upset at every little disruption. We used to spend half an hour a week listening to this kid’s tantrums, and now she (and her younger brothers) are generally quite civilized.

    Even though we’re Mormon, most of the families in our congregation are on the smaller side, and most of the kids are allowed to run anywhere and do anything when they’re in a big group. We had a rehearsal on Saturday with about 80 kids attending, with a pizza party afterwards, and the kids were shocked by requests to keep the food in the gym (a full-sized basketball court,) to sit down while eating, to not run around in a crowd through the groups of kids (and adults) who were sitting and eating, and to stay off of our stage. I found 10-year-olds leading 8-year-olds up a ladder that leads to the roof, little kids who couldn’t find any adult they knew to say they had to go to the bathroom… it was a mess, because the parents had abdicated responsibility, and the half dozen teachers (including me) left in the room weren’t able to command the attention of all of them at once (it’s a lot better when it’s 7 to 1 in a small room instead a gymnasium.)

    Anyway, those kids ranged in age from 16 months to 12 years of age, and from only-child to 1-of-12 status in their families, and the differences were negligible (though the biggest kids were a lot less likely to run through the field of 4 year olds eating pizza, and the youngest-of-severals were most likely to actually find an adult and sit near them, like they were asked.) I think, perhaps, it’s a matter of parents deciding that right now, they can take a break, because there are other adults around, or something. I know some people let their kids go crazy in restaraunts because they, the adults, are really there to “take a break” (as a waitress you see a LOT of this.)

    Maybe for your next party you should invite a teenager or two and have them supervise the kids.

  32. Kathy says:

    Having come from a home where we were forced to eat food we hated, using the procedure you described, I do not do it with my children to that degree. Also, my husband is a picky eater, so I am already fighting a losing battle. But we *are* working on no complaints about the meal and learning to try everything, and gradually the repertoire of acceptable foods is growing. I think if we had started earlier, it would have been easier, but I am also not going to make mealtime a battle. If they won’t eat at one meal, that’s fine. But I’m not going to keep serving it over and over. It didn’t work for me as a child, nor for my siblings, and it created a lot of resentment and ill feelings.

  33. Kit Hosley says:

    I agree that this doesn’t seem to be a homeschooling issue, but I think we as homeschooling families have a greater visibility when our kids are ill-behaved.
    After all, we’re the only ones in the shoe store at 10am on a Thursday !
    But I don’t believe it’s a religious issue either, and as a Pagan, I expect good manners from my kids. Seriously – I don’t look at a large family, or even a large homeschooling family and think, oh *they* must be Catholic,lol !
    I think the nitpicking about age -related expectations distracts from the bottom line- your children are your responsiblity.
    Toddlers can’t be expected to leave knick-nacks alone, or be not spill a drink, and they want to jump on the couch, of course. But Mom or Dad should be teaching in the everyday – if you go to a home with knick-nacks, stay near your child – and say ‘that’s just for pretties sweetheart, we don’t touch’ – I mean seriously, is no touching a class that some parents of toddlers hold for 20 minutes weekly and then let go ? And the drink won’t spill on my couch if you’re making sure little Betty is in the kitchen or dining area, with you, and when I serve food or drinks, I make sure to say to all present ‘ok, let’s keep the food and drinks in the _____’.
    How hard is parenting a toddler ? Ok, not easy- but invitations to another’s home or even paying for a nice dinner out don’t entitle you to take a parenting break. That’s reserved for what we call ‘the elusive , rare, and costly mythical being – the “Babysitter”.

  34. The Mommy says:

    Okay, I will say I haven’t read all the comments so if someone has already said this forgive me.

    I totally agree with Kit Hosley who says going somewhere else with your toddler/preschooler doesn’t entitle you to a parenting break. This is something I struggle with, especially when I am the one being used to get the break. If you need a parenting break, ask me and I will likely sit for you to give you one. But please don’t impose it on me.

    On the topic of the post, I have met many large homeschool families and must say they are often the sort of families I want our family to be around. My husband is in youth ministry and works with “troubled” teens so I have plenty of opportunities to find out what I don’t want my child to be like. But I have learned more from “good” families.

    I agree that our families no matter the size are a light to the world for our worldview. If you are Christian and proclaim that, your family is being judged by that standard. I try to keep this in my mind as I parent. But this is true no matter your values and faith.

  35. jen says:

    Beautiful! You have a way with words and didn’t hurt my feelings a bit. Maybe because I’m one of those families who routinely gets the “your kids are so well behaved” compliment. I commend you for writing this and intend on printing this and passing it out at our next homeschool meeting. I will give you all the credit.

  36. Lara says:

    My son is known as a picky eater by two of his friend’s mothers. He won’t eat a thing they serve. In general, they serve white bread sandwiches or kraft mac & cheese. Snacks are often marshmellows or those horrid little gummy “fruit” things. I don’t think it’s all that horrible that he declines to eat these things. In reality, he really isn’t picky at all. He just doesn’t like junk food. Do good manners really dictate that he ought to eat things he knows are bad for him?

  37. Julee Huy says:

    I must say that I totally agree with your post. I was raised in a homeschool family and now homeschool my own children. The thing that bothers me the most is going on field trips with other homeschoolers. When I was homeschooled, homeschooling was fairly new and we as children were taught that we represent homeschooling and need to leave a good impression.

    I am appalled at what parents let their children do on field trips and can only imagine what the museum directors, factory managers, etc. must think of the wild bunch of hooligans that run through their establishments.

    While I keep my 4 children under control, it is still very embarrassing to go anywhere with a large group of homeschoolers.

    I found your post to be excellent and very timely.

    – Julee Huy

  38. Rebecca says:

    I have a confession to make. I have a 7 year old who almost never makes a trip through any store without crying because he can’t get what he wants. When my 11 year old was in school, he was the kid who disrupted class and had to be sent away so the other kids could do their work. My children never say no to me, but I have had a 5 year old who would run away from me when ever he got in trouble. My 7 year old doesn’t say OK when I say “no” – he asks again and again and again while becoming increasingly agitated and loud. I was once locked out of the house while getting the mail by a 4 year old who wanted to eat the popcicle I told him he couldn’t have. I now have a 20 month old girl who throws 20 minute temper tantrums when she gets mad and won’t let you even touch her until she calms down. I’m a terrible mom and a horrid example of homeschoolers, right? No. I can promise you that I discipline my children more consistantly and more carefully than just about anyone I know. I do spank, but not too often as my children have problems developing emotional self-control and from experience I’ve found that spanking just escalates the situation and does nothing to make things better. In some situations it works, and I don’t have a problem with it, but I have seen in both my own and my husband’s families how physical discipline can escalate into abuse when used on kids who don’t respond to it.
    True story. When my oldest was 3 I was working and he was in daycare. One day I went to pick him up and he threw a fit – didn’t want to leave. Threw himself on the ground and screamed. I told him very firmly that we were leaving and he needed to stop. He continued, so I ignored his protests, stuffed him in his coat, threw him (still screaming) over my shoulder and headed for the door. (I was going to talk to him once he calmed down, but at this point, I knew there was no talking to him.) His teacher stopped me at the door and said, “you handled that exactly how we would here. I thought he did that because he got away with it at home.” I told her, “I can quite honestly say that he has never once in his life gotten anything from me or his dad by behaving this way. I don’t know why he does it.”
    The fact of the matter is that if you saw me out in public, you would likely think I was a terrible mom. However, I just have really difficult kids. It runs in the family. I come from a family of 9 and my hubby from a family of 6 and both of us have siblings who were really, really awful kids. I had one sister who was so bad that my parents would take two cars everywhere we went so that when she started acting up one of them could take her home, spank her and send her to her (toy and tv free) room so that she wasn’t always ruining things for all of us. This went on for at least 2 years. If it was just a matter of discipline, you’d think she would have caught on after a few times rather than after a few years.
    Fortunately, with time and patience these kids do grow up and pull it together. My 11 year old is generally very well behaved now. People who knew him before age 8 can’t believe he’s the same kid and people who didn’t meet him until after age 8 think I’m making up stories about him and should get his 7 year old brother professional help.
    I work very hard to keep my kids in line and certainly don’t allow them to infringe on other people’s space and property. They are not allowed to be rude to me or anyone else. However, they really can be awful at times and I do everything in my power to avoid taking them into stores.
    I can’t speak to the author’s experiences, but my point is simply that people are waaaaaay too quick to judge. It could be the area I live in, and the people I hang out with, but I just don’t see that many poorly behaved kids. And when I do, 9 times out of 10 there’s a frazzled mom working overtime to get them in line.
    What I have experienced is disapproving looks from people who don’t think my 7 year old should be “bothering” people by saying hi to them as they pass by. Or a friend who told me my 6 year old was getting his jollies because he had poked her in the chest to get her attention. Or the woman who told me there was something wrong with my 4 year old because he ran across a feild at the (otherwise empty) park without me. I have had any number of people tell me over the years that there was obviously something wrong with one of my children and that I needed to get them professional help (never mind thats I’m actually a trained, experienced “professional”). This and the judging looks and such are not helpful to me at all.
    What has been very helpful have been the times when someone approached me when my kid was acting up in public and said, “I was watching the way you handled that situation and you handled it really well. Hang in there. You’re doing really well.” Or the older folks at church who say, “I was watching your son in church. He’s so cute – a real handful. my son was the same way and he’s all grown up now. He’s married with kids and is a wonderful man, but I sure remember when he was the one acting up in church. Those years go by so fast.” These comments and others like them have been light and salt from heaven for weary mom and dad. Judging looks and comments are not.
    Sorry this is so long, but you asked for it! I’m sure there are many bad parents out there. My advise is to be very, very slow to judge and if you do come across an out of control horde posing as a family, confront them and if they don’t shape up, don’t invite them over and impliment explicite rules to circumvent them before they can get started. As for people judging us, well, when someone can take offense at a 7 year old saying “hi” to people, I’m dis-inclined to put much time and energy into worrying about what they think of me and mine.

  39. Jim Miller says:

    I have 5 kids (age range 1-11), and I can’t help but comment on the picky eater issue.

    I think too many parents are letting kids decide what they are going to eat and not eat. Our kids are not required to eat things they absolutely don’t like, but they are required to taste things they have never tried. We’ve done this with all 4 of the ones with a sufficient number of teeth from the time they began to express food preferences.

    Here is a partial list of the things my kids eat regularly:
    Beef Stroganoff
    Chicken in an Italian Cream Sauce

    We got them to eat these things by training them at home. I was WAY too heavy-handed about it at first, but I’ve learned to have more grace as they learn. There are 2 specific things we’ve done:
    1) They get no dessert if they don’t eat all their food within a certain time frame. (Usually within 10 minutes after we’re finished.) “Dessert” in our house means “anything sweet”. If we have cookies, ice cream, etc. already made, we’ll let them have some. If we don’t, a small piece of candy works just as well. We limit portions to keep our kids from being overweight, and none of them are. (Dad could use a little work on his gut, but that’s not the issue at hand, is it?)
    2) They are not allowed to eat anything at all after dinner if they don’t eat all their dinner. When we were training our older 3, the only exception to this rule was if they chose to eat what we were eating for dinner. When we were clearing the table, we’d put some Saran wrap on their unfinished plate and put it in the fridge. 9 times out of 10, they’d come back later saying, “I’m hungry.” We’d offer them their dinner, and about 80% of the time, they’d take it. We may have even given them dessert if they cleared their plate, I don’t remember for sure. I do know that the time issue was only invoked if one of our kids started a habit of not finishing and then coming back an hour later.

    It didn’t take too many nights of them going to bed hungry to realize it was in their best interests to eat at dinner time. The three older kids have established the culture in our house to the extent that we’ve never really had to teach this to our 4 year old. He sees the other kids eating what they’re given and figures that’s how it goes: kids eat their meals. I hope the same for my 1 year old daughter!

    Another thing we had to realize was what portions are appropriate for each kid. If we noticed a kid leaving food on a plate consistently, we’d start giving them less and less until they began asking for seconds.

    Another one of our responsibilities was teaching our kids that tastes are something you learn, not just what comes to you. We’ve taught them that they may not like it now, but they should try a few bites of everything before deciding they don’t like it. We’ve taught them that we don’t always like the way things look or smell, but we love how they taste. This has made them much more willing to try new things.

    This training has made our kids much better guests. We often get comments from our hosts that they can’t believe what our kids eat. With 5 of them, it’s hard for people to say, “Well, your kid just has different tastes.” They all DO have different tastes, but the 4 oldest ones, at least, eat what they are served without complaining.

    It took a lot of hard work on our part, but it has certainly paid off.

    To God be the Glory, and may he be with you as you represent him in the world.

  40. Liberty Ferall says:

    I must say that this all depends on how the children are raised. I myself am the oldest of 12 homeschooled children. I have now graduated but am not yet married – and I plan to also have a large family when I do marry.

    My parents have raised my siblings and I to be polite. My two-year-old brothers even say “please” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” to each other. “Yes sir” and “yes maam” is expected starting at about 18 months. Politeness is key.

    My parents also expect obedience to be immediate and complete. Throwing a fit is unaccetable. Children with bad attitudes are sent to their beds. My mother began training us not to cry for no reason at about six months.

    We were always expected to eat everything we were served. If we did not, that food was put in the fridge until the next meal, and no snacks were allowed. I witnessed my siblings starve themselves for days in an attemt to prove that they, not mom and dad, were in charge. They always failed, buckling and eating the food.

    I will admit that ill behaved children are detestable. However, you seem to equate ill behaved with big and homeschooled, and, where I come from at least, the big homeschooled families are the ones who are well behavied. The ill behaved children are spoiled brats with one sibling, if any.

  41. Some people seem to have missed the point of this post. This post was not meant to address the general decline in manners among children. It was meant to address the general decline in manners among homeschoolers and large families who should be the shining example of good behavior to the rest of the world. I know some large families and some homeschooling families that have wonderfully behaved children. I am not addressing those families either. This post was exclusively about large and or homeschooling families that don’t seem to think their children should be taught manners and the very visible example such families set.

  42. Loni says:

    Yes! Your title certainly caught my eye, as I am expecting my twelveth child – 2 await us in heaven. We have 9 at home. My children certainly are not perfect. One of our children even died to a foolish “game”. But yes, our children are taught respect, to obey the first time – the 2nd reminder is with consequences – and this is from age 3 to 19! The eyes roll, and the waitress run when we come into a restaurant, but after being the entertainment for the restaurant, numerous people will come to our table and tell us what a nice, quiet, family we have. Many times a waitress will tell us our 9 children behave better than a family with one or two.

    We know many large homeschooling families, and to be honest, I cannot think of any of these families that would be put in some of the critical catagories you suggested. I see often in stores, families with one or two children struggling tremendously with teens that sass and/or swear at their parents, to toddlers throwing temper tantrums you can hear through the whole store.

    We too have gone on several homeschool fieldtrips, and these are large groups 50-100 kids. I have always been proud to be with these families. Our church also has many homeschool families, and children of all ages, including babies, are welcome to stay in the service. There is a nursery, but more for nursing moms. If a child is distracting he/she is brought out, disciplined and comes back to the service. If the service is too long, esp. for a young toddler, one of my older teen children may take them out.

    I don’t think large homeschooling families should be lumped into the category of these little terrors. It’s more a worldwide problem in many families. For the large homeschooling families we know, I think it’s the exception – well-behaved, yet “normal” children, who need continual guiding and discipline.

  43. molly says:

    I really appreciated what you said I TOTALLY agree with the lack of discipline and just terrible behavior that I see in children all the time. However, my experience has been %100 opposite of yours. The families with 1 or 2 children are completely worse then the large families. I am consistently amazed at how I can have a family with 1 child here for dinner and have everything undone and then a family with 4 kids and everything run very smoothly. Maybe it is where we live, Seattle, but I would take a family of 6 six homeschooled kids any day over those horribly spoiled, undisciplined, selfish, single children!!!!

  44. julie says:

    I have to say that I am appalled by some of these remarks. Yes, it is true that larger families can have very well behaved children, simply because that is crucial in running a big family. However, to imply that only children or children with 1 or 2 siblings are spoiled, selfish or undisciplined is horribly ignorant of you. Of course, there will be only children whose parents will never discipline, but that is absolutely not the norm. Having a smaller family is by no means equated to lack of discipline. I know plenty of only children and they are some of the most well-behaved people I know, who receive lots of parental attention and affection as well as the required discipline.

  45. As I have said before, this post is purely about poorly behaved large and / or homeschooling families. This post was not attempting to address any issues with any other group or condemn or praise any other group.

  46. […] Since the last time I blogged here, I’ve read a few different blogs and responses to blogs where people offer some surpisingly humorous examples of why the author of the post is wrong in his or her argument.  The first I’ll bring up is in a post by my boss, titled “I Hate Large Homeschooling Families.”  […]

  47. JUST A QUICK NOTe says:

    When you see kids miss behaving in a restraunt or a store how can you tell if there homeschooled or not. Just because it’s a big family doesn’t mean they are home schooled. We have 8 and they go to public school and there are many other large families that send there kids to. I don’t understand how you determine if a large family out in public is homeschooled or not unless you are among the rude people who confront the family and ask them if they homeschool. Just like the other many rude questions large families are confronted with by strangers like are they all yours, do you know what causes that etc…

  48. Maria says:

    as an aside I just want to know why people hate homeschoolers in general -? is b/c they get to do things while the majority of kids are in school? just curious…

  49. Jo says:

    As a parent, I could not agree more.

    Today we went to a sit-down restaurant for lunch. Our three-year-old was taught the finer points concerning salad forks (“Mommy? Why dey give me two?”) and we were thrilled that the five-year-old remembered to place his napkin on his chair (instead of the table) when temporarily excusing himself. They mind their P’s and Q’s, and know full-well that their lives will make rapid changes for the worse if they decide to act like brats. (I took them to an IMAX presentation on ancient Greece recently. A woman approached us after the movie and said, “I’m a teacher, and I’ve taught for more than 20 years, and with a wide range of ages. Your kids are incredibly well-behaved, and I know it’s because of the parents. It always is. I’ve seen children older than they are have to be removed from places like this, so I want to compliment you. They were so good and quiet…I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure you were still there and hadn’t left!”)

    My neighbor also has two children of nearly the same age(s). We watched them the other night, and I was distressed by their behavior. The younger one seems to be utterly (selectively) deaf. “Bill, please bring that here.” Pause. “Bill? Bring that here, please.” No action. No eye contact. Nothing. “Bill, that needs to be over here. Now.” Of course he doesn’t listen, so you have to go over and physically pry it from his hands. The eldest thought it was perfectly acceptable to say such things as:

    “You’re ugly!”
    “I don’t like your food! It stinks.”
    “Your house isn’t clean. Is your downstairs clean?”
    “You don’t ever have any new games. I have a Play Station 2, and my stuff is way cooler than yours.”

    He also refused all my son’s overtures at being polite, ranging from playing games to watching a new (and beloved) video. (“I already saw that one. I don’t like it, it’s stupid.”) My son took it very well at the time, but by the next morning he was letting me know how deeply this had hurt him.

    I have also watched amazingly stupid and reckless behavior from kids with nary a word from mom, let alone dad. I recall one incident where a toddler repeatedly rammed one of his large, wheeled, walker-type toys into the family’s wooden entertainment center, and mom didn’t even blink or look at him. This was obviously par for the course. (My kids would have had the toy removed for the next three days and spent the rest of the hour learning how to dust and care for the furniture they had been ramming into. Criminey!)

    The behavior you speak of is what we here refer to as “Feral Children.” Like stray cats and dogs, these feral kids are left to fend for themselves, to teach themselves, and to reward themselves. Parents may sometimes be in close proximity, but for all the good it does they might as well be dead or on the moon.

    No matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it is to discipline kids, you have to do it. Discipline doesn’t mean beating their brains out, it means teaching them, and guiding them, and most certainly it involves protecting innocent others from the damage or disturbance your own children may cause. If they throw a five-star meltdown in public, remove them. Take the howling and enraged child (who may well be trying to hit you, too) OUT of the mall/the restaurant/the bookstore/whatever and take them to the car. Give them a chance to howl bloody murder out THERE, and then correct the behavior, cover what went wrong and why, what the behavior OUGHT to be, and return when the kid is ready to display it. If possible, have the child apologize, even if it’s to a sibling or mom or dad.

    Thank you for pointing out the potential consequences of this behavior as seen by young families/families-to-be. I hadn’t even considered that point of view.

  50. Magpie says:

    I have to post just to say how I agree with everything in this article. I have three small children and one on the way. The intrest in picky eaters is such a significant one for me. My middle hates peanut butter. It is the end all be all of kid food. No he isn’t allergic but will will himself to vomit if he smells it. I adore it and ate it daily as a child and am totally confused by this due in large part because this child loves LIVER!!!!.My children eat sushi, salmon and generally beg for their cod liver oil in the morning.

    Kids are strange and they are all different. Work within your own childs bent. Yes acceptable behavior has gone down hill. Yes Homeschoolers and large families are being eyed to see our ever visible failures. Disipline is hard. Parenting is not for the weak but for the brave. Do what is right and be viligent with your kiddos.

    Please remember lots of people desprately want children but have no idea what to do with them once they have them. They may not have been parented well either. Help them any way you can. Complement them when you see them doing it right. I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to here your kids listen well, or how helpful they are. SAHMs never get that regularly and it is so modivating when the do. It is easy to point out flaws because we are human and we all have so many. It’s much harder to see the other great things there are hidden behind them. Watch for moms doing good and say so. You just may save someones whole day

  51. Debra Cross says:

    I agree kid’s should be trained well, but despite our efforts sometimes we have
    thing’s kid’s do that are not bad behavior. I homeschool and I have recently
    had situations with my well behaved 2 year old. He is very mature and due
    to excitement he forgot that he had food on his hand’s, got up from the table
    and then accidentally put his hand’s on the couch. We were at a large gathering
    and I was in the bathroom. He was not badly behaved. Sometimes we do not
    understand normal child behavior and we mistake the child and the parent/

    There are different temprements as well, and they respond differently,.
    Kids will also be kid’s and have times they are tired and they are not the
    best behaved even homeschooled kids. People have seen my kids get cranky
    out in public and they get fresh but it is constant training. We can’t say that
    we dont have it all together, because even the best behaved kid with the best
    family will one time say no to their mom. Disciplined right they will not do it

  52. Debra Cross says:

    I think discipline can be hard because at to young age we expect
    kids to act like adults. They are kid’s that have to be trained correctly,
    First and foremost look at normal child behavior for each kid as an individual
    and then once that is looked at discipline can be easier.

  53. Debra Cross says:

    I also dont think because we are homeschooling it makes us watched more.
    We as homeschooler’s never say we have it all together in fact we are learning with
    the kids. I homeschool because I want to educate my kids differently. That does not
    mean we are perfect at the parenting. It also means that kids will still be kids.

    I dont accept certain things in my household and the kids know it. They are modeled
    manner’s but I dont think because of this you escape that the older sibling may get
    mad at his younger sibling and say something innapropriate. He still needs to be
    taught each step of the way and he is a different temperment than the other’s.

    We pray, and do everything together and I model the appropriate behavior’s.
    There are day’s he forget’s and does something incorrect. He is young and learning.

  54. Debra Cross says:

    I have seen bad behavior in homeschooled families and not homeschooled families
    Then I have seen really great kids from schooled families. I think that with kid’s
    it is minute by minute teaching. We are all trying as parent’s and we do make mistakes
    I know that God understand’s that I do my best and then tomorrow if I make a mistake
    today then I can correct that the next day or right away.

    If I meet a family with kids that I think may be not as well behaved as they should
    be I pray for them and ask God to help them. I know because we all need the help
    to do it the best we can.

  55. Ian says:

    Oh, I agree that kids will always have “exceptional” days. Ours have them too. What I am addressing here are kids and parents who don’t even bother trying to make bad behavior the exception.

    When kids behave badly every time we see them and their parents make no effort to correct the problem, that is when it is an issue.

  56. Debra Cross says:

    Just to respond and I know you wrote last year. You are not a bad mom.
    I have a very strong willed 7 year old that throws tantrums. He never get’s
    his way and he knows that now. He threw tantrums since 2 years old. My other
    2 are less strong willed. They dont get what they want and as they saw that the
    tantrums stopped. My 2 year old trys and he goes on his bed and he stops.

    I dont think you are a bad mom at all, strong will is strong will.
    Kids will try to get what they want even the best kid’s.

    You are a mom guiding your kids like we all are and then there will be tantrums.

  57. Debra Cross says:

    I agree be slow to judge and I guess that is what I have been saying
    all along. Despite the best efforts to stop the asking for pop’s or bugging
    for the desert it is not neccessarily a reflection on parenting.

    We must be slow to judge

  58. Cathy says:

    Unlike many of you, unfortunately I DO find a connection between homeschooling and bratty kids. I personally know WAY too many holier-than-thou Catholic parents who genuinely think that having more children makes you morally better. They then parade them around in public like a sort of Catholic Badge of Honor or something. Ironically, at the same time, like the irresponsible parents in the author’s blog, they can’t be bothered to teach their kids the very basics, like LISTENING TO THE HOSTESS when you’re in her house. I mean, DUH. In contrast, I know plenty of public-school-attending Catholic children with working mothers, whose behavior is exemplary. Their parents are managing to instill the right lessons in these kids even in the relatively little time they are able to spend with them!
    One other issue that the author didn’t mention which I’ve encountered with these moral-high-ground types is a failure to send thank-you notes when someone (me) sends the kid a present. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard zilch after mailing a child a gift. When I was a kid I remember that I hated having to write thank-you’s, but my parents rightly made me do it! Is that a no-brainer or what?
    In general, as tempting as it is to address my anger to the bratty kid, I try to focus any “punishment” on the parents. So, for example, when one righteous homeschooling family came to lunch and the little angels poured water all over the bookcase AND the books, that was their last invitation to my home–same with the self-satisfied Mom who thought it was cute when her brat decided to pound on my piano with his fists. And when each Mom in turn eventually mentioned that “hey, we ought to do that again some time (hint hint),” I said pretty directly that well, after the mess that I had to deal with last time, I’m not up for it. Of course Mom had conveniently forgotten all about it, so this was a reminder–and a lesson to HER that her own parental actions/omissions have consequences! Ditto with the thank-you cards: certainly I can overlook it here or there but after several years running, gifts from me WILL stop coming. And when Mom casually states that Little Angel hasn’t heard from me in a while, I politely respond that I had concluded that she wasn’t interested, since I hadn’t heard a peep from her after sending the last gift. Sadly, I feel that I have to train the PARENTS in the same way that we go about training our own children! Mom and Dad need to hear that there’s a cause-and-effect between their little monsters’ behavior and the way that their own adult friends interact with them. Perhaps after they’ve been socially ostracized completely, they’ll get the message. In the meantime, we have no moral obligation to keep inviting such families into our homes–make it clear to folks that you enjoy having them over because their kids make an effort to behave, and word about your general attitude will get around.

  59. […] I Love Large, Homeschooling Families Filed under: General Catholic Ramblings — Ethan @ 1:39 pm If you have absolutely nothing to do for a while, and you feel like getting fired up, I recommend reading the prequel to this post, here. […]

  60. Carla says:

    Dear Ian,

    I came across this by accident while searching for something else. Hi, Megan! Did you have everyone over for Easter again this year?

    Ian, you have some very good points and I found myself blushing at several of them. I do agree with Charlotte regarding picky eaters, however. I have determined over the course of many years that some battles are definitely worth fighting while others aren’t. I tend to think that if, as a parent, one is always in battle-mode, that each battle becomes somewhat less effective and children lose their respect for their parents. Have you every read C. S. Lewis’ biography? He lost all respect for his father who always ranted and raved at him. Now, I’m not suggesting that you think ranting and raving is the way to go about this, but the stress of constant battle-mode would (and sometimes has) brought me to that point. We do about the same as Charlotte regarding food. They are expected to try things, but don’t have to clear their plate. This has worked well with our oldest child, who now eats most everything happily enough. Our second oldest, however, is the pickiest child I have ever seen. The other children are not nearly so particular. I suffered greatly as a child because I was expected to clear rather large plates of food that I could barely stomach.

    There is also the factor of how parents with many children began parenting with their first or first two children–the guinea pigs. With my two oldest children, I think that I really didn’t account for concupiscence sufficiently. As you all know, the younger children follow the older children’s example. This can be good or bad. I happen to know that you and your lovely wife come from large families, had younger siblings, and had the example of good parents that you could follow from the beginning. I was not so fortunate and have always felt that I had to figure things out on my own. Yes, our children behave well in restaurants most of the time, but all is far from perfect. There are a number of things I would do differently if I were starting again, and many of them are along the lines of your guidelines.

    As another person wrote, it is also important to keep in mind the differences among children. Some children are easy from the beginning, and that’s wonderful. Others seem intent on making a large impression on everyone from the moment they are born. I have some of both. One family in particular gives me a great deal of hope. They have a large number of grown children, all of whom are delightful. When their children were young, the parents allowed them a great deal of freedom, but also had a great family culture. A professor whom we both admire commented on how badly behaved those children were, yet all of them are fantastic now. That same professor commented on how well-behaved another large family of children were. The parents were much stricter and set distinct limits, but they also had a strong family culture with very involved parents. Those children have not turned out so well. My point is that, in all things, we should remember that we are raising adults, not children. I think that, if the rules are too strict, there will be a desire to rebel as soon as rebellion is possible. While the ideal is well-behaved, peaceful children now and faithful, happy adults later, I guess one shouldn’t give up hope even if all isn’t perfect now.

    Pax Christi,

  61. Florentius says:

    This is a good post. Unfortunately, some homeschooling families who have gone a long ways toward removing the secular influences from their children’s education, have nonetheless drank long and deep at the font of modern parenting. Old-school parenting combined with home education and the Catholic Faith works brilliantly in the raising exceptional children and excellent Christians. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.

    Personally, I don’t know how parents who have 5+ disorderly kids and who don’t enforce discipline and respect in the house and in public manage to stay sane.

    In my opinion, you’ve got to get the oldest kids in line when they’re little–say starting at 2 years old. If you can get the first one behaving properly most of the time by the time he/she is four or five, it has a definite trickle-down effect on the others. If you wait longer than that, you may have a constant battle on your hands, and not just with one at a time.

    My own parents will often give us a hard time for being too tough on our kids. Then, without missing a beat, they’ll marvel at how well-behaved and polite they are–as if one had nothing to do with the other…

  62. Manda says:

    I like your observations. Many of these are instances in my own family. I am a young mom of now five children. My dream was to have a BMW, designer clothes, and 2 children and a Golden Retriever. I have put my life and all its surprises in Gods hands. I had to let alot of my type A personality fly out the window with each addition to my family. I like the scenario you paint in regards to a large family being perfect little robots. I used to aim for those “compliments”. I still get them from time to ime. Those compliments do not fuel my desire for my kids to do their best. Sometimes I think God has something in mind during these not so perfect times our kids will be kids.

    I fight a daily fight in dealing with consistancy. The biggest thing I have learned about a large family is you never know what is going on with other poeple. God has given me the grace to be more sympathetic to everyone. More kindness and a better attitude in general. I tend to ask a mom that seems to having a problem if she needs help. If I see out of control children I say a prayer for her family. (or secretly I think thank God my kids are not doing that at this moment.) Anyway, if I stopped having kids because of lifes little dramas I would be missing out on the most rewarding HARD work I have ever done.

  63. Patt says:

    Excellent article! As a former homeschool group leader I saw this sort of behavior far too frequently. It was embarassing to take kids on field trips because they would be all over the place like a bunch of monkeys and their mothers were oblivious!
    Thanks for addressing an issue far too many ignore. I have 3 boys and we always expected good behavior from them and never let them out of our sight unless they were going to a playroom or outside. Homeschoolers in general no matter what the size of their families have made bad impressions all over by lack of discipline. Of course it isn’t just homeschoolers, it seems to be modern parenting in general.

  64. […] My Point About Prejudice Against Large Families This is a great blog post that emphasizes a point I made a year ago about the public image you portray as a large homeschooling family. There is a prejudice out there […]

  65. tiffany says:

    lets face it, 1 kid or 50 kids, a lot of parents this day in age don’t disaplen or follow through with their threats, and lots of other things. i have had similar sit. with homeschool kids, and of course more often with kids in public school with parents who work full time. but ya know some of those people don’t clame to be a light to the world. but homeschooling large families say they are, and i too cann’t stand to be around some of their kids just like anyone elses. so i say pick people to hang with that disapline like you and maybe it won’t be so frustrating, lol

  66. tiffany says:

    by the way i really agreed with your article. my friends and i talk about the same issues.

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  69. Suzanne Andrews says:

    I’m printing out your list, although I have received compliments on my children’s behavior in public and in friends’ homes. I do have to say, though, that homeschooling moms often place very high expectations on themselves, and to burden them with the responsibility of the choices of others(abortion & sterilization) is truly unfair. Many of us are doing the best we can, but we can all have a bad outing or a bad day. Sometimes the toddler’s nap gets skipped and he melts down in the store. Sometimes a child’s stomach flu or carsickness can be inconvenient. Otherwise, your piece is full of wisdom and common sense.

  70. Anonymous says:

    I agree with what you said about how children ought to behave. I disagree with your spelling of “sneer” … there’s no such word as snear. Really.

  71. Eileen says:

    Children left to make their own rules will certainly wreck havoc regardless of where they are schooled. In all fairness you should have made that clarification. Were all of the children who damaged your personal property home-schooled?

    The responsibility of caring for the bishop and priests rests on the ADULT who organized the event, not the children. And that adult should have provided volunteers to dish out the food, buffet style to attendees. A thoughtful host would have served the clergy sit-down style first after everyone had said grace, then opened the buffet to the general public. A child shouldn’t be expected to know how to serve himself, balance a plate, choose the correct foods, etc. and keep the serving table in good shape. Even adults make a mess under those conditions!

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    I Hate Large, Homeschooling Familes | Musings from a Catholic Bookstore

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