Thursday, October 19, 2006

Grapple, grapple

I have a hard time admitting this, but I have learned something about myself over the course of the last few months. I tend to get incredibly indignant about the way other people parent their children when it comes to protecting Sam. When I take him out to a playground, a store, a playgroup, what have you, I am right there with him when it comes to interacting with other kids when it looks like there might be trouble. I am there helping him to share and trade toys back and forth, to make sure no one gets pushed away from the steering wheel and that everyone gets a turn. I cannot tell you how often I find I am the only one mediating though, how often other parents stand their and watch their child take a toy, slap Sam's hands, push past him, and they do nothing. It makes me want to scream, say something rude, or glare until my eyes pop out and/or their head explodes. I never, in actuality, do more than glare mildly and then complain to my husband. Here's an example:

Yesterday was dreary and threatening to rain so I decided to take Sam to the Barnes and Noble because they have a train set there, and I thought he'd like it. When we arrived there were two older children already there so I decided to take him over to the story area to play on the stage for a while. When it was clear that the parents of these kids were camped out for the day I decided to let him go over and play. The other two kids proceeded to take train cars from him, gathering them up so that they had them all, and repeatedly stepped between him and the table so that he could not come near. The girl even started to say something to him about how he was too young to play there until she saw me looking at her. Their parents did nothing. They sat in their chairs reading. Personally I do not feel comfortable being the only one to mediate in a situation like that when the parents are RIGHT THERE. Sadly, I decided that Sam and I needed to leave because I was afraid he was really going to get pushed over and his lack of train cars was starting to upset him. Of course, when I picked him up to go he threw a HUGE tantrum and would not stop screaming no matter how I tried to appease him. We ended up leaving the store with him flailing in my arms and sobbing. I felt awful. And yet I do think he needed to be removed from the situation. He was going to have a tantrum anyway if he kept having his cars taken away or it could have been worse with two older kids who specifically did not want him there and two parents who wouldn't even look up from their reading material.

I left with him feeling that we'd both been bullied. I was so pissed that our afternoon had been ruined, at least that's how it felt. I understand that kids will be kids. They don't have to want to play with him. They don't even have to be good at sharing. But they do need to have parents that will supervise enough to let them know that pushing him away from the table is not acceptable. I really need some advice here because I feel like I find myself in this situation over and over again. What am I supposed to do when I am standing there watching a kid be mean to him and their parent does nothing? I mean, clearly these two parents had brought their kids there to play with the train so they could check out for a bit, and I understand the need to check out every so often. And I know their kids were older and maybe they don't really need to deal with this stuff very often anymore. But wasn't this a good opportunity to help their child exhibit some patience with a younger child? Or was I just totally wrong to take Sam somewhere to play with a train where there might be older kids in the first place? I really don't know how I should have handled the situation but as I wiped tears from his eyes and put him in the car I knew that somewhere along the line I had not made the right choice, because he didn't deserve to miss out on something he liked due to the behavior of everyone else. And I know that I get angry and am frustrated by situations like this frequently.

So tell me, am I expecting too much from other parents? Am I totally overprotective/overbearing/over-involved? Would you reprimand another person's child if they didn't? Would you feel comfortable sitting there and mediating while the other parent did nothing? Do you avoid these situations altogether? Do you try and let your child be independent and fend for himself until the bad thing happens rather than removing him in its anticipation? Honest answers please - I'm at a loss.


Anonymous Mir said...

An older child? Hell yeah, I'll tell them to back off. I've actually done it before when an eight-year-old was picking on my two-year-old. And? When I was done, two other mothers applauded me. Apparently this girl had been bullying other children before we got there. But honestly, any child who's bullying a child who's not only 6 years younger, but obviously still a baby needs to be bullied back a bit. I didn't say anything to her parents, but she was sitting with them when we left and when we walked by, I paused just long enough at the table to make her piss her pants.

I would have said something to the children about sharing and him being smaller. If they had attitude, I would ask where their parents are. If they have ANY dignity, they would back off because tattling to mommy and daddy is something they don't want. If that doesn't work, I'd take my child away, but I'd say something to the parents in passing.

If you're holding a screaming child and you inform them that their kids put him in that state, if they're anything like most parents, they're gonna be embarassed and say something to their kids.

That really bites for Sam because he probably didn't understand what happened. And for you too! I'm sure it made you want to lavish him with his own train table and make sure you never had to encounter punks at the book store again. Heck, I wanted to buy him one after reading that!!

3:18 PM  
Blogger Allie said...

Tough question to answer Beth. I am on your side completely though. I often find that people are not involved enough with their children - irregardless of their age.

If I were in your situation, I could honestly say that I would have told both of the older kids that it is kind to share. And if that didn't happen, I likely would have made a comment to my son that we would go and find a better place to play because no one there was sharing here. That might not be the right thing to do, but perhaps one of those parents would have heard that comment. And, it would demonstrate to my son what was right and what was wrong.

I would never let my son run wild in a public place on his own and I am ALWAYS within a step or two from him, watching him. I do let him try and figure it out for himself and if that doesn't happen, I will then intervene. My son doesn't always win the battles but at least he is learning.

What it really comes down to is parenting. I often find that I am alone in my parenting as no one in my social realm to me properly parents their child. These children don't know when they have crossed the line and often are the ones that dictate to their parents. I get the greatest sense of satisfaction when one of these parents marvel over my son; at how well he listens, how polite he is and how good he is with other children. That is all of the reinforcement that I need to know that I am doing something right.

So go ahead and continue what you are doing with Sam. It is helping to shape him into a secure little boy who knows that even if he were to do something wrong - that he is loved and can come running into Mommy's arms for support. The only wrong way to parent (in my opinion) is to not care or be involved enough.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Mama D said...

I totally don't think it would have been out of line to tell these older children to "Please share a train car." and if they didn't to go over to their parents and ask them if they would please get their children to share. There is absolutely no reason why Sam couldn't have played there with them.

I think it's okay to occasionally abuse the fact that most kids are intimidated by adults and will do what you ask.

I try to stay close to Miss A when we are out with other kids. I make her share and play nice. Occasionally I'll be a few feet away and I'll see her take something or have something taken away from her. I watch carefully to see if I'll have to intervene. Sometimes I think it's good to let kids work it out themselves. It probably improves their interaction skills. But of course if things look like they're going to turn ugly then I'll be over there to handle it.

I share your frustration though. I also feel that some people let their kids get away with such bad behaviour and don't say anything. I have said things before like "Don't push her please!" to a child but loudly enough so the mother could hear and she immediately asked "Is that my son pushing." I would nod and she promptly went to speak to him. Other times a parent will be clueless so I may speak to the child directly and they will often go sucking off to their mom. Which is fine too.

Do I sound harsh? Oh well. You are doing a great job Beth. It is hard to know what to do in different situations. I would just encourage you to go ahead and say something sometimes to either parents or kids. I think ultimately you'll feel a lot less frustrated.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

I think you said it well when you said you felt like you both were "bullied". It's definitely not just you.

In that situation, I would have spoken to the other kids in a gentle voice and said "can you please share a train with Sam?" I would say this with the intention of the parents hearing it. If the kids still wouldn't share and the parents don't do anything either, then that is down right rude and unfortunately I'd probably just remove myself from the situation like you did. Wouldn't want to be around their negative vibe anyway! Sucks for you, though, being the bigger person.

I think this is an epidemic- no wonder kids aren't sharing or being polite- they aren't being TAUGHT it from their lazy, distracted parents. Don't mean to sound harsh, but it is TRUE.

Beth, I so wish you were closer so we could have a playdate!

3:40 PM  
Blogger bon said...

HELLO! This kind of parenting bugs the hootie out of me. I understand "checking out" and I do it too, but NEVER in public with my kids. Granted, I sometimes get carried away chatting with adults, but it is a habit that I have of periodically making sure that what's happening is kosher... most every mom that I'm friends with does this same thing. I't makes for sort of goofy conversations, but I have no illusions about the saintly-ness of my kids. The need to be taught how to be decent human beings, it doesn't just happen. Therefore it's my job to catch it when they push, hit, steal toys, exclude others and the list goes ON. As they get older I back off incrementally to give them time to work out stuff on their own. Are you hovering? I doubt it. Sam is still a little kid! Would you send him alone on a playdate? HECK NO!

Also, yes I would reprimand another's kid if it was obvious that the parent was unavailable to do it themselves in any sense of the word. That's me though, I'm a loud-mouth and pretty bossy to boot. But no, I have never felt comfortable doing it.

By the way, I have had other moms step in and reprimand-mediate MY children, and while I always get a thrill of horror/humiliation I am also glad that there are others looking out for the wellfare of my girls. Who wants their kids to grow up being the ugly, rude and selfish losers?we

6:50 PM  
Blogger New Mama's Nest said...

I know exactly how you feel! And no you're not the only one. Xav is still a bit too young for me to have dealt with this with him but in my former life as a nanny I found that all too often I was the only supervising, mediating and frankly giving a damn... It's sad to me that more parents don't pay attention to what's going on wih their children. And their children don't in turn learn how to properly interact with others.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I would be just as upset as you in that situation. We deal with that all the time, sadly. Older kids just love to bully Cordy, and she falls over easily. I've had to actually grab a 4 year old boy and pull him away from Cordy when he kicked her, after I asked him to leave her alone. It was a mall play area, and his mom was in a nearby store.

Is there any way you could get right up to the table with him and play? The other kids might be less likely to take things away if you're right there playing with him.

11:17 PM  
Blogger mamamilkers said...

I found your blog through Adventures in Babywearing-- and I can relate to this post!

I would also get right in there and "play" as well. That way other kids will be less likely to take the trains or mess with your child because you're literally right there on top of it. If they do take a train, loudly say "we were playing with that, thanks!" and put your hand out for the child to give it back.

This kind of stuff gets much harder at playgrounds where bullies take over swings, slides, etc. In those situations I just remove myself and my daughter.

Could you have promised to go somewhere else fun to play, as well? Maybe it would have lessened the dissappointment your little guy felt.

12:33 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

You could have told those kids in a nice voice to share. I've been there many times. And have done just that.

I does make me angry tho when parents do nothing. And those are the same kids that are being mean in school because their parents aren't teaching them anything at home.

But you know what - my kids get all the praise from their teachers at conference time because we teach our kids to share and to just plain out respect others.

I could go on and on. But Sam will have to learn (when he is older) not to let others bully him. So don't let kids do it now.

12:37 AM  
Anonymous abc momma said...

I think a situation like that is an opportunity for you to teach Sam to be assertive. I might say something like "Sam, ask the other children if they will please give you one of the trains." loud enough for the other children to hear. If the other children don't respond to that, you could ask them directly. If they still don't respond, I would interrupt their parents and ask them for some assistance (are they really zoned out in their book, or are they conciously letting their kids be monsters?).

I think this assertiveness is lacking in society and relationships. I know I expect my husband to read my mind and body language and realize that I would like him to unload the dishwasher. But that just makes me upset when I don't get the results I wanted. I would save myself a tantrum if I would just ask him directly.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Eli's Mom said...

That really other word for it. I'm so sorry those parents thought it was ok to check out in a public and social situation. I ALSO understand the need for a 'break', but it's not ok when if affects other kids that way! I would have LIKED to say "Please share one of your TEN trains with Sam", but I might have just left like you because I would have worried the older children would have said "No" and the parents would have still been on a parenting coffee break, leavign me in a lose-lose... Better luck next time!!!

8:54 AM  
Blogger kate said...

i so feel for you. i suffer the exact same frustration and it baffles me endlessly to see parents who just check out like that.

it happens to us every week when we go to the local farm to pick up our share. there's a boy there who runs around unchecked and always tries to take the toy trucks from bb.

at the library once a boy saw bb asking me for the green train, "where is it, mommy?" and the kid grabbed it off of the floor and hid it behind some books so bb wouldn't get to play with it.

that kind of thing makes me so angry.

my "solution" if you can call it that is to say to the child so parents can hear, "those trains sure look fun! would you share them with bailey, please?" but if he pushes my kid, i'm not so nice. i'll raise my voice to a kid if he puts his hands on mine. that's unnacceptable. and i'll do the same if bb pushes someone else.

i've never (sadly) worked up the nerve to talk to a parent, but if it keep encountering this stuff, i will. we have to advocate for our boys. and show them conflict resolution that's peaceful.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Lynanne said...

Whoa..lots of comments already have said it much better than I can.

I can think of several ways to handle this (none of which I probably would have done at the time. I likely would have left also because I'd be too upset to think of a response)

You could use it as a teaching moment for Sam and say to him, "Oh, I see you don't have any cars to play with. That's not fair. Maybe you could ask that nice girl/boy to share one with you?" Then help him as necessary to ask the other child for what he wants.

Alternatively you can say this loud enough for the parents to overhear. I'm assuming they simply weren't paying any attention. The kids' response to The Look indicate that they know better and were just seeing what they could get away with. You might need to repeat several variations before the parents get a clue. "I see that boy grabbed that car from you. Grabbing is rude. If you still want to play with it, you can ask him to give it back.

In other situations, I've said to my child "I'm sorry you aren't able to play here because of how those children are behaving. Let's go find a store employee to remind them that the toy is here for everyone to use." You'd be amazed how quickly the other children decide they are done playing. ;)

Then there is the direct approach of just talking to the parents. Say, "My son really wants to play with the train. I know your children are having fun with all the cars, but could you ask if they let my son have a few too?"

My last choice would be to confront the children directly. This might put the parents on the defensive. Badly behaved children often have badly behaved parents.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Man. I had an awesome post and came back to see what others had said and see that my post didn't post. (insert swear word here). Well, everything I had said is stated over and over here by different people. Essentially: With a young kid, you DO need to mediate.

It's ok to say things over-loudly to let a parent hear you talking to their kids.

I'd never ever talk to a parent in a rude tone or indignation cuz someday, trust me, that rude little kid could verrrrrry easily be yours and you could verrrrry easily be caught unaware and slightly checked out!

1:03 PM  
Blogger amyjane said...

Ouch! This kind of thing puts the fear of toddlerhood in me! I consider myself pretty overprotective--I have to mentally coach myself to let my little guy take some risks. I just hate that as he gets bigger, we will find ourselves in more and more of the situations and it will be quite a while until he can mediate for himself.
Before Baby, I was a sixth grade teacher for several years. It's interesting how these types of dynamics translate up. For some interesting reading, you should look for a book called "Queen Bees and Wannabes," or probably more pertinent to this post, "Queen Been Moms and Kingpin Dads." I learned a lot about parenting dynamics from them, even though they are primarily about older kids.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous mopsy said...

Call me passive-aggresive, but I probably would have said something like "sorry, Sam, *some* kids simply haven't learned how to share..." and made sure I said it loud enough for the parents to hear.

Not the best way to handle the situation, I freely admit. I can't stand indifferent parents.

You are right when you say you were both bullied. You were.

7:20 PM  
Blogger smartmama said...

oh i hear you-i believe in active parenting- it really annoys me when parents totally leave their kids to their own devices

8:49 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

Well it's all been said. I am so sorry you had that run-in with dumb, unqualified parents who are teaching their children their methods of not caring about bettering our society.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Poopydigs said...

I think you did the right thing in attempting to mediate the situation, and then removing Sam from it when things were not getting any better. Parents need to take an active role with their kids.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I feel the same way. When we're out, I monitor the situations and help guide things along. Too often I see other children not getting the same guidance and, while it bothers me, I guess I've come not to expect too much. You can only do what you know best.

I don't think you can expect all parents to be as attentive, for hundreds of reasons. I wouldn't reprimand another child, but what I do is let my boy know that not everyone is raised properly and sometimes people can be rude, mean, clueless, careless, etc.

One recent incident that comes to mind is from a recent trip to a local theme park. We were waiting on line, rather impatiently, for a fire-engine ride. There was a clear line, but there's a backdoor entrance (actually, the exit), and by the time my son was ready to ascend the engine, other parents had let their kids go up the back way. I didn't want to be that guy who either says to the kids or the parents of the kids, 'Hey, it's my son's turn.' I think I'm better than that, frankly. So that's what I told my son--that not everyone is considerate and that we would be better than they were. And when he finally got his turn, we told him how proud we were of his patience and bought him a treat on the way out.

Did I handle it right? I'm not sure.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I am with abc momma. There is nothing wrong with being assertive, and situations like these are perfect opportunities to teach Sam about that.

Being a social worker I have worked with a lot of bullies in my day, and I found that sometimes they really just don't know where the boundaries are. I think that it is perfectly acceptable to set up some boundaries, by saying in a calm, but firm voice, "You need to share." By saying this you are not discipling or the other children, you are parenting your own. You are showing him how to be assertive and you are giving him the message that he is important enough to be treated with respect also.

4:56 PM  

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