Sunday, 27 July 2014

Differences in Parenting

There's a best-selling book series called "What To Expect" and it covers a child's life from conception to toddler.  While it certainly is a handy guide, no book can cover everything.  Indeed, there's an image being shared around of a copy of "What to Expect During the Toddler Years" that has been scribbled over with marker; a clear statement that for someone, the book wasn't helpful at all.

There's no clear-cut guide for parenting because every child and every situation is different.  Every parent in my family, however, has said the same thing: discipline and guidance need to be applied consistently. Everything else is fluff.  But what can you do when it's someone else's kid who is the problem?

I and many of my friends are believers in the concept of "it takes a village to raise a child", because that was the way things were when we were kids.  Neighbours would look out for other kids as well as their own.  If a child got into trouble, someone would be there to help out.  If a child exhibited bad behaviour while at a friend's house, that household's parents would mete out the discipline.  Unfortunately it's not that way much any more, due to people's preoccupation with their own lives and the general distrust of others.

Recently "Missy" my daughter and "Betsy" one of the neighbourhood kids have developed a rivalry, stemming from an incident during which Missy accused Betsy of trying to wrap a skipping rope around her neck at school.  Having not witnessed the event, and with Betsy claiming this was untrue, neither I nor Betsy's mother could properly resolve the situation.  Since then Betsy has been provoking Missy in various ways, to the point where Missy doesn't want to go anywhere Betsy might be.

Things came to a head a few weeks ago as my daughter and I exited the local swimming pool.  Betsy and two other girls noticed us and began to scream as if Missy was their worst enemy.  Missy freaked out and ran away.  I turned to the girls and said firmly, "Do you mind?"  They stopped at once, but then I received a tirade by Betsy's mother who said I had no right to discipline her kids.  When I pointed out that the kids had no right to scare Missy, Betsy's father politely asked me to leave.  Not wanting to create more of a scene in front of the kids, I left with Missy.

The behaviour of these kids - their ages range from 6 to 8 - can be seen as normal, especially if they're holding a grudge and are trying to exact some kind of petty "revenge".  But if a parent can't or won't control them in public and sees a mild rebuke from another parent as something that needs to be challenged, this strikes me as being irresponsible.  I can accept that these other parents believe that only they should discipline their children - that's their choice.  But if their kids' actions threaten my child in any way, I'm not waiting for them to pussyfoot around and deal with it at their leisure.

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