Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What do you do when you don't like a kid?

Yesterday one of my favorite bloggers posted a blog about having a nanny.  And one of the things I thought was interesting about her justification for being a stay-at-home-mom with a nanny is that only in the United States do we have this "my child, my problems" mentality.  Almost everywhere else still lives by the "it takes a village approach."

It got me thinking: As an American, I am very careful about reprimanding other people's children, because you never know when a parent will go ape-shit on you.

"Oh no you didn't just tell my child to stop kicking that kid!"

The next thing I know I'd be in a youtube video titled "Moms get in cat fight at playground."

So what do you do when a little kid is being a jerk?  

Really, at a playground is the easiest place to deal with this situation.  Tell your kid to stay away from the kid that is hitting/pushing/calling names/spitting/acting a fool.  If he doesn't, just leave.  You will most likely never see that little jerk again.

And while all kids can be little jerks once in a while, what do you do when there is a kid you know that is just generally a little jerk most of the time?

If it is a friend's kid, we just stop hanging out with that friend when the kids are involved.

But what do you do when the kid, the one that you see as a negative influence, is a more permanent fixture in your child's life that you can't simply weed out? What do you do if they are in their class at school, or go to the same church, or are on the same tee-ball team, or live on the same block.  Are you going to have them change classes?  Switch churches?  Transfer leagues?  Move!?!?  Even if you would/could do any of those things, in all likelihood, you'd just run into a new, different problem kid there, too.  You can't just keep moving.

And let me interrupt for a second to say that we in no way think our kids are perfect. All you have to do is read my blog to know that I know my kids can be loud and unruly. They can be mean (but usually only to each other).  But #1 we acknowledge our children's imperfections, and we are constantly working on positive reinforcement and constructive discipline to curb these behaviors. But most parents with the kids I can't stand think that their kid wears a halo and poops rainbows.  (You can't fix it if you can't/won't admit there is something wrong.) #2 I don't want them picking up any more bad behaviors while we are trying to correct the ones they already have!

Am I the only one with these dilemmas?  Are other parents facing similar situations?  What do you do???

Or am I just a jerk for thinking little kids can be jerks?


  1. I stress to my DS to tell the kid to stop (or that he doesn't want to play like that if it's a matter of getting too rough) whatever it is that is not cool. This is hard step for my 4 YO (standing up to a kid that you really were hoping to play with - so there's the fear you'll lose a playmate) so I am still constantly reinforcing this.

    A few times he has used his voice and the kid did not stop so I intervene. I never try to make a big deal to the other kid like he's an awful person (even if he just pushed my kid off a play structure, for example). When I intervene, I ask my son what he didn't like about the other kid's behavior (that way he's stating the problem, not me assuming it) and then I ask the kid to please stop whatever my son mentioned. I then tell my son to come get me or another adult if kid doesn't respond to his concern.

    Since my son is only 4, I haven't had seen my kid excel yet at dealing with jerks, so I don't know if I'll have to tweak this approach to be more effective. I really try to address the kid and keep my child in the conversation as much as possible so it's not about me. If the mom comes over defensively, I just explain that my son didn't like "insert behavior" and I was helping him communicate that to their child.

    There happen to be kids in our neighborhood that are not watched very carefully so they have a lot of bad habits. I observe what happens and when my son comes inside I talk to him about some of the things I saw the other kids say or do towards him. I ask him how he feels about those behaviors (usually he didn't like it) and guide him to speak up the next time to tell them when he doesn't like something. I also tell him general things like nobody deserves to be called names or nobody should have to continue playing with kids that are unfair or unwilling to share, etc. As far as the neighborhood kids, he has trouble speaking up, so his way of dealing with it lately is he has decided not to play with them as often right now. So, I didn't even have to put a limit on it.

  2. Thanks Leanna. I'd like to think we respond in a similar fashion in most situations. The school they go to is big into encouraging kids to "use their voice", so we try as best as we can to model how we've seen the teachers deal with these situations. However, what the teachers don't do well (in my opinion) is a. have discipline/consequences for the offending child. The worst they are ever told is to "make a different choice." And b. express to the parents what their kids are doing. I know first hand that this is true, because for instance with us, they never talk to us about problems they have with our boys (such as hitting when they are angry) until we approach them with an unrelated issue we are having (another kid teasing/name calling/saying "I hate you") and then all of a sudden it's like "Well your kids hit other kids." Um, why didn't you make us aware of this before?? How can we work to correct a behavior if you haven't even let us know it's going on? I feel like they are afraid to be honest with parents because so many parents today jump to the "not my child" defense. But I WANT TO KNOW if my kids are hitting/pushing/biting/name calling/teasing etc because unlike most parents, I will not say "oh kids will be kids" or "what did he do to you to make you do that to him?" And we are right back to the it-takes-a-village thing.

  3. I think that is a tough line to find with what teachers should report home. I'm with you in that I'd rather too much information than not when it comes to behavior, but I also know I won't use that to abuse my boys. So, from a school perspective, if I was teaching, I'd be tempted to not share many of the behaviors in the classroom with the parents like I often do if I watch a friend's kids (unless it was just totally out of control) - not for fear of abuse but just to allow parents to pick up child and try to have a smooth evening free of "you shouldn't ..." or "you know not to..." because, they do already know and they might just need less stress and more positive attention to practice and implement the proper response next time.

    On a big side note, I know that I probably come across as a walk-over-my-child-does-nothing wrong parent because I don't do punishment, especially in public - my go to is a logical consequence (we leave many of the times - but I really try to make the leaving not appear to be a punishment but rather a something isn't right so we need to fix it - get food, sleep, solo play time). My parents were (and sadly still are) verbally abusive (to most people, but kids are an even easier target). Punishments were about making them the feel big and in control of a situation/person that they had no control over. I was a menace towards my parents b/c that was the example they showed me through their continual "You're a bad kid" routine. I hated being that menace with them (I never dare act like that to my teachers, etc.) but I was screwed no matter how I acted and I still am a horrible daughter in their eye (there's always something bad to point out in anybody).

    Anyway, point is, I know many parents mean well (some don't though, as I'd argue is the case with my father) but I really try to avoid making my children feel bad or apologize - instead I acknowledge and comfort/help the hurt child and change our situation. I could easily be seen as not caring about my out of control kid when in fact I deal with misbehavior in a much more private manner without punishment.

    I agree with the whole village thing, that we all need to help each other out. I just think most moms are very aware of misbehavior and are trying their best to resolve those things the best way they can for their situation. Just as I shouldn't worry about a mom yelling or punishing their child I shouldn't be hated on for not reacting in that manner.