As parents, we often run into the issue of needing to parent our children in public or in the presence of others outside the immediate family. As the mother of a toddler about to turn three next month and a one year old who just found her footing and wants to explore every square inch of any and every place new to her, I am faced with this on a regular basis. Honestly, I assumed other adults were typically respectful of individual parenting processes, but in the last year or so, a few things have happened to prove this is not the case. I expect every parent faces this same situation at one time or another, so I wanted to discuss it here and present my opinions while also seeking other’s perspectives for contrast and collective insight.
First, these are my ground rules that you’d think didn’t need to be said out loud:
Do not hit my child.
Do not yell at my child.
Do not scold my child for acting his or her age.
If you have an issue with something my child is doing, bring it to me- do not address my child directly unless you can do it with love and compassion.
Know that if I see you being harsh with my child or forcing them into a disciplinary situation that I don’t agree with, I will say something and remove him from the situation.
Now, let me elaborate:
-No one hits my children. Period. I don’t care if you’re family, clan or otherwise a valuable member of my collective family and extended family unit. If you think a swat is necessary to get your point across, realize this is not your place- it’s mine. Speak to me if you have an issue.
-Don’t speak harshly to my children. If you want to get them to not do something, be polite. “Please don’t touch that” or “Please use your quiet voice” or, “Let’s try whispering”, “that wasn’t nice, please give that toy back to her” is all okay- but I’m not going to be cool with anyone doing anything more than this without consulting me first. So the rule is, if you feel you need to speak harshly to my children to get your point across, talk to me about it and ask me if it’s okay. Don’t just assume you have a right to speak that way to my kids.
-DO NOT scold them for acting their age. If my three year old is acting like a three year old in a safe and appropriate fashion in an environment he should be allowed to do so, just because it’s annoying to you, doesn’t make his behavior inappropriate. Suck it up. He’s a toddler and he has a right to act like it. I am not going to force my child into some neo-Victorian “be seen and not heard” cage just because you have no patience. We live in 2013 and in our home and our lives, we act like it. If you don’t like it, don’t come over.
-If my children are being disruptive, come and tell me about it so I can do something to fix the issue. A quick and respectful, “Hey, just a head’s up, your son is hitting people with his tricycle and no one wants to say anything but it’s causing an issue, could you do something?” or, “your child and his friends are running around really loudly and it’s becoming hard to have a conversation over their yelling”, or even -“your child hit the dog, can you talk to him?” and I’d be out there in two seconds to fix the problem and help direct his attention to another activity and make sure he understood his behavior was not okay. What you DO NOT do, is bark at my toddler for playing in an environment where he does something he has always been allowed to do. This just causes confusion because he’s doing something that is natural and normal for him, and you suddenly tell him it’s not okay.
-If my child is in your environment, your home and he’s not following your rules, politely asking him to abide by them is perfectly acceptable and expected. My kids need to learn that they absolutely have to respect others’ homes and the rules in those homes and adults in general. However- if an issue comes up where they’re not listening to you and not following directions, before escalated action is taken, the respectful thing to do is ask a parent to step in. If either parent is present, there’s NO reason for you to feel justified in parenting on our behalf.
-If you don’t like my parenting style, too bad. Seriously. I don’t care. Here’s all you need to know:
-My children are not spoiled. Not that I feel like I need to explain that to you to prove that I’m doing my job, but it’s just a matter of fact. They’re not. They get told “no” all the time. I tell them no, I deny them what they want if it’s not good for them and I raise my voice when it’s necessary. We have a “time out” of sorts, and we ALWAYS follow through appropriately if we say “do this again and x will happen”.
The bottom line here, is this reality- These aren’t your kids. You don’t have to like the way I parent my children. I parent with compassion, respect and love. If you would rather see me yell, swat and throw them into the corner or worse every time they acted their age, that’s fine… you’re welcome to think I’m a horrible person and a failure as a parent. Your opinion does not rule my decisions and I don’t care if you don’t like it. In fact, here’s a news flash- your comfort level is not a ruling factor in my parenting process.
My kids are awesome little people. They’re very sweet, loving and trusting people and as they grow into their own opinions and personalities, I refuse to have hate or fear be a ruling factor in why they do or don’t do things. I am working very hard and have since the day they were born, to provide them a deep sense of security and confidence. They are learning to have an intrinsic motivation for doing the right thing because the right thing is the compassionate, loving thing to do. Respecting others and others’ rules is part of that process, but my children are still VERY young and these are learned understandings that come with time, practice, patience and direction. That direction needs to be provided in a loving way, or their perspective will be skewed before I have a chance to help them solidify it. They love people and my three year old calls everyone “friends”. I will not screw that up for him just because some entitled friend or family member thinks he can bark orders at him or someone thinks she’s allowed to “swat” my kid because he didn’t listen to her and well, she’s family, so it should be okay.
I am teaching them to follow directions because it’s the loving and/or safe thing to do. Not because if they don’t, they’ll get yelled at or hit or punished with pain or belittled in front of others and I’m okay with it if you disagree with me.
I’m a grown woman and I don’t need you to validate my choices as a parent. What I do need, is for you to respect that I’m the parent when in the presence of my children and act like an adult if you have an issue. Bring your issue to me, so we can have an open dialogue about it.
Now that my ground rules are out in the open, I am opening this up for conversation on the Facebook page. I’d love to know what your thoughts are- please go here and comment!