It Takes a Village, If We Allow It
If your child was misbehaving and you were not around would you want another parent to say something to your child? Would you want them to call you and let you know about it afterward? Would you want them to do both? Or would it make you angry that someone was overstepping their boundary by disciplining your perfect child? Just to clarify, I am not talking about anything dangerous or criminal, just “normal” misbehaving.
Last week I was talking to the mother of one of my preteen son’s friends. She and I are friendly, I like her, but I wouldn’t call her a good friend. Then she said, “I’m not sure if I should say anything. I know it really isn’t my place, but…” She went on to tell me about one of my sons and how he and a couple of his friends were acting up during a school function where I wasn’t in attendance. Nothing horrible, mostly rambunctious, but definitely not a way she would have wanted her son to be acting and definitely not the way I would have allowed my son to act if I were there.
I asked her why she would have hesitated to tell me. But I already knew the answer. I have experienced it many times myself, even with good friends. For all our talk about needing a village to raise our children, many people get very upset when told about what their children are doing or, heaven forbid, if their children are scolded by another adult.
I remember as a kid adults scolding me or my friends if we were misbehaving, usually saying something along the lines of “I doubt your mother would want you behaving that way!” I also remember a few times when they went directly to my parents, which was even worse. It was an unwritten rule that any adult could scold you for misbehavior, even a stranger. Now I have noticed that the attitude of many parents now is don’t dare discipline my child. Don’t tell me anything negative about my child. And if my child did do something wrong, there is a justifiable reason.
Recently the kids and their friends were bickering outside. It had been a long day of playing. It was hot outside. And then in the midst of it, one child punched my child in the face. I sent all the kids home, telling them I thought everyone needed to go home and get a snack and have a little break from each other. Then I called this child’s parents to tell them what transpired. And they said, “Well, your child must have provoked my child. My kid would never punch someone in the face for no reason.” Odd, because in my world, there never really is a reason to resort to physical violence. I assured them that I was dealing with my child’s part in the bickering that led to the punch, but I thought they would want to know about their child’s part.
All sorts of negative behaviors are excused away. It isn’t their child. It is the other kids. Except, you know what, I’ll let you in on a little secret, all kids act like jerks sometimes. Yes, even yours. All kids misbehave. All kids decide to do something stupid on impulse. People need to stop taking it as other parents interfering or judging their parenting and take it more as someone else watching out for your child. What is so bad about that? When my neighbor came to the door and told me he just yelled at my son and his friend for sitting on their skateboards and rolling right into the street with no regard for the cars driving on the road, I thanked him. It didn’t even occur to me to view it as an indictment on my parenting.
I have done it many times. I have had negative repercussions from doing so, but I don’t regret it. I never yell and usually I work in the “if your mother were here…” as if I am just standing in for the absent parent who would surely be handling it the same way. I have teenagers and frequently I have other teenagers in my home. They are generally polite and have good manners, but sometimes they may be in the other room talking loudly, using language of which I don’t approve. In that case I’d walk into the room and make a joke about offending my ears and gently remind them of the little kids in the house. And I would hope that if my kids were at someone else’s house other parents would do the same.
As I got off the phone with my son’s friend’s mother, I thanked her for telling me and assured her that not only did I want to know, that she should feel free to call my child out for misbehaving should she see it again. She told me that she hoped I would do the same. We can’t always be everywhere to supervise our kids, especially as they grow older and gain more independence. I appreciate the other eyes.
I want a village. These are the people I want in my village. People who think it is a moral obligation to look out for each other’s kids.
What do you think? If you see a child misbehaving would you step up and say something to them? Do you think it isn’t your place? Or are you held back by what the other kid’s parents will think of you?
Photo credit: ThinkstockPublished December 21, 2011. Last updated June 27, 2018.