Me, me, me! Selfish behaviour has to be stamped out early

Children need to learn about boundaries from an early age, says Trevor Laffan
Me, me, me! Selfish behaviour has to be stamped out early

Parents need to raise their children so be considerate of others, says Trevor Laffan. Picture posed by model

MYSELF and my buddy, John O’Connor, met for our regular Tuesday morning coffee recently.

We were chatting away when we noticed two women sitting behind us. They had a child with them, and he or she was sitting in a high-chair. What drew our attention to them was the mess the child was making.

He or she was tearing open the little sachets of sugar and emptying the contents onto the floor, then throwing the bits of paper down as well.

Now, you might say, so what? A child making a mess is what small children do, and maybe the women didn’t notice, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the deal is that the women saw what the child was doing, and not only were they completely unconcerned about it, but one of them maintained a supply line to the child - making sure he or she had an ample supply of sachets.

When they were finished their coffee, or maybe just ran out of sugar, they got up and left without making any effort to clean up their mess. As soon as they were gone, a young lad arrived on the scene and tidied up after them.

That got us wondering about what that child is going to be like in the years to come, if he or she is being taught from an early age that it’s OK to do what it likes.

It’s not the child’s fault, that responsibility lies with the parents.

From speaking to people involved in the teaching profession, I’ve learned that many children they deal with on a daily basis are, let’s say, challenging. They push the boundaries of behaviour to the limit and when they are pulled up for crossing the line, they go home and complain to their parents, then the parents confront the teachers.

Children need to learn about boundaries; behaviour that is acceptable and behaviour that isn’t. Otherwise, they grow up to become the kind of people who only think of themselves, and we already have enough of those.

Like the guy who sits alone in the café, at a table for four, tapping away on his laptop for an hour with his cup of coffee beside him. Occupying that amount of space shows the world how important he is, so important in fact that he can’t be done without for five minutes.

That’s annoying, but not as bad as the zoomer, the guy having a noisy online conversation so everyone can hear how busy he is at running the world.

I remember an Australian lady one time who was a regular visitor to a particular bar/restaurant. She always sat in the same seat, also a table for four, next to an electric socket so she could plug in her laptop. She would buy a pot of tea and sit there for hours using the bar wi-fi, talking loudly to family and friends back home.

The manager was known to be a bit fiery, so I knew it was only a matter of time until his fuse was lit, and I was there the day it happened.

If she hadn’t been so self-absorbed, she might have seen what was heading her way because it was easy to detect. The atmosphere changed like it does just before a hurricane, cold and very still.

He marched over to her and asked her how much value she expected to get for the price of a pot of tea.  He gave her a lecture about making a serious contribution to his running costs, after which she packed her laptop away and wasn’t seen there again.

Sometimes, the only way to deal with these people is to be up front and direct because they don’t understand subtlety.

My wife and I stayed overnight in a hotel last year and Covid restrictions meant we had limited options for entertainment, so we didn’t wander too far. We kept to ourselves and finished off our evening with a drink in the room. No bother.

Around 2am, I woke to the sound of glasses clinking and loud voices. It was coming from the room next door. There were five people there and it sounded as if one of them was leaving the room every now and then and returning shortly afterwards with fresh supplies from the bar.

Around 4am, they ended up in the hallway singing. It was a small corridor and the five of them were standing beside one another, but it was like they were trying to communicate with each other on an oil rig in the middle of a storm in the North Sea.

By then, I had had enough, so I went out and suggested that maybe they might want to keep the noise down as there were other people trying to sleep.

They were about my own age, so they weren’t youngsters, but they weren’t too bothered. 

They had a lot of drink on board, and I knew from my 35 years of policing that trying to reason with drunk people doesn’t work, so I didn’t push it.

They had a bit of a laugh before returning to their rooms for the night, completely unconcerned about the inconvenience they had caused to anyone else.

Obviously, some guests feel that because they are paying for the room, they are entitled to behave as they like, and everyone else can like it or lump it.

Consideration is not for everyone. Some grow up believing the world revolves around them and they are incapable of thinking about anyone else.

By the time they reach adulthood, they’re beyond redemption so it’s important to mould them when they’re young.

Teaching children about the unfairness of creating a mess and leaving it for someone else to clean up might be a good place to start.

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