Feb 23 2009

Supporting Parents in Public

One of the things we struggle with when taking the kids out is their behavior.  Over the years, I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t know how you take your kids to so many places by yourself,” or “We just can’t go out to eat in a restaurant, our kids just don’t behave.”

Well, first of all I’ll tell you that our kids do well a lot of the time, but there are plenty of times when we’ve left a place early, turned around for home when we were almost there, or had one parent take a child to the car while the others continued to eat.  It was one of these less-than-great occasions that I wrote about at Midwest Parents today.  We were eating at Famous Dave’s and the kids weren’t being awful but weren’t being great, and after a lot of reminding and reprimanding we were almost done eating when a woman came up to us and said that our kids were doing great, especially for their ages, and that we were doing well as parents.

That blog post caught the eye of the Minnesota Children’s Museum on twitter, where they mentioned something called Wakanheza:  MNChildMuseum @minnemom Just read your Midwest Parents post and it warmed my heart to hear Wakanheza practices in use. http://tinyurl.com/cjf284

Intrigued, I followed the link to learn more, and I liked what I saw.  Wakanheza, which is the Dakota word for “child,” is a method of supporting parents when they’re facing parenting challenges in public.  Intended to defuse tense situations, it’s a proactive way of helping stressed parents, including empathizing and reminding parents that they’re doing a good job.  The Minnesota Children’s Museum is a partner in the project, along with other community agencies.

It’s not new; an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press was written in 2003.  But it is reaching around the state of Minnesota, with workshops available in Wakanheza principles.

Parenting in public is not easy.  I’m glad to have learned about the project; often I think parents are afraid to take their kids in public in case they misbehave.  If an informed public can help with some of those tough times, how much more can parents get out and do fun things with their kids?

I’ll never know if the woman at Famous Dave’s knew about Wakanheza, but I will remember the difference she made in our day.

To learn more about Wakanheza, including learning how to host a workshop for people in your area or workplace, visit these sites:

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8 comments so far

8 Comments to “Supporting Parents in Public”

  1. Shanna on 23 Feb 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Hi. I came here by way of Twitter and @mnchildmusem.

    This is a great post. This is exactly what I think of when I’m thinking of “it takes a village” to raise children. This is better than great, this is awesome!

    Shanna’s last blog post..Thank You Thank You Thank You

  2. wandermom on 24 Feb 2009 at 9:53 am

    You’re a brave woman to write about this. I have many, many stories of my children having less-than-great times or days in public and sometimes, I think, the hardest thing is not the children’s behavior, but the disapproving stares from the adults around at the time. And the resulting feeling of being an incapable parent – which, btw, moms seem to suffer from much more than dads.

    I’m off to read about Wakanheza.
    thanks for making my day!

    wandermom’s last blog post..Unaccompanied Minors

  3. Eva on 24 Feb 2009 at 3:36 pm

    This seems like a great initiative! I always feel for the parent who is visibly struggling with stares, bad behaviour, etc, but I never know what to say/do or even if I can/should try to help.

    Now if only we had a program to convince those few parents who zone out and don’t even try to stop their kids from kicking others’ seats for hours, etc, that they really should at least try! They’re the ones who give the rest a bad rap. :)

  4. gina94984 on 26 Feb 2009 at 1:03 am

    it would be a pleasure to compliment good parents publicly because the bad, stupid or just dense ones are so discouraging.

  5. Janine (@twincident) on 26 Feb 2009 at 10:32 am

    I love this idea! I’ve had people come up to me in a restaurant when I’m thinking my twins are being really annoying and they compliment them! Sometimes I’m more sensitive about it I guess.

    Janine (@twincident)’s last blog post..Storytime with the Twofer Twins Week 6 – All About Animals

  6. Sandra Foyt on 27 Feb 2009 at 10:07 am

    Great suggestion! Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out how to support other parents in public.

    Sandra Foyt’s last blog post..Is Home Schooling A Mainstream Choice?

  7. Susanna (A Modern Mother) on 07 Mar 2009 at 12:36 am

    What a great post, thanks. We’ve all been there and I’m glad someone, somewhere is being positive about it. I’m going to check out that link.

    Susanna (A Modern Mother)’s last blog post..The fleeting moment … or just mummy rot?

  8. The Mother on 10 Mar 2009 at 9:51 am

    How rarely do we hear positive words?

    How often do we hear complaints?

    Parenting in public means lots of strangers watching you and critiquing your parenting skills. Too bad more of those “critiques” aren’t thumbs-up!

    That’s a great idea. Let’s give it more press.

    The Mother’s last blog post..What? Celebrities Aren’t Good Role Models? Really?

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