If you follow pro football this season you may know the New England Patriots performed some trickery during the playoffs.  Against the Ravens, they confused the Baltimore defense by declaring certain unassuming players eligible to go down field.  This resulted in players whom the Ravens were not covering making big plays.  If you are a Patriots fan you find this to be genius.  If you are not, you find this borderline cheating – completely against the norm and taking advantage of the other team’s confusion.  Bottom line is that it is not illegal (yet) and it is very inventive (and I am not a Patriots fan).  But how you see it depends on your perspective.

Many times we see kids acting up or making a fuss and we begin to judge.  We judge the child as a brat or even the parents as being unable to control their children.  It is easy to do.  If a child breaks the norm then we consider the to be part of the “rules breakers”.  But perhaps their parents see their actions as being creative or free or “You think this is bad??”.

During the AFC playoff game tonight there was an car commercial (Audi?) with a kid standing next to a pool contemplating  jumping in.  He got the slow head shake from the lifeguard as if to say “Don’t even think about it”.  Commercial kid’s thoughts run through his future of crime and punishment for this act, and then he jumps in.  The next scene has him being picked up by his mother who smiles, asks if he did it again and then pats him on the head approvingly when he responds “yep”.  Most of us would see this boy as being a law breaker, a brat, but commercial mom seems to approve.  She probably thinks it is funny and creative.

During the end of the soccer season our youngest and his team played in a local tournament.  Since his club was hosting the tourney, I volunteered to help run scores (at the end of the game you get the score from the ref and then take it back to the tournament director to be posted).  While waiting for a game to end I was listening to the parents for both teams.  The players were pushing and shoving a fair amount and it was hard to tell if either was gaining an advantage.  The parents on both sides were seeing it from their perspective – the other team’s kids were mauling their little angels!!!  As a third party I could see they were both right (about the mauling, not the angels).  I know we do it too.  We react to aggressiveness against our kids and tend to overlook some of the aggressiveness given by them.  I know my boys are no angels but they are at least better than that other kids who just pushed them!!

Much of this is human nature.  We are innocent, everyone else guilty.  It can drive you crazy when you notice it but at the very same time, hardly anyone notices it in themselves.   It can cause stress and wasted emotional energy.  It can get ugly and lead to turmoil.  And typically things simply spiral out of control from a difference in perspective.

So the next time you find yourself being critical of another parent and their “brat’, at least take time to look at your own handling of your kids when others might see and think the same.  As an old sales audiobook taught me, go to the balcony, look down on a situation from a third party point of view and try to become less emotionally engaged.  Sure, the child might be acting up, they might be pushing the limits of the norm or even the rules, but do you do the same?  Are there times you let your kids get away with more than others might find acceptable?  Does it really matter what the brat is doing?  As Sgt. Hulka would say, “Lighten up, Francis”.