Other People’s Children

I did something today that I don’t do often enough to remember the last time it happened. I told another person’s child that she was being very mean. I’m very much in the leave it alone camp when it comes to bad behavior and other people’s children. I would rather not be around bratty kids, and prefer to just remove myself and my kids from the situation. If my kids are the bratty ones, play time is done, with a lot of apologies going around. To be fair, I had never been a fan of other people’s children. Never babysat, never wanted to hold babies, never thought kids were particularly special – to the great offense of several moms who didn’t get why I wasn’t smitten with their special little snowflakes. I had nothing against them, I just wasn’t wired to be maternal or nurturing that way. It took becoming a mom myself for me to really appreciate and delight in children. But even now, my tolerance level for bratty behavior is what you might call nonexistent low. Including coming from my own kids.

We were at a play place today. As my kids were jumping around in one of those bouncy houses, one of them came out and whined that somebody bumped into him. I told my whining child that he was in a bouncy house and if he wanted to keep bouncing in the bouncy house that he was going to have to suck it up. Is it even possible for a bunch of kids to play in one of those things without knocking each other all over the place? I have yet to see it. My kids know that if they are going to gripe about it, we will leave. And if they’re going to come running out crying like they’ve been shot, they better be more than just offended. There better be blood or bruises. Some other kid better have actually intentionally hurt them, and not just accidentally bumped into them. Harsh? Maybe. But who likes a cry baby? Anybody? You? No? I didn’t think so. Me neither. Rosalie bailed while toddling around the place today and another mom gasped. Rosalie got up, clapped for herself, and kept on toddling with a smile on her face. If she’d hurt herself I would have picked her up but she was fine. I was right there. If my 13 month old isn’t a cry baby, her older brothers sure don’t get to be ones.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have heard other parents who have this same attitude, use it as an excuse to allow their kids to treat other people’s children like crap. Including my own. Pushing, shoving, shutting Andreas in a closet with the light turned off and holding the door shut, being mean, name calling, and bullying. That is so not what I’m talking about. Expecting kids to hold their own while playing, and work things out on their own sometimes is so not the same thing as allowing them free reign to be little jerks.

So why’d I tell some random kid she was being very mean? Well, when a kid won’t stop shrieking and crying over nothing, is pushing smaller kids around and yelling at them and then comes after mine – while her mother ignores it all, despite the fact that everybody else in earshot is wondering why somebody hasn’t shut that kid up yet – I’m going to intervene. So as the little darling was pushing Olivier off of a toy and yelling in his face, I knelt down, took Olivier’s hand, looked at the surprised young banshee and very calmly told her, “you are being very mean.” You can judge me. I’m good with it. I’d never yell at, or discipline, or be mean back at a kid who was hurting one of mine. They are just kids after all. I’d be more inclined to tell their parents off to be honest. But I will kindly and calmly tell a child that bullying is not okay. I’ve done it a few times. They always seem like it’s a huge revelation that nobody has told them about before. As has happened in the past, the child looked at me with huge eyes and just…stopped. Her mother finally noticed the commotion as I was comforting Olivier who had no idea why the kid came after him, and another small boy was crying on the floor because she shoved him off of the toy as well. She took the kid and sat her down with her iPhone to calm her down. I shook my head and walked away.

I don’t know how to best discipline every kid on the planet. I do know that doing NOTHING is not the best way to discipline any freaking kid on the planet. Can we at least try? Put in the effort? Is that really so much to ask? I feel like I’m failing forward all the time with this, so this isn’t coming from a place of having it all figured out.

I hate having to discipline my kids. I do not enjoy redirecting toddlers 20 times in a row. I do not enjoy enforcing time out or early bed time or leaving an activity that is enjoyable – or heck, leaving an activity that isn’t enjoyable but has to be done (like the grocery store). I do not enjoy hearing about my kid getting kicked out of the lunch room, or making messes in the  bathroom at school or confessing that he’s saying things he shouldn’t be saying or that the roughing around went too far and somebody got hurt. I do not enjoy stopping in the middle of a busy mall to have an out of hand 3 or 4 year old do a time out in whatever chair or corner is available. It is time consuming and it sucks, but it’s better than placating them and rewarding bad behavior. I also do not enjoy knowing that people are judging me for leaving the play ground or grocery with a crying kid. Judging for the time out in the middle of the mall – and a nice day to you too meddling security guard on a power trip. But I’d rather be judged for raising my voice when my kids are out of hand or enforcing time out or apologies or taking the tantruming kid home – than be judged for doing nothing while my kids run wild screaming like banshees or hurting other kids.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’m probably an awful person for venting all of this out loud. After all, we aren’t allowed to say anything bad about other people’s children. Calamity will result. Mothering is hard, how could I be so judgemental. Blah, blah, blah. But you know, I’m just sort of over it. I’m not trying to make nice anymore like I did when my first and second born were little. I don’t need the other mommies to think I’m nice. Because I’m way more tired these days than I was back then, and I want my outings with my kids to be enjoyable for all of us. I’m such a jerk, I know.

Little kids have bad days. They’re kids and that’s cool. You know what else I saw today? I saw a girl, probably Andreas’ age – so 5ish, having a complete melt down. Crying, falling apart, just losing it. I’m not sure why, I didn’t see what happened. She just wasn’t having it. The poor kid was done. What happened next may amaze you. Her Dad picked her up and carried her out compassionately, and they went home. They hadn’t been there long. He was enjoying the conversation with the group he was with. He was probably annoyed that this was how the outing was ending. But it was time to go. For his daughter’s sake and everybody else’s. I had crazy respect for that Dad today. I was silently fist bumping him for being awesome. We were leaving at the same time, because Olivier was falling apart and I was trying to avoid a full blown melt down too. I’m pretty sure nobody was silently fist bumping me. Olivier is obnoxious when he’s losing it. They were all probably glad we were leaving. I know I was.

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The boys were having a hard time getting along one evening, so they had to sit together at the table – hands on table, head on hands. This has proven an effective time out method – works at home and when we’re out. They calm down quickly and we can carry on usually pretty smoothly in no time.

So what say you, internet? Would you have said something to the bigger kid who was pushing yours around? What do you think when other people’s children are brats? Are you annoyed and judgemental like I am, or do you really not care and think people like me need to lighten up? What do you do when it’s YOUR kids acting up? Are you mean like me? Has a mall security guard ever given you crap for putting your kids in time out in public?

copyright (c) 2013 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

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4 thoughts on “Other People’s Children

  1. I’m with Shelley.

    I have often corrected other people’s kids when the parents aren’t around or they (like the parent you cited) seem disconnected from their sense of parental responsibility. I don’t look to punish or even scold the other child unless we’re familiar with each other. But I will intervene when they aren’t playing nice, and tell them why in a calm and “teacher-like” manner. If there is an objection, then I hope that huffy Mommy takes her Precious away from where I will talk to them again. That means my kids can play nicely again without Prince(ss) Brat pushing the boundaries of playground behavior.

    I love people, but as you confessed, I’ve never really enjoyed other people’s small people. If it was a sibling, I loved and understood them better (and I was a foster child, so I had MANY siblings). Just being small and immature didn’t make them adorable to me, either.

    In spite of my limitations, God saw fit to make my yard the “neighborhood play yard” more than anyone else’s when I was raising kids. It’s probably because I was home when their parents weren’t, more than anything else. I think the kids liked coming over because they knew what to expect, too; and that no one would get to “stir the pot” and make things troublesome. Don’t get me wrong, we had lots of fun and hilarity – so I’m not claiming a lot of structure. But there was order, and rules to comply with – or “you could go home and come back when you think you can cooperate. B’bye.” :friendly smile:

    Oh, and I believed in putting toys on “time-outs” too. If they are fighting over a toy, then the toy is the source of the problem. It went on top of the fridge and they could find another toy to play with instead. The toy would come down only just before bedtime when all the toys got put away.

    Yeah, I was a meanie. But I had as much fun as they did some days when the rules were working :).

    Fist bump!

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  2. kindness is hands-down the most important thing i teach, and then expect from, my kids, so i’m with you on speaking up. i am actually surprised that anyone would disagree with this. i intervened at a park when one kid was bullying another kid (and it wasn’t even affecting any of mine). i couldn’t handle it. he was being downright cruel and his (much smaller) victim was weeping.
    i bet there were people fist-pumping you! i know i would’ve been. some of the best moments (in the middle of those horrific moments) happen when other parent’s give you that “it was me 5 minutes ago (or even 10 years ago)” smile, and you almost have a secret little laugh over it. i don’t know how many times i’ve carried leyland under my arm football style out the door of a public place. HA! keep on, jenna. i like your style!

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  3. Oh boy, are you ever right about that! The mall is not my favorite place, and my kids aren’t huge fans of the place either thank goodness. I must admit that the mall security guard thing happened when my oldest was 3 and I had left my second (a baby then) at home if I recall correctly. Times have sure changed for us!

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  4. I think you did the right thing. I’ve corrected other people’s kids too when they are being jerks or out of control. I also expect my kids to suck things up and not be crybabies- there are simply too many of them for me to have to listen to that. When I see other people’s kids acting like brats it completely annoys me but I also like to use it as a teaching moment for my kids and let them know that the kind of behavior we are heaving or witnessing is NOT going to be acceptable from them. I cant say I’ve ever had a mall guard come at me @ the mall but I also rarely take my kids to the mall with me…I loathe the mall and its even worse if I have to bring my kids.

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