I always try and remember that when I was a child and when my kids were younger, there were no "big stores" except in the cities so when we went shopping, we shopped with our friends and neighbors--people who knew us well and there was a general expectation that children would be well mannered and, generally, they were. Everyone was involved--parents took extra care to make sure we didn't "act out" and we, as children, were held responsible for our behavior.
I can remember that the huge fear for both myself and my mother/father was getting lost in Famous/Barr in St. Louis on our annual Christmas shopping, window viewing trek--we were kept close in hand. Now, modern parents can allow a little more leeway plus they are held to a far different standard when it comes to discipline. I KNEW I would be paddled in public if I misbehaved, there was no if, "ands", and buts about it--my parents, like most parents, could exact immediate corporal punishment. Not so today, when was the last time you saw a child in public physically punished by a parent? There is a reason for that and it isn't because parents don't want to spank their child when he deserves it--it's because of the potential consequences that could befall a parent with one moment of anger and frustration in public.
That's not the child's fault or the parents' fault--that is our collective fault as a society.
Sunday in Walmart a lady came in with 4 children, infant to about 12 years old i'd guess. She went one way, never looking back and the 3 kids went in different directions. The older boy grabbed a hand ful of the mylar balloons that were for Valentine's day and went walking thru the store, hanging them on things, letting go of one here and there. The mom never looked back or checked on her kids. You can bet if any one of those kids were to get hurt or lost, she'd be up on her soap box blaming Walmart.
It's really a different society from when we were raised and from how most of us raised our kids.
Parents today are AFRAID to discipline their kids in public. Kids are taught from preschool on that a swift swat to the rear end is considered child abuse and they need to tell another adult, and keep telling until someone listens.
Many parents of young kids are part of the "ME GENERATION", (that one that we raised). They're too busy working on their own gratification that they can't be bothered disciplining their own kids. As long as the kids aren't bothering them, all is well.
Then you have the mother who is so guilt ridden over working that she goes out of her way to not upset little Johnny. Heaven forbid he be told no. Her life is miserable because the child is in control and there's no control.
I love kids, I really do, but my kids were never allowed to behave like that in public or at home. They were taught from the time they started walking that they stayed at my side with their hands behind their backs the minute we walked into a store. You look with your eyes, not your hands.
I don't think it has anything to do with being afraid to discipline the kids. For crying out loud, you go some places and the parents let the kids run free like it's a darn playground, playing with the toys, I've even seen riding the bikes down the aisles.
It's a lack of respect for the store and fellow customers on the part of the parent. I also think that the store's fear that stopping the kids would upset the parents and they lose sales when they walk out.