Sunday, September 27, 2009

Avoiding the Mama Drama: Oh No You Didn't!

I wrote about a play date the other day when the topic of breastfeeding came up. We definitely had a lot to say but the next topic that came up was even more emotionally charged: Other folks disciplining our children.

This is a touchy subject because plenty of us realize it isn’t always a bad thing if by disciplining you mean having words. Most of us can remember a day when you didn’t dare act up in front of another mother; they were just as capable of giving you the business as your own was. It wasn’t something we liked at the time but in retrospect it’s easy to see that it was a good thing. It made us think twice.

Though lots of people keep their mouths shut these days, I admit I have spoken sternly to children I’ve seen destroying private property as well as kids who use foul language in front of mine. If your mom isn’t there taking your inventory, I feel negligent as an adult to stand idly by.

As we talked there seemed to be a consensus. None of us felt it was inappropriate for another adult to say something to our kids if they were misbehaving unless, and this is key, we were already taking care of it. Has this ever happened to you? I don’t know if it bothers me more because there seems to be an assumption that I’m incompetent or if it’s because I figure my kid doesn’t need to be ganged up on.

Once, years ago when my oldest children were little, one of them did something they shouldn’t have. As soon as I realized what happened I began speaking to the child and dealing with the situation. Within seconds someone chimed in. Then another! I have never corrected this person’s children before because a) I didn’t want the drama and b) she was always present. I was furious! I guess it was more to do with feeling judged than worrying about my child.

A few days ago I was folding clothes and selected a Dr. Phil episode on the Tivo. Part of the show was dedicated to two major news stories about strangers not only having words with a child in front of the parent but actually laying hands on them. It’s hard to even imagine. In August a man in an Atlanta GA Walmart slapped a two year old several times (at least four times police say) after warning her mother to keep her quiet. Just recently a woman in a Cincinnati OH Salvation Army store overheard a child talking back to his mother. She grabbed the two year old from his mother and began spanking him. These stories struck a chord with my friends and I because sandwiched in between these two events was one that hit closer to home.

Earlier this month our friend Dana was at the library with her children and their family’s in-home care provider. Dana has two children with autism and one was having a particularly rough time. The caregiver lead him outside and at some point witnesses say a man backhanded him and used some pretty disgusting language. He claims he only swatted his bottom and it’s become a matter for the courts to sort out. One way or the other, hands were laid on someone else’s child. It was something that brought out the Mama Bear in every one of us.

So what do you think? We can all agree that putting the slap down on a stranger (or anyone else for that matter) is WRONG but how about correcting someone else’s child?
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  1. if kids are misbehaving & i'm the only adult witnessing it-i ALWAYS say something! i feel like i would be negligent ignoring it! however, i do make sure to use constructive criticism! they don't need an over-reaction! just a little conscience to help them make better choices! :)

  2. I was in Wal Mart with Justin one day, a couple years ago and he was throwing one of his major tantrums. At the time he was going through a major tantrum phase and we quickly realized that there was no way to talk him out of it (without bribery, another topic all together)or work him through it. Unfortunately, I HAD to have whatever I was purchasing at the time and couldn't just leave the store. The old lady in front of me turned around and informed me that if I didn't smack his mouth she was going to. I was too shocked to respond! Luckily, the young mother in front of her turned around at this point and told her to mind her own business. Amen to her sista! Of course, now I can think of a hundred things I should have or could have said at the time. I've never had anything physical happen to my kids, but on the other hand, it drives me insane when I'm trying to ignore a tantrum (trying to teach my child that this kind of behavior doesn't get a response, or at least the one they want) and an elderly person will turn around and start making a game of it with the child who is misbehaving. What has that just said to my child? Whenever this happens, I see a window open up and all my effort and time an patience go flying out. Exhausting!

  3. I have no trouble with having words with a child who is physically or emotionally harming other children, if no other parent is taking action. I might even ask the child to accompany me to see their parent and have words with the parent. But, they are always calm, compassionate words (I hope!). I am always thankful if someone informs me of my child behaving grieviously. I will not tolerate use of physical force or verbal assult, however, as that is abuse and no one deserves abuse.
    I only use physical means on a child that the parent has given me permission to do so. (not beating them, but removing them from a situation or calming them down)


So, what do you think?