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Hopefully not your kids
Hopefully not your kids

I Hate Large, Homeschooling Families

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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127 comments

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.)

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. Becka,
    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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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).

  20. 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!” 🙂

    Busted!

    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”.

  21. Tony,
    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! 🙂

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

    April
    http://ducksinatub.blogspot.com

    Here via Carnival of Family Life

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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”.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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?

  33. 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

  34. 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.

  35. 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:
    Salad
    Broccoli
    Beef Stroganoff
    Chicken in an Italian Cream Sauce
    Tuna

    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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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!!!!

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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…

  43. 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…

  44. 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.

  45. 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

  46. 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
    again.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. Rebecca,
    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.

  52. Rebecca,
    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

  53. 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.

  54. 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,
    Carla

  55. 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…

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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

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

  60. I am a homeschooling mom of 6 children. My family is a sign to the world that God is still loved and trusted, worshiped and served. I have gotten sneers in grocery stores even when my kids were behaving like angels! Sneers and gasps that have brought be to tears. But I have also been told how I have inspired others to be open to life giving love. One stranger told me when I was pregnant with my 6th baby, “You’re God’s kind of girl!” It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
    Another rule I would add for the children is that when at any large gathering, they never sit in the furniture if there is any adult without a seat!!

  61. I agree with much of your post. I am a homeschooling Mom of 4 children, and my husband and I have worked REALLY hard to teach our children to behave well and to always consider how they are affecting others in anything that they do. We have, many times, over the years received compliments from strangers in public places about how well behaved our children are (particularly in restaurants). But we’ve spent a lot of time standing in lines patiently at Disneyland since they were all babies too, so they’ve had a LOT of experience at having to be patient, lol!

    Oh, but we have kids like this in our extended family! My parents-in-law are raising the two daughters of their own adopted daughter. I find them nearly impossible to tolerate. In fact, we moved out of state and one of the first things I noticed was what an enormous relief it was to not have to deal with these issues anymore.

    These two girls are similar in ages to two of my own children. And they absolutely refuse to share, they yank things away from others, push, shove, hit, yell, the works. They would climb all over our furniture, shoes on the couch, food on the carpet, etc., and my in-laws wouldn’t try to manage their behavior one bit! I even had to resort to having my children’s birthday parties at public venues because I just couldn’t tolerate these kids in my home…they would grab and try to rip open gifts that belonged to my children, scream to get to blow the candles out instead of the birthday child, etc., etc. We started having parties in places where only the gifts that they brought were even there (we’d leave all the others at home and have a private “family” party later that night after dinner), and where my children had enough room to “get away” from them when they needed to. What a hassle!

    However, homeschooling had nothing to do with it. They aren’t homeschooled, they aren’t catholic, and they are the only 2 kids in their family or household. It just has to do with parenting. But like you, I find that many, many, many parents just do not put any effort into teaching their children to really think about how they are affecting others. I see it at parks, at the public schools (when my children were still attending), at restaurants, at movie theatres, at the mall, and at Disneyland. I always want to say to the parents, “Don’t you realize you are turning your children into people nobody can stand to be around? It’s really not fair to them to not be taught any better!” Of course, I’ve never actually said that, lol.

    I haven’t had to be around these two particular girls in 3 years, and it has been so peaceful! We’re visiting them this Summer and although I’m going to do everything in my power to make it a good experience so that my husband can visit peacefully with his parents (I’m planning to jump in and play games with the kids, do arts/crafts, etc., to keep it from being a “freeform” play situation), I will be very glad when the 2 days (2 days? oh God.) are up!

    It’s not homeschooling. Or catholicism. It’s neglectful parenting.

  62. I agree that we must be careful of the image we represent to society but as a homeschooling mother, albeit of a smaller number, I have not seen these problems. I know many homeschooling families and I have never met one yet that had serious discipline issues. Indeed all I have met have had wonderfully behaved, pleasant, and generous children.
    J.M.J.
    Theresa

  63. you are absolutely right.

    if I had kids I would probably home school but far too many of them that I know DO NOT DISCIPLINE or TRAIN their children sufficiently. they act like animals. I think the parents (moms especially) have bitten off more than they can chew and refuse to admit it.

    homeschooling is fantastic. But not everyone is capable of it.

    kids have to be trained and socialized. And the second one goes hand in hand with the first.

    too bad they don’t consider what a poor witness they are giving…not only to homeschooling but to families and openness to life in general.

    you’ll get no spanking form me. it was a great article.

  64. This blog entry offended me. I am the mother of 13. One is a senior on a full merit based scholarship to a Catholic college, one is in formation for the priesthood with the Legionaries of Christ, one will be attending a Catholic university this fall, two are in high school, two in middle school, three in elementary school and two at home with their pregnant mother who by the end of 2009 will have spent 10 years of her life in the service of Jesus Christ pregnant and almost 10 years of her life nursing babies. This is not the life I foresaw for myself, it is one I live and thank God for out of obedience. I am a Catholic convert of 11 years.

    While the offenses you have cataloged are legitimate why write this up in a public forum? Is that consistent with how Christ would have one deal with this?

    How long have you been interfacing with home schoolers or large families? 20 years? Well, I have been around the block in 3 countries, 7 states, and two faith contexts as a home schooling mother of a “large” family. The best influence of a few rogue parents with unruly kids ( and it only takes two large families with crazy kids to wreak a whole lot of havoc) is one of charity and generous welcome and the example of holiness in their midst- usually a preaching of the gospel without words.

    Very few of us were privileged to grow up in solid Catholic homes with good human and faith formation, and to continue into solid Catholic colleges or universities and then into professions that are supporting the Church. That makes a difference in how we parent our children.

    Most people out there with more than 8 children – with some of them grown- have some serious difficulties among their brood. I have seen it everywhere, in the best of families. Many homeschooling families have fathers who travel for their work or who interact with the world to a serious degree and come home splattered with “Hittite blood” regularly and then make the heroic sacrifices of further serving in their local parishes or home school support groups. Mothers of large families are most often exhausted and somewhat disheartened if they are not shoring themselves up with a shield of misguided self-righteousness and cloistering themselves, in ways that might or might not be healthy, in order to protect themselves from corruption of their children or from situations where they are not in complete control of their children. When you have a large family it is hard to control all of the children all of the time and one difficult child can influence the entire group.

    So what I hear you saying is basically if you don’t have control of your children, then get it or A) don’t take them anywhere, B) don’t have any more, and C) you should be ashamed of yourself. That cannot possibly what Jesus Christ meant by “suffer the little children to come unto me.”

    I have had a $600 trampoline ruined by the visiting kid with a pocket knife; a carpet I had to pay a deposit for in an apartment I was renting with my own kids messed up by the red koolaid in a sippy cup by a wealthier relative’s child; and I have cleaned up bathrooms after other people’s boys who could not care less about cleanliness, hygiene or basic decorum, etc. For some reason while these issues were challenging to me because they cost me money and I wished they had not cost me money- I don’ think I would have ever thought of them as anything more than a part of the counting the cost of following Christ in the manner in which I find myself. My children have also ruined other people’s things, and I have eaten boatloads of humble pie over my failure as a mother according to the standards you have enumerated and received so much positive feedback for. I think it is part of my cross, because these things happen even when you are trying to do your best. We are human beings and none of us is perfect, sometimes we are on the receiving end of alot of people’s imperfections in rapid succession or in series. That is unfortunate. But for myself I would prefer to have someone else have pity and mercy on me when I fail and so I try to extend that same grace to others. This is the Kingdom of God after all.

    I did not get that sense from your complaint and it hurt me as a family member in the household of Christ. I think you should have shared your offenses with the people who actually offended you in a manner that would be as painless to them as possible and not in a public forum that the casual web surfer looking for a reference for a home schooling support group might stumble over. And I think that would have been most consistent with how Jesus instructed us to deal with these kinds of things and with St. Paul’s definition of charity.

  65. Quote:
    “So what I hear you saying is basically if you don’t have control of your children, then get it or A) don’t take them anywhere, B) don’t have any more, and C) you should be ashamed of yourself. That cannot possibly what Jesus Christ meant by “suffer the little children to come unto me.”

    really Jo?
    I hear her saying TRAIN the children.

    Jews at the time of Christ felt that only adults in the faith warranted access to God and the liturgy. He’s saying otherwise. All are welcome to come to him.

    that’s not the complaint here with her article. The complaint is the out of control families that are thrust out there as this great “witness” to being open to Life when they are not. Others see such behavior, whether they are fellow parishioners or just secular society. It’s not a great witness or incentive because the way it comes across is that you have too many to handle ….and why would they want that? they’re not being shown the many positives of it because the lack of training is screaming louder than anything else.

    and it IS lack of training. I can’t tell you how many homeschooling families I know and the dad is never around (shame on him) and the mom just doesn’t get how it should be done and so the kids just wind up animals. Too much attention on them too much of the day. The entire family’s world revolves around them. You wind up with spoiled undisciplined tyrants real quick that way.

    And I think that she was perfectly right to post this in a public forum. These things need discussing. It’s that kind of secretive, just tell me so I can ignore you mentality that led to such a scandal with clergy abuse as well. I abhor such back room business.

    Jesus was talking about mentioning people BY NAME. To take it up with them first. If they won’t listen take a couple others. then take them to the church, etc. And it was about bigger fish to fry than this to be sure.

    I think those surfing for support would do well to read an article like this and avoid the pitfalls of such an enterprise. It’s important to know how ill behaved children come across to the world at large and how that trumps whatever other positive witness may be given by large homeschooling families.

  66. Thanks, Taynia. When I originally posted this article (I’m the dad) two years ago, there were a lot of people who, in spite of my reading notes up front, chose to read the post as something it was not.

    I’m all in favor of large families (we have nine kids). What I don’t like, which is what you brought up, is families who don’t consider the witness they present when they are in public. It is one thing to see a wild child that the parents are trying to get under control and a completely different thing to see a wild child who is in control. Telling the difference is very easy.

    That is what my post was about – parents who don’t think they are responsible for training their families to serve as good witnesses in the world.

  67. First of all, people took this in the wrong way because that is how you presented it. You posted it as hate mail–“I hate large homeschooling families.” If you r message was on the call to witness that homeschooling families should have on society this post should have been written in amore positive light–a message of encouragement. This is hate mail by fact not by intention.

    This fallacy in the way you state your argument leaves room fro counter arguments. I have spent a good deal of time around public schoolers; the amount of profanity and sexuality that spews from their mouths is frightening. This argument would hold no ground to this article if you had written about how Catholics (not just homeschooling ones, but all) are called to witness. However you made this mistake and I want it answered. Where is the post “I hate public schoolers?” Where is the post “I hate democrats?” Where is the post “I hate Islam?” Don’t you see that this article rather than building up the Church lays ground work for tearing it down. Rather than cementing the stones of the Church you have weakened the foundation through this terrible article and lack of charity. Yes, correction is necessary, but this isn’t correction this is a blatant lack of charity. Charity is the most important of virtues, the apex of the crown, the brilliant diamond which crowns all virtues. By undermining this virtue you have harmed the integrity of the Church.

    If you did not mean you hate large homeschooling catholic families then you should not have said it. These are the words that scar. Next time point out what is wrong and show a solution don’t just attack people, and be positive. This article is rife with negativity which is why it has hurt so many people.

    Out.

  68. To Michael: Obviously you didn’t bother to read the whole post as more than half of it was suggestions on how to make your family a good witness.

    I didn’t write about Democrats or public school kids because they aren’t out there providing witness (good or bad) for large families. I specifically wrote about large homeschooling families because they are very visible witnesses to their vocation. Sometimes they give a good witness sometimes they give a bad one. Unfortunately, when it is bad, it is extra noticeable because of the size of the family.

  69. You beat me to it Ian…..namely in pointing out that a lot of folks who are crying about this have in fact, FAILED TO READ YOUR WHOLE ARTICLE.

    That is something in the blogging world that irritates me no end. Well…that and thin skinned whiners. Unfortunately the two tend to go hand in hand and one finds that those who don’t read an entire post but glom onto its title or one or two paragraphs tend to be the “rash” commenters.

    Case in point:
    Michael, you actually (with a straight face and all) want to label this post as HATE MAIL?? really?? because I figured you couldn’t possibly be serious about that. Neither “by fact nor intention” is this post hate mail. Frankly, the title is what the behavior of some of these families causes the world at large to feel. And that is unacceptable and should be publicly discussed. That sort of “witness” from them is what’s called into question.

    what would charity have looked like in your world Michael?
    privately taking the people aside and no one ever being able to discuss this important topic in the public light of day?

    There is no logic to your stating that this has “weakened the church’s foundation”, “laid ground work for tearing it down”, and has “harmed the integrity of the Church”.

    apart from the fact that all those things are impossible by nature, I think that if one actually feels that broaching this subject is THAT harmful and that this post is THAT dangerous then they need to come out of their super insulated home environment and get a load of the real world.

    wow peoples.
    wow.

    This is my last comment.
    I’m not gonna say any more here. I’m canceling the trackback on the comments just because the amount of anxious, don’t give the world ammunition against us, over-reactionary whining going on here is more than a logical adult can put up with….without utterly losing their patience.

    it’s abnormal.
    and sad.
    ….ranks right up there with those who want everything so “positive” all the time that we can’t score little league games anymore. I suppose we shouldn’t ever talk about the sex scandal either. That might be uncharitable and negative too.

  70. I really loved this article and sent it to a lot of my friends. I got very positive remarks from most. I think the comments are almost as interesting. Several of my friends are going to use your checklist for the adults and the kids for their own families.

    Those who complained or were offended really need to calm down and re-read your ENTIRE article. As explained, the title was tongue-in-cheek, and geared to get readers to read it (and it worked!) but I have learned over the years that some people really dislike anything that smacks of sarcasm. Personally, I like it!
    You asked for thoughtful feedback, and until the end, you got it. The points made were very valid. Even the best of us needs a wake-up call sometimes. And with homeschooling families, sometimes it’s really hard to confront a good friend and say, hey, want some help with your kids? Because they often are offended. I think putting this in a public forum was a fantastic idea, doesn’t corner any one person (you don’t have to read it, after all), and I think some people took what you said far too seriously or focused too much on things that weren’t even said but that they themselves were touchy about.
    Thank you for putting it on the table. It needed to be said!

  71. I have a “Large Catholic Family” of six children, although we do not homeschool. I read this with a very open mind. However, I was left asking, “What does ‘large, Catholic, Homeschooler’ have to do with your complaint?” It seems that your problem has nothing to do with that. What you “Hate” is undiciplined children. They come in all forms, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Irreligious, homeschooled, private-schooled and public-schooled. As for my family, I know that having many children means that my husband and I have a bigger job to do when it comes to discipline. We often receive compliments on our children’s behavior. Respectfully, I think you are enforcing an unfair stereotype.

  72. Your points are all valid that this could happen in ANY large homeschooling family. The problem (IMHO) is that is doesn’t.. I’ve only consistently seen this behavior (on the part of the kids) and attitude (on the part of the adults) in our Catholic families. And it begs the question: why?

    In all fairness though Carrie I don’t see how this post reinforces a stereotype when undisciplined, raised-like-wolves children isn’t what the stereotype is to begin with.

    I’d have to say that the “stereotypes” that I see out there about homeschooling fall more under the categories of:
    1. cultish
    2. isolationist
    3. sheltered kids who have a complete lack of social skills for the real world and shrink into the wallpaper when they have to deal with strangers and
    4. atrociously bad, matchy-match clothing that looks a bit freakish

    Unruly kids, who not only get a pass from their parents but whose behavior is barely even noticed, wouldn’t be a stereotype I’d think of right off the bat.

    and yet this is an issue that has come up again and again and again. I don’t know if we are to be so grateful that these people are actually living out their catholic marriage vows regarding being open to life that we are expected to just hold our collective tongues or what. When I’ve tactfully mentioned the unwelcome and atrocious behavior, I have repeatedly been treated to an attitude of superiority. As in: we are more Catholic than the pope and you couldn’t possibly understand.

    I see an astonishingly bad example on our Catholic families parts in not even attempting to teach these kids basic social graces. Perhaps they do indeed need to brush shoulders and rub up against the Great Unwashed a little more often, despite their fears of contaminating the wee ones’ minds, so as to simply teach them how civilized society acts. Because at some point, unless they’re going to build a compound, they’ll have to venture out and contribute to the world outside their fences. And in that world, immoral as it may be, some basic rules apply.

    • I don’t know where you live but Catholic Family LAnd in Ohio produces the exact mind set you have describe and it’s really cultish.

  73. I just found this article as I searching the internet for some info. I just have to say this article is excellent! I am a large homeschooling family (though protestant) and I have witnessed the same behavior by some other large homeschooling families.

    Articles such as these remind me of WHY I put so much effort into teaching my children how to behave. One kid crying in a store for candy wouldn’t be so bad….SEVEN kids crying for candy….that’s a nightmare. Our families are sending a message, good or bad.

    I didn’t read through all of the comments but some of them are very contrary to most home school families thinking. I don’t know of one family who wants to “build a compound” to keep our kids minds from being “contaminated”. Neither do we think our kids need 6+ hours a day with anti-God, cursing, bad attitudes, bullying, etc. in order to learn “social graces”. No. If home schooled children are misbehaving, it’s not because they lack social skills…it’s generally because they lack parents who are willing to do what it takes to teach these kids to use their social skills. And if those same parents had those kids in a public school, then the kids would just be yet another bad example of kids with bad social skills…only this time the parents would blame the public school….and the kids would have learned how to look “cool” while being bad.

  74. Kristi Kemp Fuller

    I love this article! I am a Catholic with two young children. Regardless, if a child comes from a large or small family, is Catholic or not, is home schooled or not, etc…this article applies to everyone. I nannied for three years and I can tell you that it had a tremendous impact on how I am now raising my children. I was also a spoiled “only child” and that has also made me think carefully about how I want my children to behave. It horrifies me when I see so many kids today that seem to only think of themselves and their own immediate gradification. It is not their fault though, it is their parent’s fault. Not only is it important to disapline your children/ set an example but it is even more important to teach them the concept of “standing in someone elses shoes”. My daughter is only two and even though she is very intense with a will of iron she already says, “please, thank you, hello and goodbye”. This is probably mainly because she always hears my husband and I doing the same. My husband and I also are the type of people that treat a waitress with the same amount of respect that we would give to a senator. I could go on and on…the point is that to many children today (regardless of their demographics or background) are being raised to be selfish and greedy because their parents are often selfish and greedy. The parents who don’t take the time to set an example and to disapline their children are looking for the “easy way out” by just ignoring their kids or quickly pacifying them so they don’t have to deal with the behavior. In the end their children are the ones that will have to pay. Rather it means they lose friends, get into serious debt or become self destructive, sometime in their lives their greed and inconciderate behavior will catch up with them. One family that I nannied for had a great deal of money but their kids were miserable and selfish. In fact, their kids had very few friends because other children didn’t want to deal with them and their horrible behavior. The parents didn’t realize that by condoning the behavior and not correcting it they in the end were causing their children far more pain. Many parents think that if they see their child crying because they disaplined them then their child will never get over it. No, maybe instead, one day when the child is older they will thank the parents for displining them because they will have a more fulfilling and meaningful life. One last thought, I totally agree with the author that parents need to follow through with what they threaten or say. Best example I can give is this…One day I took my daughter grocery shopping. I had a cart full of groceries (it was about 45 minutes worth of shopping) and my daughter was throwing an absolute fit because she couldn’t get candy. I had told her “no” because she did not eat enough healthy food that day. She had a complete tantrum. I warned her once that if she did not stop we were going to leave the store and she would have to go straight to bed for the night. She kept on going. I found an employee in the grocery store and asked if they could save my cart because I needed to take my daughter home and I would be back to buy the groceries. They more than agreed. I took her home (total inconvenience) and told my husband what happened. I put her in her pajamas and put her to bed at 7 PM while she was screaming and crying. I told my husband under no circumstances was she to come out of her room (but that he should check on her periodically until she was asleep). I then went back to the store and finished my shopping. Needless to say, it was quite an inconvenience for me. But parenting my daughter always takes precident over shopping or anything else. Now when I take her to the store and she starts to act up all I say is “do we need to go home”? She says, “no mommy” and stops the behavior. Basically, she knows that I follow through with what I say even if it means disrupting my own life in the process. In the end she not only learned how to behave better but she has respect for me because she can trust me when I tell her I am going to do something. I also apply this to positive things. If I promise ice cream she gets ice cream. Anyway…this was a great article and I agree with this author on so many levels.

  75. This is not what I was looking for tonight, but it was a very entertaining article. I have 5 children and just found out we’re having another. I expect perfect behavior from my children anywhere outside of our own home, and anytime we go somewhere in public I give them the lecture of “do you want people to look at us and think I’m a bad mother with too many ill mannered kids, or do you want them to say how nice it would be to have a large, well-behaved family like ours?” My kids know what I expect and very rarely let me down. I have found that it is usually a specific age (3 or 4) that can cause the most trouble, but large or small, it is the parent that makes or breaks the opinion of others. There are attentive parents and there are oblivious parents; the number of children is not the problem.

  76. evangelical homeschool grad

    Protestant homeschoolers are better-behaved because we beat our kids into submission. LOL. (I mean that affectionately, Mom!) Seriously, though, I think you can have:

    1. perfectly behaved children

    2. a lot of them

    3. without hitting them even a little bit

    But you can have two of those things, not all three.

    Fact of the matter is that you can’t do the sort of intensive hovering “attentive” parenting with five kids that you could with two “properly spaced” kids, and if you aren’t willing to spank the kids to ensure compliance from an early age, you’re apt to wind up with a pretty unruly brood.

    This, in my view, is more of a short-term problem than a long-term one, however. The great majority of unruly kids will actually turn out to be perfectly well-adjusted adults, and all the memories of the fights and spilled drinks and other minor childhood trivia will fade from view…

    and twenty years hence those formerly unruly kids will be on the internet indignantly complaining about how “Parents these days don’t discipline their kids like they used to!” 😉

  77. evangelical homeschool grad

    Anyway, the point of obeying God, in the end, is to obey. Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty and sometimes it makes you unhappy, but the point of the exercise is neither good PR nor personal happiness, but faith in God. 🙂

    Some of these parents are apt to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and unsure of themselves. Been there, done that. Criticizing them in this aggressive fashion is seldom helpful, though.

    You know something has to give, but you haven’t figured out what it is yet… maybe you need to sleep-train a baby so you can get enough sleep to be something other than a walking zombie.

    Maybe you need to cut back your working hours so you can be more present in the family’s life (yes, I think it’s sad that Mom usually takes the fall for badly-behaved kids when Dad spends 70-plus hours a week at work! The poster who disinvites the mom after bad bahavior from the children probably doesn’t have an equivalent in the dad’s life; Mom’s contacts with the world outside her door shrink the more kids the couple produces anyway, no matter how angelic the youngsters are.)

    Maybe it’s time to send some bigger kids off to public school for awhile.

    Maybe it’s time to swallow your pride and let your extended family lend a hand for a time.

    Maybe it’s time to take the doctor’s advice about putting your “spirited” ten-year old on Ritalin.

    Whatever it is, it’s up to the parents to figure it out, and up to us to extend compassionate understanding and the benefit of the doubt. Even when it’s hard. Sigh.

  78. evangelical homeschool grad

    Been thinkin’ about it. Mrs. Fleming. 😀 Thanks for the kind words.

  79. I liked this article. I agree with this article.
    I don’t know how to achieve this with my family.
    I have 5 boys, another child on the way. I’m not catholic – in fact I don’t even know what you would call us, apart from Bible believing, God seeking Christians, who know that our children should be better behaved,but just can’t seem to get them to the level they, as children being raised by believers, should be.
    I know that it all falls back on us parents. If we have unruly children, then we, as the parents, have done something wrong, whether passively, or intentionally.
    I just want to know how to get my children in line.
    Actually, I just wish I could get some joy into our home. I think that would do it.
    Any ideas?
    Homeschooling has become a battle ground.
    Home life has become a battle ground.
    Dad desperately wants to come home, but has to work the hours he does to pay the bills.
    I’m a shocking mum. I have high hopes, and ideas, just no idea how to attain them.
    I’m kind of prattling now.
    I long for my children to grow up the serve the Lord, that is my ultimate goal. I just don’t know what to do to reach it.

  80. Hello, This is wonderful, you all should feel blessed and be thankful. GOD has allowed you to share in what he has seen from all his human childeren for thousands of years. One of the most annoying things children do is to bicker about each other, talk behind their backs, and/or just put each other down. You believe there are perfect children in the world and that you must be one of them. Fact is you are not perfect and neither are your children. Most (98%) people do stupid things in their lives and yet we feel we have a right to judge others. If you feel a person is without issues, well you have either just met a Saint or you need to check yourself. They probably have made a great many of mistakes and you are either unwilling or incapable of seeing them. There is no real formula for raising good children, except for praying A LOT!!! The rich and educated have just as many issues with their children as everyone else.
    The other thing is, you who are complaining, must learn to take responsibility for your actions too. Every time a parent tells their children to call an adult by Mr/Mrs/Ms. (last name) don’t tell them, NO please call me by my first name. If you a child is playing with something and the parent tells them to stop, don’t get in the middle and tell the child it is alright!! You have just undermined the parents authority. If the child has done something wrong to you, then it is your place to tell the parent so the parent can do the dicipline.
    Really, your compliments on how well-behaved my children are causes more problems. I would really have you say Hello and not mention their behavior becuase they have probably done something you haven’t seen. When you give a compliment in front of a child who is in trouble, you have again undermined the parents.
    Another thing is if you are giving people gifts just for the praise and glory you are setting a bad example for my children. Say the Rosary and meditate on what is wrong with that idea. The statement with the priest and bishop not getting their pick of everything on the table. Yes you are right we should always think of others first. The problem with that isn’t just in big families, that problem stems from the attitude of society, “Worry about number one first”. What a fight to teach your childeren. Especially when you take them some where and most of the people have 1 or 2 childeren and they get anything they want.
    The last response to some of you is you don’t know what happens when those childeren get home. I would not punish my children in front of you unless it was an extreme offense. Punishment should almost always done in private.
    Do yourself a favor, quit complaining about everything and look for God in everything. You’ll find joy. Now if you want to look for the negative in everything Pray the Rosary and ask for help.
    May GOD bless you all and help you to find peace and joy in all children. Remember there is only one who has the authority to Judge and it isn’t any of us.

  81. I enjoyed the article to a certain extent. I believe that many families lack discipline. It is especially hard with large families. We have 4 kids. When my husband and I were first married, about 20 years ago, we decided that our church needed some good parties and get-togethers. Our church was international in nature and most people had families who lived out of the country. So, we hosted just about every holiday event in our home. We thought long and hard about who we would invite. We started with those close to us and usually threw in a few newcomers or families that we didn’t know very well. This was aside from the regular smaller type dinner parties.

    Lots of people together in one home eating and drinking means potential spills. Did we have creme colored carpet? Yes. Did we have breakables? Yes. Did we invite kids? Yes. No, “adult only” parties for us….and at that point we didn’t have ANY kids!!! We wanted people to feel welcomed. My husband & I decided that we were either going to spend the evening worrying about our carpet or we were going to relax and enjoy the fellowship with our friends. We felt that practicing the gift of hospitality was more important than the cost of our carpet.

    We prayed together before each event. I think in the 10 years time that we lived in that city and had all of those parties we maybe had a couple of spills. Did we have to spot paint or clean walls? Yes! Did we have to sweep and mop up afterwards? Yes. Did we have to replace the carpet when we moved? Yes. Do we still have those life-long friendships? YES, YES, YES! I wouldn’t trade those days or those friends for anything. What a blessing they have been to us. They always said, as do our current friends, that “we know any party you have will be kid-friendly…”….this is our ministry to others. We accept them and their children. I think that if we had kept crossing people off of our list for parties because little Johnny walked around with his grape juice in a sippy cup we would have found ourselves to be very lonely.

    No one is perfect. No child will act perfectly every time. The last thing I want is for a family or Mom to get a vibe from me that I disapprove of what their child is doing. I don’t want my guests walking on egg shells because their kid could possibly break something. Kids break things, kids spill, kids forget to flush the toilet, little boys forget to lift the seat up, kids may not say “please” or “thank you” every time.

    I have general rules for kids in my home. I happen to be the Mom who hosts birthday parties and sleepovers at my house and sports parties and pizza parties, and spa parties…..so, yeah, lots of kids at my house. I set the meal on the dinner table along with drinks, napkins, etc. and I, or my husband, will say a prayer with the kids before we start eating. My kids stay at the table to eat and by example the other kids do as well. If one little one strays off with a slice of pizza, I will give him a napkin and walk him back over to the table. No big deal. I allow them to drink water in the living and game rooms and eat popcorn, too! I make the rounds to make sure everyone is supervised and try to have some sort of organization to their activities. I did have one little boy take out all of the color crayons every time and color the walls. He also enjoyed getting into my fridge. So, I had to use a bit more energy when he came over, but his love and hugs totally made up for it.

    Some of the comments above gave me the impression that hostesses are keeping a checklist to see if little Suzy said “thank you” and “please” and if she doesn’t “well, her Mama just isn’t training her well enough and I don’t think little Suzy is going to come over and play with Tessa anymore”. Geez! I can only hope and pray that the grace and forgiveness that I give to other people’s children will someday be returned to my children. Isn’t that what the love of Christ is all about?

  82. A large family will be double judged anyway,a homeschooling family will also be double judged,so a large homeschooling family doesn’t stand a chance!
    Well if all the best circumstances are there (smart,healthy kids and parents,help from the extended family etc),you will be extra well judged.But flaws will be extra badly judged,so I wouldn’t worry too much about being judged in public places.It is not fair compared to “regular”families.
    What I would worry about is the attitude of my large homeschooling family:children must learn charity(which implies listening to the hostess,thinking about others before self,etc) and this is the reason for good manners,not whether or nor the pregnant girl is going to maybe abort seeing your family-what an unnecessary thought,source of anxiety!
    Good manners take a lot of patience and training,but do it for the sake of love of your neighbor and to go to heaven,not for what people might think of you,this is very wrong,in that case you’ll end up doing so many wrong things for you and your family.
    And also I would worry about not justifying wrong attitudes from my children,because we have many of them:do not start thinking you have too many of them to do a good job,or you become your worst judge and enemy and you will stop doing a good job altogether.Believe in the grace God sends you to train those kids well.
    PS:I have 6 homeschooled children under 9 and doing my best.They generally behave well ,one of them is not as healthy and we are in strange situations sometimes because of that.

  83. Thanks so much for this. We’re are on our way to being a large Catholic homeschooling family (we’ve got three under five and counting). In my happiness to be open to life I do need to be aware of the message that we send to the world. While things are far from easy sometimes I do try to make sure that when we’re out in public others see the joy I have in being the mother of my little brood. But I also need to be sure that my children are a joy to be with as well.

    Thank you for the encouragement, and I do think this post is to be taken as an encouragement to be the best parents we can be. 🙂

  84. This is a good post, but may prove a little too harsh and judgemental. I think if you have been this upset about the children in your home making messes and acting out, you are probably not cut out to be a parent or spend much time with them. Parenting isn’t really for everyone. It should be, but it isn’t and that is the sad truth.

    I don’t enjoy being around bratty children either, but I do know that all children will be bratty at some point and that is the time when they need to be corrected. There will be plenty of spilled milk along the way.

    I agree that parents should strive to raise obedient, well-behaved, polite children whether they are Catholic, homeschooled, Protestant, or attending public school.

    Children are individuals and if you are striving to control them rather than raise them, you may very well be heading toward a power struggle and rebellious children as a result.

    I say this as a parent who is considered “strict” by most standards. Parents who try very hard to raise good children and do all the “right” things often still end up with problems as their children grow. I do find that strong-willed children tend to be highly intelligent.

    Children I’ve encountered who seem to behave perfectly, are always clean, and never talk back leave me thinking there could be something seriously wrong going on at home. Most children do not behave perfectly all the time. Actually, most adults don’t either. That’s why we have to parent and train them with a lot of repitition.

    I don’t believe for a minute homeschooled children are “brattier” than any other. There are slack and misinformed parents everywhere and it doesn’t matter what religion they are or how they are schooled.

    I do find that children in the Catholic and public school systems have more in common than many Catholics seem to realize and they tend to be a lot more worldly than homeschooled kids.

  85. I found this post when searching for large homeschool family encouragement. I am a Christian and mother of 9 children with another on the way and I homeschool. Over the years my parents and my husbands parents (mainly mine because they are geographically closer) have been such a hinderance in our child-training efforts. It wasn’t until I had three children that I even realised I needed to train them at all. When I had four we had moved to get help, then my sister died (age 22) and we moved back again because of my sympathy for my parents. That may have been a mistake, but He is still in control and can turn all into good that love Him. My parents constantly undermine our parenting and I have not corrected the way I should because my parents believed using an implement to correct (as per the Bible) is child abuse. So out of fear (wrong I know) of losing our children to child services I withheld correction when I should have corrected. In Australia we have ratified the UN Rights of the Child Treaty and it is technically illegal to smack or say no to your child (which technically belongs to the state anyhow.) I do my best and lately I’ve been quite ill with this pregnancy and not up to speed, so to speak. As a side note, I was a strong willed child and I’ve been told and tested that I’m very bright but I have trouble believing it. I don’t believe He designs unintelligent people; although people can do foolish things. Our plan is to move as every time we put distance between me and my family we train way better and without fear. Our children can be better (I know this from a recent experience of distancing ourselves.) We do receive nice comments about our children when out but I’d like to do better in a positive way (positive toward our children.) I love my parents but I look forward to the day when they cease telling us what bad parents we are and how nice our children are. My dad once said to me “that if I didn’t turn out that is my fault and if my children don’t turn out that’s also my fault.” Huh?? I struggle with feelings of confidence and I can only put my faith in Him and His help. As I said recently to my mother-in-law “God trusts us with these children, do you?” Anyhow, now I’m rambling. I understand the point of the post. We have to be careful in how we help others, that it’s not offered from a place of superiority but humbleness of spirit. Just my .2c I appreciated the comments.

  86. Hi. I am the mother of a large family of 11. I have not nor would I ever put up with such terrible mannerisms or behavior from my children. I am not sure they would even know how to be so thoughtless and rude. Usually, children learn and live by example, at least, that has been my experience. If they are out of line or no know any better, simple kind correction is enough. Children want to please their parents…they too want to be praised and even “liked” by others. I was and have always been aware of what they are doing…it is a part of parenting. I am not offended by what you, you raise good valid points, however, I believe that these issues occur in all family sizes. Again, I appreciate your frustration concerning these issues…good luck on getting those type of parents to take heed.

  87. I think what bothers me the most about the large families I know is that they whine about prejudice against their large families and then turn around and look down on those who choose to have fewer children. They preach and preach about how others should be accepting of them but see themselves as better than others because they “are doing what God commanded”.

    • Absolute. Good catch Paige. I’ve been in that same situation time and time again. I’m finding that those who have attended “Family Land” in Ohio are specifically cult like. We have many around here who have done it and they, specifically group together and dis all others with the notion, “they don’t get it.” WOW…so very contrary to Christian principles. AFL very cultish.

  88. wow, this is actually a great encouragement to me, a mother of 8. We parents all need to hear this. There is no point in having all these children if we are not prepared (and determined ) to put in the work necessary to teach them proper behaviour/manners.

  89. This sounds like you are against misbehaving children who are allowed to be disrespectful by parents who are lazy in directing and correcting their children. What does this have to do with “homeschooling”? Also, are you a Christian or parent? Is saying you “hate” someone or “something” behavior you want to model or present as a character trait of yourself? You are hopefully young and inexperienced and ignorant, I had judgmental ideas and thoughts before I lived through 40 years and raised 3 children.

  90. Amen. I am a Mormon homeschool mom of six (5 boys & 1 girl). Kids will be kids, however, all of the outlined suggestions were spot on and I totally agree. It’s all about parenting. Great article, not offensive.

    • Yeah, I especially loved the part about feeding the clergy before one’s own kids. I can only imagine how that would alleviate the screaming Mongol horde situation.

      • Alice my guess is that your one who has a few kids running around and have heard it more than once in terms of getting a hold of your children, or CPS being called on you etc etc. Listen, you gottah admit many post there from homeschoolers with 1 child to 15+ kids post here and we face some of the same issues; bias, cruelty by public, frustrated with other homeschoolers who proclaim they’ve done it right and are rude against other homeschoolers cause they can’t put them out like bunnies, etc. Does it mean that we’re wrong or right for that matter?! No, it means that we are all struggling and when I read something here I look at it as I’m suppose to as lead by the holy spirit to be here in this forum and read. I’m learning here and I’m not going to make fun here but take much of this as into to prayer and again learn. Yes, as difficult as it may be some of this applies to me and what I’ve done wrong and right. It’s a blessing. NOT judgment nor politically correct and I’m glad it’s not. Praise be to God and may The Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for our family to ensure that we do all things right in the name of Jesus Christ.-Amen.

  91. Though I appreciate the “setting a good example in public” ideal of this article because I see far too many parents who just ignore what their kids are doing. I also find this post to be unrealistic, a childs age and developmental level should be considered. I would not expect a 2 year old to sit through mass, just as I would expect a parent to remove them if they were disturbing the parish. I wouldn’t expect a 1 year old not to touch a home full of breakables but I would expect a parent to therefore keep them within arms reach. I wouldn’t expect several children to be able to quietly entertain themselves in a not child friendly location for long periods, I would expect the parents to limit the visit and bring quiet entertainment. I wouldn’t expect a child to consistently make it through the grocery store without tantrums if the parents are setting limits. But then again, I’m weird because I say forget the don’t let the kids walk around with red kool aid, my answer is don’t give the kids kool aid at all.

  92. I could be the author of this post. Even though we homeschool our children, we typically avoid homeschool events. Why? Because most homeschool parents do not put reigns on their children and many times do not supervise them at all. What results is an environment that is unsafe, disrespectful and downright embarrassing. As a result, we have earned the “holier than thou” title from the “holier than thous!” The simple fact is that the homeschooling community has a much deserved reputation. By the way, Scripture says that one obedient child is a greater blessing than many disobedient ones.

    • Scripture may say that, but Jesus, when called “good teacher” immediately replied “why do you call me good, no man is good.” Personally, I’m not sure that Jesus would be backing up this “my child is better than yours” thing you’ve got going on with your comment. Honestly, if all that differentiates your child is the ability to shut up, not question, and not smear food on white carpet, I don’t think anyone’s going to particularly impressed with their skill set in the long run.

  93. I have to say that what I expected to be a bash against families with more that the average 2.5 kids turned out to be a positive affirmation for me. I am a mother of 5 with a little boy due in 8 weeks. I am a stay at home mom, I love my calling and my marriage and my children and consider them to be a joy and a gift, even in the most frustrating of moments. My husband and I are long-time Christians and raise our children traditionally by today’s standards. You are right. Families with multiple children definitely get noticed more in public than smaller families. It is imperative that we set an example of what the Biblical family looks like. We are called to be different and a light unto the world. We are to train our children properly and invest in them as children of God who have purpose and calling, not because we have many children, but because we are Christians, and even more so with ANY children. Raising children properly and with manners, obedience, common courtesy, to love God, honor parents, and love our neighbor is every Christian parent’s responsibility, whether a couple has 1 or 12 children or anywhere in between. It seems in today’s society it has become widely accepted to not bother training one’s children, or letting someone else such as daycare handle that. It has resulted in a majority of disrespectful, spoiled kids with few if any boundaries and a sense of entitlement who grow up with the same poor and lazy selfish attitudes that cause them to become non-contributing adults who parent poorly themselves. It is sad and unfortunate. The Christian world needs to show other Christians and non-believers alike what we are supposed to teach our children. Our examples are the Bible, and all it teaches on parenthood, and other believing families. It has taken much sweat and tears (theirs, not ours!) but all of our children have manners, follow the rules, have respect for others and their property, behave in restaurants and others homes and places of business. They are respectful, do not complain about what is for dinner or whine when they are told to do something. They are still learning, and the youngest to date is 4. However the standard has been set. My husband and know parents who think we are too strict or harsh. It doesn’t phase us. We witness the behavior of lax-disciplined children and it makes the parents as well as the children (and others around them ) miserable. We are seen as strict because we mean what say, are consistent, and follow through. Well, it is effort, I will say that – but totally worth it. The time we spend with our children teaching them, playing with them, reading to them, taking them places, etc. is pleasant and joyful, for ALL of us, and it is so because we took the time to be consistent, set clear expectations, follow through, and praise them when they do right as well as correct them when they do wrong. They know they are loved. I know my Heavenly Father loves me, and wants to bless me. I also know when I sin I will be chastised and taught the right path. I will learn. I will be forgiven. I will grow spiritually and be happier because of that.
    Proverbs 3:11
    My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
    Proverbs 3:12
    For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

    God disciplines His children because He loves us, just as parents ought to love their children. We have instructions and examples of how to teach our children. Could you imagine if The Lord had the same attitudes toward us as many parents commonly have toward raising/training their children? I am grateful He does not.

  94. I have eight children, my husband and I come disordered upbringings, and God has done great thing to me through my kids and their journey has been bumpy because of it but I receive compliments on my kids behavior often and it is usually when I need the encouragement to carry on. I agree with you, step it up parents. However, I think your line of thinking comes from a dangerous place. We should be doing these things because it is what is in order for the benefit of our children’s and or very own souls. May God receive all the glory and let us be the edyfing community God intends!!

  95. I think your article could have been a wonderful instructional/reminder for parents. Unfortunately, you decided to insult (emphasis on insult) and single out only large homeschooling parents, when in reality this is an epidemic in parenting across the board. Parenting is a learning process for both parents and children. It does take many times of consistent correction to help children learn acceptable behavior. Sometimes there are some bad public moments. Parenting is a very difficult task whether we have one or many. I learned years ago to not judge, pay for my fellow parents and lend a helping hand (As Christ taught). Because Lord knows parenting is hard. I’m sorry you had a bad experience at your diocesan event. That should not be the norm. It would not have happened at my parish where everyone must wait until the priest has blessed the food. But then usually the priests step out of the way and encourage children to go first and where parents serve the smaller children who may grab. I feel like this post is uncharitable and has no place in a Christian forum.

  96. ReneeClayton As I have repeatedly stated in the comments over the past eight years, I singled out large homeschooling families because they are under more scrutiny because they are more noticeable and for some reason people have a perverse pleasure in catching them doing something wrong.

  97. That was an awesome article. As a homeschooling mother with an M.B.A Finance degree whom has decided to home-school I can’t believe the absolute ignorance of home-school parents and their children! They are absolutely out of control, self centered and in large part if they are not leading the pack of wolves then they are parenting and acting as though a lead part in the movie, Stepford Wives and judging others.

    • Oh yes…I just absolutely can’t STAND those who judge others! Man, this comment thread is filled with the most wonderful specimens of Christianity…

      • I’m not judging it IS what I’ve seen first hand, I wish it wasn’t. If you don’t have 5+ kids then you can’t possibly understand me. I have to find and plant my friendship in only those that can possibly understand me. Listen, I came from a big family, I’ve been a part of one and continue to see the bias in those young women who carry around the bias I saw in my own family and I know where it’s rooted and it’s ugly.

  98. Let me first start by saying I am not currently homeschooling my large family (10 children ages 14-1), but have for many years before. The situation that you shared in this article makes me very upset. The pure disrespect that you encountered is uncalled for. However, in the area that I am located in Missouri, we see both kinds of homeschoolers. Those who take the time to teach their children not just academics but manors and respect for the world we live in, and those who don’t. I agree with many areas that you spoke of in this article. The down side of your article is that you summarize all children into what you see as good behavior in public. Parents reading this need to keep in mind that children of all ages can not follow all of the list you have made. You must as parents and host be aware of the child’s age and maturity level. The important part is to see parents working with their children at home and in public to learn the skills to be respectful citizens. There are times where children with special needs are involved (such as Autism; I have a high functioning Autistic son) and people in public can not see that they are special needs because from the outside they appear “normal”. So parents reading your list may be highly discouraged thinking they will never be able to be the light in the world because their child is truly not capable of following all the “good behavior rules” for public. I also think that it is important for others to speak up to parents and assist them when their children are not following good behavior. There are kind loving ways to let parents know that their child/ren are not behaving in a respectful manor. This is another way to be the light to others. Thank you for your article. It was truly a great reminder to me to continue to work with my younger children on their behavior at home and in public.

  99. Christine Moon

    My only issue is that you aim this towards homeschoolers, and I assure you it’s most parents/ kids nowadays. Parents who are too busy enjoying their socializing time to remember they are responsible for the hellions running rampant, or who believe “kids will be kids”.

    I admit I made exceptions for picky kid with a neurological condition- he would gag even on foods he loved. I made sure to bring something he would eat to every place we went- why should you be inconvenienced by my kid’s issue?

    Most told me “kids will be kids- why are you disciplining a 2 yr old? Just let them be kids”. 10 years later, their parents stick them in camp on vacation because they can’t stand to be around the demon spawns. They’ve dumped buckets of water on complete strangers toddlers at the beach.

    Another has an autistic son and gives in because “he can’t help it, it’s the autism”. Our friend gave him ice cream and pretzels, and afterwards he called her horrible and mean because she didn’t include chips afterwards. Instead of disciplining him and forcing an apology, the mom turned to the friend and said “sorry, he gets like this when he’s hungry.” Guess who had to pull her kid from religion class because every teacher refuses him?

    And let’s not forget the “everyone deserves a trophy” mentality.

    I could fill 2 blogs with horrible parenting. I’ll just say that we need to stop being friends and start raising our kids.

    • Said like a true Christian lady! Perhaps we can even get a stake and burn some of them in an official fire to make our superior parenting “felt”. As you suggested, we could start with the disabled, and move up from there.

      • I have nothing against disabled children- I gave birth to 2. I hate parents that will blame a condition instead of just once saying “no”.

        My superior parenting is felt every time I see these kids out of control.

        That being said, my older gives me a run for my money frequently. Can she help it? Maybe not. But if she’s flipping out, she gets removed from the situation and disciplined. And wouldn’t you know, she walks back in, apologized, and moved on.

        To sum up: burn the parents that suck to leave only the superior ones. Raise the little brats to be better humans. World is a better place. [/sarcasm]

  100. I started this article fully prepared to be insulted (your title and opening gave me that impression). I landed on this article after googling well-behaved large families. I have 5, and today left the library empty handed because my kids are assholes and thought it was cool to climb and race around. (I sent my 10 year old back in to pick up the children’s area as I strapped car seats).
    Too many of these articles go straight to “it’s the parents fault… they don’t care/don’t parent.” Yours does too, but only for a moment. (I didn’t relate to them, because we wouldn’t have been at your home long enough for pizza to smear on the walls. When it gets out of hand I sadly leave, because I am generally lost at that point as to how to reign it in).
    Articles that only blame the parents do no help, only further bring down a trodden and stressed mother. When my kids behave like that, I feel worthless, a broken mother, completely lost and overwhelmed. And when society comes and adds to it with articles that say I’m a “lazy mom, bad parenting, etc”, this does nothing to help. Doesn’t lift a mother up, doesn’t give her hope or honest ideas of how to get out of the cycle.

    It’s not for lack of trying… we are lost. Beaten down. We need help. Not judgment.

    • Well, if it’s any solace to you, I think you’re a great parent. Perhaps you are doing something more than bludgeoning your children into the sterile, sanitized image of “conformity” some old geezers in a china shop would love to have over to their house. You might not get compliments on your children’s wayward behavior, but perhaps they will still love you when you get old, as the mother that was patient with them and taught them love through acceptance, rather than the imposition of a totalitarian regime.

  101. Very interesting article.
    Yes, Planned Parenthood would be an appropriate place to go to find birth control so a couple could decide if they wanted to be parents and most importantly: when.
    You’re correct about large unruly families making people think or re-think if they want to have children. Witnessing such families helped my spouse and I know we only wanted two children. It helped us understand that more than that would be more than we could handle physically, emotionally, financially, etc.
    I do appreciate your thoughtful ideas about parenting and raising children. Being a parent has been the hardest and yet most rewarding journey.

  102. This article is a very enjoyable read as outrageous satire. The part about the old couple and antiques really took the cake. You really made me rethink our parenting. I think, now, I will be even more lax with our children, even more patient, and outrageously forgiving. This author puts Pharisees to shame and has pathologically missed the entire point of the Bible.

  103. This was very encouraging to me. I have stayed away from Catholic blogs for a long time for a variety of reasons, one of which is the canonization of parents, especially parents of large families. Some Catholic parents are responsible and considerate of others, e.g., at Mass, others are not. I recently started going to Mass at the hospital where I work because the kids at the parish I used to go to were just out of control. Asking Catholic parents to be accountable for their behavior is a refreshing change. I have to wonder actually what is going on in the homes of parents who do not respect boundaries in public places.

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