There is this mom in my neighborhood. Her kid is a holy terror. He goes up to any child, no matter how old or young, big or small, and will hit or otherwise bully them. He doesn’t respect teachers, elders or any other type of authority. He has no boundaries. He is only 3 years old.
His mom thinks he’s an angel.
Mom feeds only organic—she even brought his lunch to a birthday pizza party in the park and threw a fit about the lack of organic cutlery at another birthday party. Her child is most often with a nanny and also goes to one of the local summer camps. This child has been afforded a number of privileges early on. Privileges, I imagine, his parents think are valuable to his upbringing.
But there is one thing missing. No one is teaching him character—right from wrong, how to express himself without physical aggression or how to respect children and adults alike.
Which gets me to thinking. The mommy wars we seem to be embroiled in are fighting for the wrong cause. We have totally lost the plot. Everywhere—in the park, on social media, at work, at our kids’ schools—women are judged on how and what they feed their children, how much screen time they let their kids have, which preschool they’ve been accepted to, how quickly Mom lost her baby weight.
But nowhere do I see a battle over character, of calling each other out on letting our kids act like little jerks to others around them. Because it seems popular mom opinion dictates that what counts is that your child is exclusively breastfed, eats only organic, stays away from processed foods, doesn’t touch an iPad (but on airplanes it’s OK) and is enrolled in the exclusive Montessori program.
Except your breasts, for all their benefits, unless there is a study of which I am unaware, don’t teach your child that it’s wrong to rip a toy out of someone’s hands without asking. Organic blueberries don’t teach your child to use their words to express how they feel instead of their fists. That Montessori school probably does teach your child how to behave well to a certain degree—but that teaching has to continue at home. You can’t mail it in just because you’ve done everything you think is beneficial to your child’s physical, mental and academic health (and, let’s be real, what’s en vogue in our current society and what will win you acceptance among like-minded moms). You have to model good behavior—which means you can’t be a disrespectful, mean person yourself— discipline your kid when they do wrong, set boundaries and teach the intrinsic value of being a kind, compassionate person who also has the healthy dose of confidence necessary to stand up for themselves.
Because the local 3-year-old bully will only get worse if left unchecked. He’ll wind up an adult bully who makes life hell for his spouse, kids, colleagues and society at large. And the world really doesn’t need one extra jerk. Parents need to course correct now.
So moms, please, let’s stop judging each other on whether we breast- or bottle-fed, gave our kids Cheetos and fruit punch for snack or let them watch Daniel Tiger for three hours on Saturday morning. That stuff matters—but it doesn’t matter as much as teaching your kid to be a good person. They say it takes a village—let’s start helping each other raise kind, respectful, well-adjusted children that will make this world a better place.
Lauren Fritsky has written for CNN, AOL, Travel+Leisure, USA TODAY, Psychology Today and Jetstar magazine in addition to other major publications and websites. She has been blogging about travel at The Life That Broke (thelifethatbroke.com) since 2009, when a job loss inspired her to make a solo move to Sydney, Australia. During her time abroad from 2010 to 2013, she contributed expertise on travel, expat life and blogging to TEN News Sydney, Tourism and Events Queensland and ACT Tourism and various travel blogging events. She currently lives in New York City with the American husband she met in Sydney and their toddler son and infant daughter. She works as the Director of Content for MediaMath and is working on a memoir about her time in Australia.