Modern-day Parenting Is NOT In Crisis!

Does anyone remember this article from the Huffington Post?

5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is in Crisis, According to a British Nanny

I’ve hemmed and hawed about it, and I’ve decided to share a few of my thoughts in response.

Here’s the thing: I’m not about to throw a list of problems at you and not offer up solutions. Also, people need to understand that there is no one “correct” solution. Families are diverse. So instead of a laundry list of the things parents are doing wrong, I’m going to write something actually helpful.

1. A fear of our children.

Umm…what? Okay, let’s talk about the sippy-cup test. If your child is unhappy with the cup they are given, the way I see it, we have a few options.

The proactive:
• Buy all of the same color of sippy-cups – Problem solved.
• Ask the child what cup they would like before pouring – Hey, even I have a favorite cup. And I’m a grown up.
The reactive:
• Make the child wash the cup – If it were me, it would sound something like… “I’ve already dirtied this cup. If you want a different cup, you’ll need to wash this one out, because I don’t like having a bunch of dirty cups sitting around.”
• Say, “Sorry, I’ve already used this cup. You can have the other cup at dinner. Be sure to remind me.”
The reality:
• Parenting is hard. Work is draining. The world will not, I repeat WILL NOT, fall apart if you give your child the sippy-cup they ask for because you’re exhausted, and you’re trying to get out of the house, and you still have work to do, and you just want to get past this moment in time… Maybe you say something like. “Next time, please tell me before I pour.”
• Or maybe you say, “No.” Yes, it can be that simple.

I’ve just given you six options to this huge catastrophe that is ruining America. You’re welcome.

And by the way, if you need me to come up with more, I can, and I will. Go ahead, throw your circumstance at me. Okay, what’s next? Oh yes…

2. A lowered bar.

It’s not a lowered bar that’s the problem here. The problem is that we’ve adopted this mentality that our number one goal should be to raise obedient children. Umm…no, that’s not going to cut it. You’re supposed to be raising a functioning member of society.

Your children learn the behaviors that you model. No amount of barking commands at them will make them better people. Speak to them how you wish to be spoken to. If you want them to be generous, be generous yourself, every day. “Respect for elders?” No, respect for EVERYONE. Children deserve respect as much as anyone. Though, let me tell you, I know quite a few adults who don’t deserve any respect at all.

If you want your children to do chores…then do chores. See how that works? Modeling appropriate behavior is the way to go every time. If you can’t be responsible and respectful, why should your children have to?

3. We’ve lost the village.

Yay! This is a GOOD thing! Have you met most people? Do you honestly want any old person to impart their usually screwy ideas on to YOUR children? I should hope not. If you want to give child-discipline carte-blanche to anyone, make sure it’s someone who shares your values. Someone who is the kind of person you want your child to be. Someone who doesn’t still subscribe to the tired, old ways of punishing children, which have been proven to not work, over, and over, and over again. Positive guidance, that’s what you want. Only give carte-blanche to people whose only method of discipline is positive guidance.

I do agree that parents are too judgmental. But I have to tell you, it’s been my experience that it’s all lies when it comes to their own children. If you don’t believe me, go sit in on a parent discussion group at a Gymboree class. Or work in early intervention and do home visits…oy vey. Parents lie. If you are not yet a parent, be prepared, you will lie too one day. It happens not because of the desire to raise perfect children, but rather to raise children better than someone else’s, as if it’s a competition.

Good news! It’s not a competition. Development is not linear. All children have personality traits that are valued by society, even if they aren’t identical to other children. So, no worries.

4. A reliance on shortcuts.

The world is becoming more streamlined, not less. Technology is advancing, not retreating. Just because you didn’t have an iPad, doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be allowed access to one. They are, after all, going to need to be more tech savvy that you can ever imagine right out of the gate. If you didn’t grow up with it, you don’t get it. But you need to. When it comes to technology, the better you are with it, the more meaningful the activities will be that you introduce to your child. YOUR skills will help your child use technology for some pretty amazing things, like publishing their first book at age four. I’m not kidding.

That said, there is a pretty simple solution, and that is to not introduce them to TV shows so early. Let’s be honest, all of the technology we let children use is somehow based around a TV show. I’d love it if we could just take commercialism out of childhood altogether. However, this is the world we live in. If your child watches the Backyardigans all day because you have a migraine…oh well.

If you want your children to be able to occupy their time with blocks or crayons, then give them opportunities to do so. I’m talking hours of free play, not the 15 minutes between ballet and soccer.

If you want your children to know where a good meal comes from, cook with them. Or don’t. If it will make you insane if your child drops flour all over the kitchen, then just don’t do it. Nobody needs that stress.

If you want your child to be curious about the world, and persistent in reaching goals…guess what? YOU have to be that way too! Do you see what’s happening here? Your children learn what you DO, not what you say.

5. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own.

I happen to agree with this one, but I see it as a lesson in boundary setting. Absolutely, you are not your child’s butler. Oh and by the way, you’re not ANYONE’S butler. Unless, of course, you ARE a butler, then never mind. But for most of you, remember, you’re teaching your children how to be functioning members of society. Boundaries are a HUGE part of being a functioning member of society!

If YOU have boundaries, then your children will learn how to set their own boundaries, AND to expect that other people have boundaries too. There is nothing wrong with saying no. What isn’t good is when we blame children.

Effective boundaries should sound something like, “Please speak to me in a kinder tone”, not “Don’t talk to me like that!” Do you see the difference? The first one is actually how you might want your child to handle someone who is being loud, or rude, or angry. The first one says, “Hey, I don’t like it when ANYONE speaks to me that way. Please stop.” (In fact you can add that in.) The second one has an air of “what the hell is wrong with you!?!” It immediately puts people on the defensive, yes even children can be defensive. It often leads to all out fighting. Again, nobody needs that stress.

If you remember that your boundaries are about how YOU expect to be treated (and hopefully how you treat others), and not about pointing out all of the inconveniences your child puts you through, you’ll do just fine.

Here’s the truth. These problem have been around since the dawn of man. Parenting hasn’t changed, the accessories have, the environment has. The next generation will have a whole “new” set of problems, and so will the next. It will never be perfectly balanced, and that’s okay. We’re trying to live in real life here, not in a book. Life throws curve balls, and people strike out all the time, yet life keeps going. As long as there are parents, there will be mistakes. None of which are likely to put an end to humanity all by themselves.

My number one parenting rule: No freaking out!

If you don’t love it, don’t buy it.

This is gonna be a quickie!

I have this really awesome friend in Chicago who was a boutique owner and absolutely fucking amazing at her job.  Man could she sell the shit outta some clothes!  And everybody loved her.  Well, I’m sure they still love her…but let me tell you why.

She never let anyone leave her store with something they weren’t absolutely in love with.  Clothes shopping is a real pain in the ass, I mean, does ANYONE enjoy it anymore?  Well, people loved shopping with my friend.  She would spend hours with people, and she knows how to dress a motherfucker too! You didn’t really have to do anything with her, SHE did the choosing, you did the trying on.  And when a customer let out an “eh”, or “I’m not sure.”  It was FUCK IT!  Back to the drawing board.  “If you don’t love it, don’t buy it.”  And believe me no one ever had buyers remorse, and she was friends with EVERYONE!

What does this have to do with parenting, you ask?  A lot.  Because there is A LOT of shit out there to try on in the form of parenting advice, and everyone has an opinion.  Most people don’t know that I absolutely HATE v-neck shirts, so if you throw me the most beautiful blouse in the world…and it has a v-neck…well, I don’t love it, so I’m not buying it.  That doesn’t mean I’m wrong, or that there isn’t a shirt for me, it just means that THAT shirt isn’t for me.

Parents, you need to take your child-rearing advice the same way.  Everybody is going to tell you some kind of way of doing some stupid shit that just feels all wrong and v-necky to you.  So hear me now, if you don’t love it, don’t buy it.  

 

People Are People

Get ready to have your mind blown…

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

Did you know that your kids are people?  Even your newborn is a person!  A whole entire person, albeit a small one, with a whole entire range of emotions and ideas!

Do you know how I know?  I mean besides all of that science mumbo-jumbo that gets thrown around (read Dr. John Medina).  I know because I was once a child.  Crazy.  I know.  I consider myself lucky to have very vivid memories going all the way back to toddlerhood.  If for no other reason than I can pull from them in order to help myself understand children.

The most prominent thing for me is my “inner voice”, you know, the thoughts you think, and the “voice” that narrates them.  I do a lot of thinking.  I remember doing a lot of thinking as a child.  Here’s the thing, that “voice” is the exact same voice I “heard” when I was an itty bitty.  That voice HAS NOT CHANGED in the least.  You know what this tells me?  It tells me that I’ve always been me.  That children are always the same person.  Of course, as grown-ups we know many of the changes that lie ahead, but kids don’t.  They can’t, because they learn through experience.  And frankly, how much experience can a three year-old have?

On my fourth birthday (which is Christmas Day, go me!) I got a baby buggy, like an old-school pram thingy.  I loved it!  I remember thinking something along the lines of: WHOA!  THIS SHIT IS TIGHT, YO!  I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.  Anyway, bonus for me, not only did I have a brand new, sweet-ass ride for my dolls… I.  WAS.  FOUR!  FOUR!!!  Come on people, go there with me.  HOLY SHIT!  I’M FUCKING FOUR YEARS OLD!  This is as old as I’ve EVER been!  I am CLEARLY fully grown, and I’m ready to take on the world!  Look out, bitchez!  I’m four, and I’m coming for you!

Do you remember being four?  Try.  Try to remember how you felt.  Hell, try to remember how you felt on any day when you were little.

Yes, having your birthday on Christmas blows.  But at least no one was concerned about safety back then, and I got to walk my happy, four-year-old ass two blocks down the street to my “Gramma Charlie’s” house (where we had family gatherings), IN the snow… WITH my awesome baby buggy… ALL BY MYSELF!  Actually, I walked it alone before I was four, and in all kinds of weather.  But GOD DAMN IT!  Today I’m FOUR!  FUCK YEAH!

Seriously, I tear-up remembering how happy I was to be four.  I wore THE BIGGEST smile while I was walking, all the while, absolutely BURSTING!  When I got to Gramma Charlie’s with my buggy, I announced to everyone, “I’M FOUR!”  And the grown-ups were all like, “that’s great”, “happy birthday”, and shit.  Obviously they had never been four, because this shit was off the chizz-ain!

The point here is that no matter how young, in your child’s mind, they are always the same person.  Think of who you are now, and then think about how you like to be treated.  That is all your children want…  To be treated like a person whose feelings matter, and whose thoughts are validated, and to be respected as an individual.  Trying to control children, dismissing them, thinking that this time while they’re little is just an obstacle to a time when they can do everything for themselves and your life will be so much easier – is a recipe for disaster.  This time DOES matter.  Every fucking day matters.  Not all people have memories going back so far, but even if you don’t remember being little… it still happened.  And it shaped who you are right this very minute.

Your kids are people, treat them as such.

And PS, now that you’re a parent, your life will never be easy again.  I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but it’s true.  “Newborn” is as easy as it gets.  For the rest of your life you will lose sleep over, have your heart broken by, and worry about the safety of your children.  At least newborns can’t drive, say they hate you, or marry a total asshole.

 

If There Was a Problem…

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The first step is to collaborate and listen.

A wise man once said, “If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.” Which has been my motto for, at least the last 10 minutes.

I think my thing is that I tend to work backwards.  Like with new computer software, I WILL make that shit do what I want it to do… somehow.  I mean it, I WILL get there.  You need me to break into your car?  Well, I’ve never done that before, but I WILL do it now (true story)!

I pick an end goal, and then start problem solving in order to make it happen.  After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.  Am I right, people!?!  Or rather, is Lewis Carroll right, people!?!  The other thing I tend to do, at least with kids, is to focus on what I can do, and not what I can’t.  I can make a whole list of reasons why I can’t do something, believe me.  But what good is dwelling on that?  None.  No good.  However, focusing on the things that can be done – even if you aren’t successful – will give you a more positive outcome, ESPECIALLY WITH CHILDREN.

I remember this one time when a seven year old asked me if she could get her “driving license.” The obvious answer, of course, was no. She wasn’t old enough, duh! End of discussion. But I didn’t say that. I explained to her that there are steps to getting a driver’s license. There are things that you need to do first.  I told her that she would need to know about traffic laws.  That she could get a permit to practice driving at 15 and a half. That she could take driver’s education classes, that she could learn about cars and driving, that she could even save money to buy her own car… blah, blah, blah.  Oh man, she was SO excited!  She decided that she can watch how other people drive, like her parents, while riding in the car, AND that she would, in fact, be saving her money for a car.  From what I could gather, she was A LOT happier than if I had just said, “No, you’re too young.”  A little disappointed perhaps, but now she had a goal in mind, and knew what steps she had to take to reach that goal.  Then, she went and made a bed for her dolls out of a newspaper and a box of tissues, using only a stapler.  Which I thought was pretty cool.

Maybe it’s just me, but what’s wrong with children having ideas, even crazy ideas? Even if your gut reaction is “THAT’S FUCKING RIDICULOUS!” Why wouldn’t you help your little one brainstorm solutions?  YOU might think it’s impossible, but what if you tried thinking about what IS possible? Actually… anything is possible.  For all you know, that problem has already been solved in another dimension (Personally, I like to think that that is true for all of my own problems).  One of my favorite talents is that I can take two completely unrelated events and demonstrate cause and effect.  One time I told Chase bank I was late on a credit card payment due to the birth of Jesus.  I’ll let you get there on your own, but I made a pretty compelling case.  So compelling, in fact, that the guy on the phone was speechless, and apologized to me.  He later hung up on me though, after I said I didn’t know what month it was because it’s not like that information is available to just anyone.  But I digress…  I’m just saying, put your thinking cap on once in awhile, it’s good for you, and you will raise kids who do the same.

Aww yeah... I got this, bitchez!

Aww yeah… I got this, bitchez!

If you think about it hard enough, you will find that there is a solution to every problem.  Don’t just be the mean old naysayer, be a thinker.  Be creative.  Think WITH your kids.  Brainstorm.  Write that shit down if you need to.  This is not “extra work”, people, this is parenting.  24/7/365…for the rest of your life (although it will feel like 25/8/one million-billion).

Don’t be afraid, yes parenting is work that you don’t always feel like doing.  The good news is that, at times, that’s okay too!  (We’ll talk about when don’t nobody got time for that shit another post.)

You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you do need to be willing to think, and to find out.

Rape Culture, Consent, and Young Children

With all of this talk about “Rape Culture” of late, I feel I need to point out some really fucking obvious things that often go overlooked by parents.  First, know that your child will be affected by rape/sexual assault; as a perpetrator, a victim, or a friend/family member of a perpetrator or victim.  Hell, or even all of the above.  If you are unaware of how prevalent rape culture is in our society, or if you are worried about how to raise your child in this ass-backward world, this is for you.

What it boils down to are some major flaws in the way we parent our children, the way we were parented as children, and the way our parents were parented as children, and so on…you get the idea.  God, I hope you get the idea.

Fear not! I don’t want any parents to feel lost or hopeless.  So, here’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna break it down for you. From where I sit, it comes down to three things:

1: Raising obedient children.  “Because I’m the parent, that’s why!”  Listen up, if that’s your attitude, you’re missing the point.  Your goal as a parent should be to raise a functioning adult, NOT an obedient child.  Children need to be taught how to make good choices, how to take responsibility for their behavior (both good and bad), and have a sense that their thoughts and feelings are not an extension of you, mom/dad/caregiver.  Here’s a hint that’s easy to remember; your child is not a mini you.  No matter how much you want them to be, they are not.  Get over it now, so that you can raise a happy, healthy child.  They won’t always make the same choices you would make, and that’s okay.  Give them loads of opportunities to make loads of choices, even ones that you don’t like. Remember, you’re raising a functioning adult!

2:  Not having and/or enforcing boundaries.  You know what I’m talking about, threatening a punishment you will never follow through with, giving-in to begging 30 minutes after you said “no” the first time, because you’re just sick of listening to it.  Both, really, really bad ideas.  Really.  I mean it.  If you want to confuse your child, do those two things.  I’m 1000% anti-spanking, but if you threaten to spank your child, you damn well better be prepared to do it.

So… Why do these things matter?  Because they teach your child that you’re the boss? No. The opposite actually. They teach your child that people have (and should have) boundaries, and that those boundaries are to be respected. It teaches them that it is okay for them to have boundaries too. AND that anyone who is not respecting their boundaries is not a good, safe person. (Right here I want to scream, “FUCKING DUH!!!”) Your child cannot set boundaries if they don’t know what boundaries look like. Your child cannot enforce said boundaries if they’ve never seen it done.
Boundaries are a huge deal in every aspect of life. It’s never too early to start teaching your little one about them. 

3: Teaching children that their bodies are not their own.  You know how you do that?  You physically snatch them up without a word when it’s time to go somewhere.  You use time-outs where you have to restrain them.  You tell them, “That didn’t hurt.” when they bump their head, or fall down. You use any type of physical punishment at all.  You force them to clean their plate, and/or use food as a bribe, punishment, or reward when it suits you.  You punish them when they miss their potty break.  You make them give Crazy Aunt Lisa a hug and kiss when they don’t want to. You intervene when they are not completing a task quickly enough for you, or to your liking.
No, I am not shitting you.  All of these things send the message to your child that their body doesn’t belong to them.  It may be subtle to you, but it’s loud and clear to itty bitties.  And the worst part (I love when parents say, “They won’t even remember…”), it gets wired into their developing brain.  So that later, when they’re grown-up, they will have all kinds of weird body issues…but won’t remember why.  And we wonder why people need therapy.

The above are also good ways to teach your child that they don’t need to respect anyone else’s body either.  Not exactly what you were shooting for, huh? 

This is what we’re talking about when we talk about “consent”. Your body belongs to you. And other people’s bodies belong to them. You don’t put your hands on someone without their permission. You don’t snatch toys away from another child. When someone tells you to stop chasing them, you stop. These are just examples, but again, you get the idea.

Please know that I understand that parenting is REALLY fucking hard, and that you’re a human being. So, let’s just say that there are ways around enforcing EVERY single rule, ALL of the time, that still respect your boundaries. There are many situations where you have to touch your child without their permission. But for our purposes here, I need to stress these points in black and white language.

And one last point: parents and caregivers, you don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best.

Bringing Home Baby

My sister just brought home two new baby girls. She lives far away, so I can’t be there to help her out right now, but luckily there are lots of other family and friends there for her. But what does that “help” look like?

For most new parents, getting home with a brand new baby is overwhelming. You’re in your home, it’s still the same place, you’re still the same person, except for this one little tiny HUGE difference: baby.

When you bring your baby home, everybody in the fucking free world wants to “help” you. They will offer themselves up if you need “anything at all.” But mostly, they’re full of shit. Not everyone, of course, but mostly. Here’s why: They want to “help” you, by holding your baby. And that is NOT the help you need.

The first few weeks should be focused on momma and baby, and dad too of course, where applicable. This time is for baby to bond with his/her primary caregivers (usually mom and dad). People shouldn’t be passing baby around while ignoring mom. So for those of you who truly want to help a new momma, here’s what you can do:

– Make sure she is comfortable
– Give her time to cuddle and love on her new baby
– Make sure you’ve had a pertussis booster, and that you wash your hands frequently
– If you are sick, stay away!
– Help with housework; dishes, laundry, meal prep, etc.
– Make sure mom is eating, and staying hydrated
– Let mom nap when baby is napping
– Run errands
– Keep the home environment quiet
– Let mom take a shower
– Help wrangle siblings
– Be a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on if need be. A new baby brings on a ton of emotions
– If her birth didn’t go as planned, it can be really traumatic. Listen to her birth story, and help her process it

Moms, before baby arrives, make some plans:

– Change your outgoing voicemail to say you are bonding with baby, therefore not answering the phone, and essentially, “Leave me the fuck alone.” Then, turn off your phone.
– Have a press secretary, a friend or relative who can field questions, and give updates
– Have a “safe word”, yeah, a safe word. Something you can say to a trusted friend or relative that means, “Get all of these fucking people away from me before I slap they ass.”

Moms, once home, let yourself fall into a routine. Take it easy, don’t try to force yourself back into your old life. Things will be different now. Take it slowly, and you will find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what you need from them. People like to feel needed and helpful, so speak up. If guests are becoming more of a hindrance, than help, kick them out. This is your time to be with your baby. You’re forging a new relationship, and it should happen on your terms, not your neighbor’s or best friend’s.

I’ve always said, if I have a baby, good luck to anyone trying to pry it out of my arms, I will eat their face off, like that Chimp in Ohio.

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Social Life

These days people are super worried about their child’s social life.  I once had a mom who didn’t want her two year-old to hang out with any children younger than her, because she felt it would stifle her child’s development.  Parents are way over scheduling their kids for fear they won’t have any social skills.  This is stupid, so stop it.  painting

What did you do when you were a child?  I’ll tell you what I did before I went to school at the age of four.  Nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  My grandparents were my babysitters, and they had a fenced-in yard.  I played outside, mostly by myself, and sometimes with the neighbor girl who was three years older than me.  She liked to play “school”, which might have been fun, except she went to a catholic school…in the ’70s…need I say more?  So on the days that I would play with her, we played “school”, she was the teacher, and I would have to call her “Sister something-or-other.”  Class consisted of me sitting and listening to her while she sang, and periodically being hit with a wooden spoon.

Fuck that noise!  What the hell!?!  There must not have been any parents around, because I sure don’t remember any!

So, with all of my experience playing by myself, or with my grandma, or playing “school” with the neighbor girl, I went off to real school.  Guess what?  I know your mind is about to be blown right now, I WAS FINE.  I was a little shy at first, but it wasn’t traumatic, and my social skills weren’t lacking at all.  So how in the hell did I learn those social skills without Gymboree, and soccer, and dance class, and what-the-hell-ever else is out there?  I’ll tell you how.  I was a human being existing in a society.

I realize that I’m talking about only one child here, and that child is myself.  I also realize that anecdotes aren’t evidence, but just humor me for a minute…

Do you take your child with you to places like the grocery store?  Do your children attend family gatherings from time to time?  Do they ever go anywhere at all?  If so, your child is learning social skills.  Hopefully you are using positive guidance to help them along, but every interaction with any other human being whatsoever is socializing.  When your child sees you interact with other people, they learn social skills.  When your toddler rides the bus with you, because you live in a large city where mass transit is necessary, you’re teaching your child how to behave on the bus.  To children, everything is a learning experience.

For those of you who are put out by a child on a bus, or a plane, or anywhere else, go fuck yourself.  You need to realize that if a child is within earshot, or visible, they are learning social skills based on either your piss-poor attitude, OR your kindness and respect of other humans.  Pop quiz!  Which one do you think turns out better members of society?

The point is that every interaction with other humans shows children how they should interact.  So to the public, I implore you, be on your best behavior when children are around.  Say, “excuse me”, “please”, and “thank you.”

Let’s come back to all of the fun classes, early preschool, and playdates for which we schedule infants, toddlers, twos, threes, fours…  Totally unnecessary.  Yep.  Unnecessary.  Don’t get me wrong, those things are fun if you have the means, just not necessary for your child’s development of social skills.  And in moderation please!  No one needs to be scheduled every day of the week.  There is a lot for your two year-old to learn just by sitting and cutting up pieces of paper all by themselves.  Digging in the mud is hours of entertainment.  Let them be kids!

Now let’s say you agree with me, and opt out of all of the mommy-and-me crap.  How can you help bolster your child’s social skills?  Let them order for themselves at restaurants.  Let them hand the money or credit card to the cashier at the store.  Encourage them to ask another child to play at the park.  Let them speak for themselves when someone asks them a question.  Tell them what is appropriate and/or expected of them in different environments, like church, the library, or a Metallica concert.

There is absolutely no reason that a typically developing child needs you to sign them up for classes, and arrange playdates, all the time, everyday.  There is no prescribed amount of time they should spend participating in god-knows-what.  And there’s absolutely nothing that says children who play with older children have an advantage in school, or that playing with younger children delays development (just to reiterate for that mom in case she reads this, it’s fucking stupid).

Do your best to model appropriate behavior, and let your kids be kids.

One last thing, if you notice that your child is becoming mean and obnoxious, or exhibiting any other behaviors that you consider unsavory, before you read them the Riot Act, take a good, long look in the mirror.  Chances are, they learned it from you.  Yeah, you.