Other People’s Kids – What’s the rules?

I’m not a stay at home dad, instead I play the weeknight weekend (WNWE) gig with gusto, throwing myself into the Illiterate family’s life as enthusiastically as possible. There’s been countless pluses; I’ve seen a little person grow in front of my eyes, I’ve made connections with people I never expected, I’ve grown closer to my wife than I ever thought possible and most unexpectedly, realised I love kids.

This was proven to me beyond a doubt when I attended the ‘Grand Opening’ of my local go-there-for-one-thing-come-out-two-hours-later-with-a-socket-set-and-a-new-drill-and-an-out-door-speaker-system hardware store. While there we met up with some good friends we’ve made through my wife’s mothers group and without thinking I went straight over to their little girls to give monster tickles and cuddles. They giggled, I giggled and then they all starting squealing together – as I said – I love kids.

Before you all start saying ‘I tell you, that Kev, he’s pretty much close to perfect. Why if I wasn’t already with <insert appropriate name>…’ in fairness to any partners, I need to point out that I’m not quite that. You see I may love the kids I know, that I’ve seen growing up, that I’ve created relationships with but the little B1$#* at the local shopping centre play area I met last weekend could contract an embarrassing but non-fatal disease all I care! Seriously, at the time I was hoping she would hurt herself. Not ‘hospital’ hurt but enough for her to have to be carried out of the play area by her mother (who had dumped the devil spawn in the play area).

Possible outcome? (Image Credit)

This girl was about 2 years older than mine and mean. Like really mean. Like “I’m going to belittle everything you do mean” and “I’m going to take all the people you were playing away from you and tell you you can’t play with them” or “you can’t do anything because your just a baby, and my brothers better than yours and that’s not even a proper cartwheel” mean.

As an aforementioned WNWE I found myself unprepared for this behaviour. Unprepared for witnessing a future B1$#* in training and unprepared for not seeing a parent diving in and asking, quite plainly, “who do you think you are acting like that!?”

The devil - Miranda Priestly

Devil Spawn grown up (Image Credit)

My wife was also aware of the situation. I mentioned to her that I’d love to give that 4 year old a piece of my mind but she calmly said (as someone used to seeing the day-to-day drama of kids relating would) not to intervene. Instead she caught Miss 2.5’s attention and said “lets go play somewhere else”. When the future Miranda Priestly came up to Mrs Illiterate to enquire as to where we were going, my wife calmly responded “you’re not being very nice so we are going to play somewhere else”.

While walking away I asked Mrs II what the rules were? How would she have acted if devil spawns mother had appeared? Would she say anything. Mrs II said that she wouldn’t say anything unless she was asked how the girl in question had been behaving. And even if asked, Mrs II would first need to gauge how open the mother was to ‘constructive feed-back’. In Mrs II’s experience this means that about 50% of the time, she’ll be able to subtly say “I’m not sure that he/she been playing as nicely as she could”. Mrs II also pointed out that you need to be equally open to the same ‘constructive feedback’.

So what are the rules? In discussing this post with my wife she made the comment that as a parent, it’s your job to advocate for your child, especially when they are too young to do it themselves. There’s a part of me that thinks they’ve got to learn to stand up for themselves but when should that be? Do you step in? Do you tell other parents that the light of their life is far less perfect than they thought?

As always, linking up this Tuesday with Jess’ IBOT at essentiallyjess

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24 Responses to Other People’s Kids – What’s the rules?

  1. musertegan says:

    I watch the interactions for a little while..if my son (3.5) is giving as good as he’s getting then I leave them be. However if said child is following my son around and being a general nasty little bugger then I step in. My son usually just walks away so if a child is following him then I know that he has done the right thing and that an adult needs to step in. There are some nasty little critters out there. Generally the mothers of said children are worse or completely oblivious to their darlings behaviour. One incident involved a child continually harrassing my son (pushing him over, pinching him, yelling in his face) all while the mother watched on. I had to physically remove said childs fingers from my sons shoulder while my son was screaming in pain. The mother was standing next to him the whole time. I let it rip, it’s not something I like doing but it needed to be done.

  2. It’s a hard one. Unless I know the kids and parents in question really well I never intervene – except to remove my kids from the situation. I don’t know how I would feel if I saw a stranger having a go at my kids, so I don’t do it to others. But I do, therefore, make sure I’m around to discipline my kids if need be.
    I’m a new follower from Wholly Listening (www.whollylistening.blogspot.com). Loving your blog :-)

  3. Danya Banya says:

    This is a tricky one. Like if someone brings a toy to the park – do they have to share it? In my house, if you’re not prepared to share it, it stays at home, but there are lots of little princesses out there that can flaunt a much desired toy in front of JJ’s face where that rule plainly doesn’t apply.

    In general I do “parent” other people’s kids, if the behaviour is only a bit off. I try to be calm, nice, helpful and unbiased. This way JJ knows that I’m not expecting one behaviour from her whilst letting others off the hook. But LOTS of times it’s not at all appreciated by the other parents. (especially from WNWE parents I’ve found who let more bad behaviour slide and think the sun shines out their little misses you know what)

    • Kevin says:

      we have the ‘ if you’re not prepared to share it, it stays at home’ rule. We’ll make sure that if a toy is not being played with, that other kids can use it. And I know what you mean about WNWE parents going too easy on the discipline.

  4. I used to intervene by creating a physical barrier, ie, standing next to my child. I also ignored the misbehaving child and praised my child if he exhibited nice behaviour. I would say things like “hitting is not nice”, “sorry, we only have enough food for ourselves” and “where’s your mummy?”

    I used to shadow my son because he went through a short and undesirable stage of being a pusher. We taught him to introduce himself and ask to play and the pushing stopped. If he pushed, he was immediately removed, spoken to, asked to apologise and we would leave.

    I found people’s attitudes to tantrummers (we never even had one) were kind and sympathetic, but a pusher? You were clearly an evil parent, no matter what!

  5. iSophie says:

    I will say something to the child, similar to Mrs II, but probably a little bossier. If I see a child hurting someone else (physically or emotionally), or throwing something dangerous or climbing in areas that they are not allowed.. I tell them to stop and why.

  6. Lydia C. Lee says:

    I would say something to the child, but probably not to the adult, unless they physically hurt my child or another child.

  7. I work with kids a lot so have no qualms about saying something to the child, but in a way to model the speech and behaviour that you’re expecting from them. So no guns blazing or getting too bossy, as that is what you’re asking them not to be.
    I say hail to Mrs II as she handled it perfectly!
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  8. Kelly HTandT says:

    Great post Kev. For me, it depends on the situation. Firstly I wait and see if my kids can handle themselves. They’re very gentle souls but have surprised me with their tendency to stand up against bullies. If they’re not handling it, I’ll pull them aside and explain that the other child is naughty and that they should try and avoid them. BUT, if the kid pushes my buttons, I’m one of THOSE mums. We were at an indoor play centre a few months back and J had reported that a boy was throwing balls at his head. I told him to stay away from the boy. Later I walked over to see J in the corner of the ball pit saying “Please stop!” while this kid threw balls at his head again. So I yelled at the kid “Hey! You! Don’t throw balls at other kids!” I assumed his parent/s would be nearby and come to see what the deal was, I looked around, ready for confrontation, and no one even batted an eye. Perhaps my 5ft self was too intimidating?
    I don’t think anyone has a right to yell at another persons child. But when a parent is clearly not disciplining their own child and that child is aggressive, it’s on. Like Donkey Kong. No one bullies my babies.

    • Kevin says:

      I think you touched on a good point, with your ‘No one bullies my babies’. On a rational level I want to let them figure it out but seriously, mess with little girl and you mess with all 178cm of me.

  9. miss.cinders says:

    The Mrs handled it like I would.

    Honestly it depends on their age and the situation. And the other kids parent…

    We’ve dealt with future B’s at school where the parent condones the behavior. All I could do was get on the teachers cases and keep them aware, and try to boost TEM10’s confidence as much as possible.

    When it comes to the teens, nothing puts a teen bully in their place better than big words that they haven’t a clue what they mean. Last night on Facebook I had words to a teen who was being a disrespectful ass to my Gravel by telling him I “wasn’t in the mood for having to intellectually kick his arse I was too tired” and he needed to go to bed. He backed off instantly because he knew he was going to end up looking more of an arse than he already did.

    Unless you have a good relationship with the kids parents, you’re usually wasting your breath letting them know their kid is being a bully. Sometimes you strike it lucky, other times you wish you had shut your mouth.

    Happy iBOT :)

  10. Roshni says:

    Loved how Mrs II handled it! I would probably use similar lines when they are that small. Once they are elementary school age, they need to have learned how to stand up for themselves, because you’re not going to be there at recess, and even though there are teachers to supervise, one can’t expect them to have eyes on every kid!

  11. It’s a difficult situation to be in – I am always watching my boys and if the “pushing” from the other child is relentless I physically step in and be the voice my boys “lack”
    But the conversation is constant in our house, saying “stop, I don’t like it” and voicing your opinion – let’s hope they catch on one day xx
    Josefa from #teamIBOT

  12. It’s tricky, I think your Mrs handled it really well and that’s probably what I would do too. I wouldn’t say anything unless the other kid had physically hurt one of mine and even then I would do it very carefully.

  13. Emily says:

    Ooh, it’s tough. If there is hitting or pushing, I step in. If it’s words, I like to wait to see what happens. Sounds like Mrs II handled it superbly. Filing that away in the noggin for future reference.

  14. kirstyrussell75 says:

    I’m with Mrs II too – better to move your own child somewhere else and try to hold in the rage. Having said that, I have intervened on occasion when I felt I needed to, but as I’m not a lover of confrontation, thankfully, those occasions have been few and far between!

  15. It’s a tricky situation, one of my best friend’s daughter told my daughter that her pictures weren’t very good and that made my girl very sad, but I just told my friend’s girl that the picture was good and we are all different and that what she said might hurt her feelings. I think you have to treat every situation in the context in which you find yourself!

  16. Kim says:

    You know Kev, the best point you’ve made here, is that the little ‘I want the whole world, I WANT IT NOOOOOOOW’ girl’s mum wasn’t anywhere in sight. Well, that’s not really the truth, since you made a heap of great points, but while it’s a tricky one, and one that good parents struggle with, it is usually over a child whose parent is invisible, and the behaviour possibly a direct result of not being observed and pulled up. If my 4-y-old was behaving like that, she’d be in time out for a lot of consecutive 4 minute sentences till she cut it out!
    I watch my girls, and if they’re holding their own against kids like this I leave them, and I’ve been so proud to hear them say ‘that’s not very nice. You shouldn’t speak like that’, but times I’ve had to intervene before they’ve been physically belted. And if they’re close friends, and I’ve had that chat with the parents, I’ll step in and reprimand other kids, for sure.

  17. I haven’t really had to deal with this before as Mia isn’t quite at an age yet where this might happen but I know it is coming. I have told other people’s kids that they need to stop throwing things or hitting but most of the time they have been the kids of people I know quite well and I know if they were in the room at the time or saw the behaviour they would say the same thing and wouldn’t have a problem with me saying it for them in their absence. I would probably do the same with kids I didn’t know because there are certain things that are just not acceptable and if a child hits another one they need to know its not right, whether they are my kid or not. Mia doesn’t get away with hitting and neither will another kid if I catch them.

  18. mamagrace71 says:

    Oh, it’s a tough one! It’s a real tough one! And Mrs II is so right about how if we’re going to give feedback, we have to be prepared for receiving it.
    I do what Kimba did and that’s to stick close to my kids and if there’s a bully lurking, I try to barrier them from my kids. I also give them deathly stares. Like “Watch it kid. You do that one more time and you won’t know what hit you…” Ahems. Terrible, I know. But I find silence, in times like these, can be golden…

  19. Bek Mugridge says:

    This is always a grey area I find, a few times we have dealt with this at parks, first I would say I always watch my kids as best I can and try and jump on any not nice behaviour right away – I would not be offended if another mum told me mine had done something, once a girl of about 3 tried to torment my 2 yr old, trying to punch, hit, push her, pinch her, grab her, chasing her even right in front of me, even when I was holding her and right in front of her own mother, even had a wild look in her eyes, I had to stand right next to me daughter the whole time and keep picking her up she was so frightened and the mum actually loudly said to me after I gave her a very scolding look and asked the girl to leave my daughter alone, ‘”Gonna by a wild one my girl, a real fighter she is hahaha” , yep, the mum thought it hilarious that her 3 yr old would torment other little kids, we decided to leave with a sad feeling and watched in horror as the girl moved on to other kids.

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