We all have those friends that are just a few steps ahead of us on the child-rearing timeline. Those friends whose brains you pick for wisdom and guidance and validation for your own parenting tactics. Well, I have one of those friends. Er...many of those friends. And someone recently enlightened me that “some outside influences are not worth the turmoil their visits create for your family. Friends and family included.”
I appreciate when someone delivers me that aha moment. It is the sweetest relief when I need it most. Liberating. Comforting especially, when guilt begins to haunt you for the feelings your feel.
My own childhood memories are marked by the constant presence of relatives. Those that were present and those that weren’t. Those that were nurturing and those that weren’t. Those who took a genuine interest in my existence and those that didn’t. Not to mention the numerous aunties and uncles not related to me by blood, but embraced me with friendship and respect.
Now that I’m a parent, I want the same for my children. The warmth and security that comes from being part of a big family. But what do you do when association with a particular family member(s) does not have a healthy effect on the behavior of your children and/or mental health of you and your spouse?
I have found in recent years that one of the biggest challenges facing my husband and me is the fine line between parenting our children effectively according to our own rules and values, and letting other exert their influences and opinions. Or worse, the behavior of their children negatively affecting the hard work we've invested in establishing good manners and morals in our own children.
I am learning to discipline along with every other parent out there. And sometimes even the word itself makes me cringe, because it doesn’t even sound like the right word. I mean, we hardly ever spank or raise our voices, but we do try to lead by example and react appropriately to negative behaviors, and of course, praise the good. But at times…rare times, when all else fails, we resort to spanks.
I’m just going to put it out there.
Our soon-to-be 3-year old is mocking his peers more so now than ever before. He’s picked up a few cute new phrases from friends or cartoons, and we love that he is full of opinions and tastes and an ability to vocalize his needs and desires. But he’s also picked up some pretty hideous behaviors like spitting, hissing, screaming, and even once used a phrase “don’t talk to me.” All of which can be identified with one specific child friend. Out of all the children we associate with on a daily basis, it's kind of sad that we can connect the dots so easily, but it's truly that evident. Through observation, the parenting style appears rather permissive... indifferent maybe. And the child’s tantrums and antics are indulged, so-to-speak. He's a nice child when everything is on par with his expectations, but the slightest disappointment makes him snap. There’s little to no control placed on his reactions/responses -- he becomes very...VERY hostile and defiant when frustrated -- and it makes for a rather uncomfortable visit for our family. More so, a very confusing situation for our toddler. In my 14 years of being a mom, I've never witnessed behavior to this extent. It scares me really. We try to teach our children how to gather behavior cues from his/her environment, and in the presence of this overly-negative conduct, I feel like we’re missing the mark.
With small children there are often the issues of discipline, safety and diet. As children get older it may be attitudes about religion, culture or how we interact with others. The good news is that as children get older we can discuss the inconsistencies with them and they can learn that different people make different choices and choose different paths in life.
Until then, what do we do? How do I explain to a 3-year old that his friend's behavior is unacceptable? My husband and I are a united front when it comes to raising our children, and the subject matter is at the forefront of many conversations -- we're learning and tweaking things as we go -- but the only solution we know of for the current problem at hand is complete separation.
I will be the first to say 'there is no perfect parenting,' but the absence of discipline, in my opinion, is the absence of teaching. And the absence of being taught is a disservice to a child.
Maybe we’re going to be okay even though there will always be not-okay parts of this. but I’d like to ask you, dear reader, have you approached a similar problem?