Patrons and Parents

One of the challenges I’ve had to deal with at every library I’ve worked at is parents. Not that all parents are challenging! Most of them are really nice people. Lots of them are excited that their kids or teens are reading (or worried that they aren’t!) and are happy to be in the library.

Many parents, though, are, um, kind of nightmares.  There are two primary kinds of problem parents: ignore-rs and hover-ers. Ignore-ers are, pretty much, exactly what you’d expect. They’re the parents come to the library and immediately become blind to their children’s actions. Their toddler is pulling out toilet paper and using it like streamers in the bathroom? Ignore. Their infant is screaming their tiny, adorable face red because they don’t have anything to do? Ignore. Their preschooler is dragging his sister across the floor because they got into it at the early learning computer? Ignore.

The hardest thing when dealing with Ignore-ers is asking them to pay attention to their children without implying that they’re being neglectful parents. It’s really hard! I’ve definitely gotten a little better at this over the past few years, but I still find it incredibly uncomfortable to draw attention to the fact that people’s children are misbehaving.  Often, I try to just solve the problem indirectly by offering the baby a board book, or guiding the preschooler to the coloring table.

Weirdly, Hover-ers are just as bad. I’ve mostly encountered these parents when I’m trying to do reader’s advisory or reference research with a kid or teen. These parents are the ones who insist that their kids would never be interested in a mystery, even while the child is clutching five to their chest. Or the parents who really want their kids to “only read the classics”, and won’t let me show their kiddo how awesome Bone is.  Other than carefully spinning my book blurbs to appeal to parents and kids alike, I haven’t mastered the Hover-ers.  I usually just try to spin my book blurbs in to something that will appeal to teens (or kids or whoever) and parents alike. But have you tried that? It’s super hard! Kid-tested, parent-approved indeed.

So, there you go.  My challenge this week? Work on dealing with parents of both types so that we all get what we want: happy kids.

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