First, there was a thread at Pex about disciplining other people's children.
Then, there was a similar topic in N@W.
So I figured i'd post lengthily about it here.
We discipline our son. And we're not biased when we say that overall, he's a good boy. We'd probably never say that he's mild-mannered. He's a typical boy: noisy, active, one who doesn't know his strength, one who thinks that rough play is most fun.
Right now, he refuses to share toys. He's only two, after all. But he's fairly okay with other kids, even a little shy and reserved in play areas in fastfood restos. But he is comfortable enough to bully his cousin who is younger than him by six months.
Does that make my son a bully? Of course not. He's only two years old! He's just smart enough to know that he's a mite stronger and stabler than his cousin. Plus, only his cousin threatens him somehow, maybe because he knows that the cousin is the baby when they're together in the same room. And like other kids, he must hate competition.
Our son is no angel but he is no devil either (he just looks like both, in different times). He's a good enough son. And he has much growing up to do.
We cannot be there to watch our son all the time. In fact, we shouldn't. And we cannot expect our son to play nice all the time. In fact, am sure, he wouldn't. He will test boundaries, limits, rules. And he will have bad days. He will have his own hurt feelings or threatened realities. So I really expect that he will behave badly many times, in many ways, whether we're there or not.
So much as I am royally annoyed by other kids, usually the bigger ones who are rough and rowdy, I invoke patience and understanding. After all, it will be my son in a few more years terrorizing younger kids, even if only for a while. So I choose to extend the courtesy of understanding other kids rather than calling them on their behavior, or going to their parents about it, hoping that other parents will do the same for my child.
How will they all learn, after all, to socialize? How will they learn of tolerance? Of natural, logical consequences? How will they learn to fend for themselves? How will they learn to fix conflicts on their own?
Hubs and I have agreed to only butt in when it's really critical to do so, and hopefully, not with an overreaction. In a previous post, I mentioned about just telling a bigger child CAREFUL PLEASE after he kicked Yakee down the slide. I saw what he did, and gauged that it was more a push using his feet than actual kicking, and knew that Yakee was not hurt.
Make no mistake, I was annoyed. But aside from disciplining a function and privilege of parents, I also knew that the boy only wanted Yakee to go down the slide already. He can't really foresee the horrors that we parents foresee, and for us to fully protect Yakee from such, he'd have to live in a vacuum where he couldn't be hurt.
I won't mind other parents directly telling Yakee not to push, or something isn't nice. But I certainly hope they say it nicely, not ranting and raving like a lunatic. And I certainly hope they won't hurt my child because that'd be WAR TO THE NTH LEVEL.
And I certainly won't mind if someone tells me that my son is actively pushing other kids. Of course, I wouldn't want him hurting someone seriously. But I hope parents don't also automatically assume that a child is not being taught right just from one instance of misbehaving. If a parent approaches me with judgment dripping from his demeanor, I will be put on the defensive.
I also hope parents won't expect me to correct my child to please them... in ways according to their standards. Because I will do so only in the way I see fit (and maybe according to my mood).
I remember, from a parenting seminar, that part of why parents get angry when their child misbehaves in public is that they feel their child is a reflection of them. THAT IS WRONG. A child misbehaves because of so many things, from wanting to get attention to being hungry/sleepy/tired. It's seldom about us. It's about them, how they're feeling, what they're thinking.
I will admit that I have snatched up my child and gotten really angry because I was ashamed of how he was behaving badly with his cousin. I have even spanked him once or twice. But I know letting my temper, and shame, get the better of me actually impedes my discipline. It takes humongous effort to snatch my child away now to put him in a timeout and talk to him about what's happening. I can't say yet if it's effective but both of us are a work-in-progress.
I have a cousin who had to grow up without his Mom, and who had to learn to be self-sufficient very early in life because his Dad was always working... and later on, he had to grow up apart from his parents who worked and lived abroad. He was a terrible child. He threw toys at us, wouldn't share, etc. He'd spit at us, punch us, throw terrible tantrums. And we were all at least 8 years older than him.
He grew up without parents. His caregivers basically just cooked food for him and laundered his clothes. And yet he grew up with such consideration of his parents' sacrifice. He's now a mild-mannered 23-year old. Girls would be lucky to find a man like him, faithful, gentle, caring, thoughtful.
If we, as parents, are encouraged to look at the bigger picture and not nitpick each and every one of our child's (mis)behavior... then why not that of another child's? One instance of misbehaving does not a criminal make. Plus, even quiet boys can grow up to be criminals. A lot can happen between their days in the play yard and 'the real world.' So why would we reinforce something we can easily disregard by commenting on it, and making a child feel bad?
I do not support bullying. But I think children have to learn to be able to put up with their share of pushing and shoving for them to be able to face up to real bullies. It's not just giving them a chance to defend themselves, it's also enabling them to discover their strengths. Some kids are good in ignoring, some in redirecting angst, some in humor. Plus, how will they learn not to do it if they don't know how it feels to be hurt, rejected or ostracized?
I also think children have to do their own share of pushing and shoving, for them to know about their boundaries, for them to learn that it may feel good, but won't always get them what they want.
Parenting is indeed so hard. There is that balance that has to be continuously walked... I just hope that other parents know that there can be no striking that balance if all they want is to keep their children safe. They have to also want their child to be self-sufficient as well.