Tuesday, September 22, 2009

THOUGHTS AND CONFRONTATIONS ON OTHER PEOPLE'S PARENTING

Hi. Sorry to be so quiet, I've felt kind of dull and uninteresting lately and didn't want to inflict myself on anyone. Plus, we are starting a new schedule which is always exhausting. And I had awful food poisoning (did I mention that?) which managed to burst all the capillaries in my neck and face. I had little pinpricks of blood all over, it was weird. And ugly. I hid in the house until it healed.

The babeola is back in music therapy classes and there are a ton of kids in her class now--I guess word got around about how cheap and great the classes were. So it's utter chaos; the room is hot, none of the new mommies understand the rules and they talk all class long (which is a no-no for music therapy). However, I did ask one of the music class mommas out on a date. We had a good vibe the first session (her daughter is a ham and poked the babeola in the belly button). I was always sorry I didn't try to get to know her, so when I saw her at this session, I held her at gun point until she wrote down my email address.

Okay, there was no gun, but if there had been, I would have used it.

Anyway, hopefully that will blossom into a nice mom and toddler friendship. We shall see.

Also, can I just say that sometimes rough and tumble kids who push and hit their way through play encounters, are not 'just born that way I guess'. Especially if the parents never ever take the time to teach their children it's not okay to hit. What kills me is the surprise the parents have at how badly their little ones bully. In the same breath they'll express shock and then tell me they don't intervene in physical altercations between kids at home. 

It makes me want to shout 'Duh' at the top of my lungs. Hello, cause, meet effect. These kids a) don't know they're not supposed to hit and b) don't know how to say sorry because it has never been required and c) Probably aren't so hot on the empathy front since it is never modeled for them and d) They don't share because, in their house, might makes right.

And the poor babeola? Is not used to getting the crap beaten out of her. It doesn't even occur to her to hit back (although she has mastered the passive aggressive shove. You know, the one that goes 'if I just keep gently bumping against you,edging you microinch by microinch to the left, soon you'll have to let go of that toy and it will be all MINE! Mwahahaha'). We do not hit at home or anyplace else. So these smack happy kids are a real shock.

Some days I want to lean over and whisper in those kids ears,  "Newsflash. She's taller and heavier than you, once she figures that out, I wouldn't want to be you."

Note: I am not talking about you and your kid. Only the kids and parents I have met in the last week. Trust me when I say it is egregious and outside the norm. There's no hyperbole in describing these encounters.

The other class we attend is a nature based preschool type class at the local wild animal rescue. The class is fantastic, but one of the kids has an older relative taking care of her. This older relative's only parenting/discipline method is spanking. Oh, and threats of spanking. That's it. The entire discipline repertoire.

So in a little over an hour, this kid was spanked about 6-8 times. I lost count of the threats. The kid is a handful, no question. One of those extreme, sensory seeking personality types. The acting out is partly caused by the spanking because her needs are unrecognized and unmet.

At one point she was crying and having a meltdown because she finished her snack. To my perspective, the child had really enjoyed the snack and was having a hard time with the transition to it being gone. The way I parent in these situations is to empathize and verbalize a child's feelings and help them move on. The relative however, whipped out the old spanking threat. Um, yeah, I always find hitting an effective way to manage transitions and emotions. Spanking teaches real life coping skills. Whenever I am sad, I ask my husband to just wallop me good. Not!

So at one end of the spectrum, we have the inappropriate use of spanking as one issue. At the other end, we have the issue of this relative being so old that she a) can't outrun the child when she escapes from the classroom (repeatedly) and b) is oblivious to things like the child eating craft supplies that are choking hazards.

Now, look, I am not a fan of spanking, but I can deal with it since so many families use it as a discipline technique.Spanking is not the hill I'm willing to die on. But there is spanking that is used effectively and spanking that is neglect. This was neglect. I say neglect as opposed to abuse because this poor kid's emotional needs were completely ignored. This is far more detrimental, both short term and long term, than the pain and physical effects of a spanking. Long term, this is how you make people who can only feel loved when they are being treated like dirt.

So it turned out--lucky me!--that these people were parked next to me. Of course, the child didn't want to go in her carseat. The less her needs are met, the worse her behavior, it was just so obvious to me. Of course the way the relative handled this was to spank the child repeatedly. And of course, the child was not in the car seat.

I really have to wonder at what point it occurs to the caretaker that the spanking is not working. Because we have passed the hour mark in this story and the spanking is continuing, as is the poor behavior from the child. Hey look, another 'hello cause, meet effect' moment.

So I ended up intervening. I have never done that before. It was scary. The last thing I want to do is get in the middle of this stuff, but I could not bear to drive off knowing that child was going to be hit repeatedly. I asked if the relative needed any help and offered some cookies to use as a bribe.

The spanking stopped. The child sat in her car seat. Cookies were administered liberally.

And now I wonder how I am going to stand witnessing this awful situation for the next 3 months. Further, I really don't want the babeola to see an adult hitting a child repeatedly. If it continues (and I am sooooo praying this was a one-off experience, that we caught them on a really bad day) I will feel the need to speak up not just for the sake of that child, but for that of the babeola too.

Which, ugh. What would you do?

2 comments:

2 Toddlers and Me said...

Wow. What a situation. That's great that you stepped in, it had to be pretty scary, I'm glad it worked out well and maybe it pulled the parent out their little world long enough to second guess their approach. Good for you.

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Jenners said...

This is tough one ... such a touchy subject. It is hard to confront others about stuff like this and I probably would only do it if I really felt a child was in severe danger. I'm always afraid of making a situation worse for the child. I have a mommy friend and I really don't agree with how she disciplines her child (she has NO follow-through) and it is creating a brat who is unpleasant to be around. I've tried to be subtle about it and not hurt her feelings but mention that maybe her threats would work more if she actually followed through with them. But it is hard to do. ultimately, I tend not to call them too much as it is stressful. Good luck.