Categorized | Daily Life, People

Parenting in Spain

Posted on 23 December 2014 by American expat!

I’m not a tolerant person when it comes to poorly behaved children. So of course, I live in a country that has the most unruly children I have yet to witness in this lifetime.

Obviously, it is no fault of the children. Children will test parents; it is in human nature to test authority and to test parental love. Children want boundaries and will test them. It makes them feel secure, and it makes them feel loved. So I wonder why Spain hasn’t caught up with this parenting revelation?

My theory is that there is some Spanish parenting book, likely written 50 years ago, that people are still following as if it were law.

This dated text certainly must have told parents to ignore their children if tantrums are thrown, because that is exactly what parents do here. On a daily (and I mean DAILY) basis, some kid will have some unspeakable injustice done to him, like being put into a stroller, and you would swear that the parents were holding his hand directly to a flame. The screaming Does. Not. Stop. And the parents say not a word, despite the glares of the customers around them. Oh, did I not mention? This isn’t outside. Parents do not take their screaming children outside. They do not acknowledge said screaming moppet, they let their little monsters writhe and yell in their strollers, or more often on the restaurant or shop floor, and completely ignore them.

This continues until one of two things happens: Either 15 or 30 minutes or whatever later the parents coddle their exhausted, red faced ilk (still screaming, mind you) and act like they need some comforting, when what they need is some behavioral guidelines, not rewards for fit throwing. Or the parents leave with kiddo still screaming and kicking and then I don’t hear them anymore, so I don’t actually know what happens.

This theoretical book also covers what to do when a child has bonked their head, tripped, been punched by their brother, etc. It has parents assuming that children are brainless little beings that respond to cause and effect: something happens, they cry, so coddling must commence until crying stops. Never is any support given to the kid to let them know that they can handle the situation. Never is any child told to stop when they are clearly milking the attention from a cut on the finger for all it’s worth.

The only alternative to coddling or ignoring that I have ever seen demonstrated here is distracting. though usually this is by other people.

If you ever say anything to these parents, perhaps when you are in a restaurant and 20 minutes has gone with a child howling and twisting in their chair 5 feet away from you, the response is always the same: Shoulders are shrugged as the parent smiles and says “She’s just a child”.

This damn book has parents treating their children like dumb objects that can’t read social cues and are little more than reptiles responding to environmental stimuli. It doesn’t tell them that children understand much more than they realize, that they are extremely adaptive and clever beings who know how to manipulate situations to their benefit from a very young age. It has parents acting as if their children don’t ever look to them for behavioral guidance and security when they are uncomfortable in situations they do not like. No, this stupid book has told parents they are helpless and things just have to ride unruly behavior out.

I wonder if there really is a book. It would explain so much that bewilders so many.

10 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom Moffat Says:

    I have to assume that the majority of the people that are exposed to this “spoiled brat” activity are oblivious to it since they were either raised the same way or are raising their children the same way. What a way to have a great meal or relaxing gathering ruined.

  2. Oxi Says:

    So true! although in the US I see the opposite. Parents treating 5 year old like if they were adults able to make decisions in terms of, for example, what to eat for dinner, that pisses me off too.

  3. Chez Says:

    How are they with sugar? I am in Italy and I can’t take how much the parents and schools give their kids sugar. It never stops… all day long – SUGAR! So annoying if you live a healthy life.

  4. Azul Says:

    Yes, we can complain about spanish parental behaviour and their kids, but I saw also the same thing in other countries. And although America is not one of my favourite spots in the world, I would say first that I’m not going to critique everything I see in its streets. Because if you are in Catalonia you can be more nice with your host country isn’t it? Or also you can continue explain how bad is everything here. How kids are raised like animals or how girls don’t dress up correctly to your point of view. Let me say something, try to aknowledge the culture you are in, try to be cheerful and to enjoy the good things you have here. Otherwise why are you willing to stay in a place where everything around is pissing you off? .

    Have a nice day.

  5. American expat! Says:

    I have plenty of posts about what I love about living here. But I also get enormously frustrated with things like the general lack of accountability, mountains of paperwork and lazy government workers too. I write as an expat and believe I have the responsibility to let my fellow expats, especially fellow Americans, know what they are in for if they decide to live here for an extended period of time. I also want to help any fellow expats living here feel less isolated, which I think my writing does, or so I have been told. So, as a duty to my readers, I’ll continue to vent my frustrations here on my blog and won’t sugar coat any bullshit I witness because a few locals don’t like it.

  6. Mr Moto Says:

    I noticed this on my last trip to Spain. I actually had to wait in the hospital for my friend and there was some kid going ape shit happy over his toys. He was yelling and mooing because he had a toy cow. He crawled around the floor, throwing his toy across the room then crawling to get it (he was about three) while his mother did absolutely nothing at all. This went on for my entire 45 minute wait.

    I stared her down during this time and she caught on that a few people were annoyed, but it was as if she had no idea what to even say to her child, so touched his arm a couple times and he slapped it away and continued. That was the full extent of her “parenting”.
    I live in France and thank God the children are well behaved here.

  7. Maria N Says:

    I am from Barcelona but I now live in SoCal. I am a techer in CA and catalan children are 100 times better behaved than their american counterparts. By the same token, women in Barcelona dress 100 times better than women in CA.
    You don’t seem to care for much of anything in Barcelona, so I suggest you go back to wherever you come from and not write about my hometown in such a negative way.
    Bye bye!
    PS I can’t wait to go back home.

  8. American expat! Says:

    Not surprised you don’t get the sarcasm Maria N. Not surprised at all.

  9. Graciela Says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you’re not a parent.

  10. American expat! Says:

    Spot on Graciela, not going to be one either!

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