Smith: Readers illustrate problem of parental-approved rudeness

In the week since writing about my encounter with two F-bomb-dropping kids, I have received several emails applauding my decision to chastise the boys for their behavior.

Apparently, I am not the only one in these parts who is fed up with rude children. What is not so apparent is the hesitation to call out the bad behavior when it occurs.

What is particularly interesting, though, is that as outraged as some people may be, only one chose to express ire in public via the comments at the end of the column online.

Last week, I warned of the possibility that calling out this behavior would cast me as a grumpy old man and that there is the chance that some parents would fail to do their duty and discipline their rude children. Those parents would choose instead to make me out to be the bad guy.

Reader Lee Ramos found out firsthand how that works.

"Thank you for your column on the two skateboard youngsters," Ramos wrote. "One added comment, that particular incident happens often in that area because of the schools (Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High) down the street.

"What is really sad is that the first time it happened to me, I followed the kids home and the parents took me on as an old-fashioned goody goody with nothing better to do than try to correct the world. Try that on for a disappointment."

Ramos experienced what is common with many parents. In an effort to be a hero or a friend to their kids, they miss the opportunities to establish boundaries of good taste and behavior, which is something kids have repeatedly said that they want for their parents.

For these parents, the thought that they may get into an argument with their kids, and that their kids may reject them, is far more painful than the discussion over proper public behavior. So they default to buddy mode, and the result is what Ramos and I have recently experienced.

Reader Mark Ingram also decided to put his foot down and experienced adult backlash.

"We were in the second inning [of a Little League game] when a parent reacted to an on-field decision by yelling, "Oh, [expletive!]" he wrote. "It was directed at me and loud enough for many children could hear.

"I immediately went to the fence and called him out on it. He caused a stir, telling me I was a wimp. I told him it is a kids' environment and to please leave or quiet down, but he kept going.

"I then pulled over the head umpire and field coordinator, creating a little scene. At that point he wandered off."

I have no hope or expectation that either Ramos or Ingram will change the behavior of the rude parents. That's not the point. The point is to let the children know that even though the adult in question may think it is OK to behave badly in public, or for their kids to behave badly in public, there are many more people who object.

Again, though, if you, reader, do not draw the line, there will be no line.

I'm encouraged by the actions of Ramos and Ingram, people who are out to change the world, one person at a time.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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