Monday, January 14, 2008

Friendships and Parenting

“Parents of young children should realize that few people, and maybe no one, will find their childrent as enchanting as they do" - Barbara Walters.

Isn't that the truth? I love my kids but I also know everyone isn't going to love them as I do. The truth is, I'm not a "kids' person". I never was the person others asked to babysit, I didn't like to play with kids, I can honestly tell you I didn't like kids. Maybe I still don't?

I love my kids, and I also like them. They are funny, and charming, and I enjoy having them around. But I also know they can be disruptive, and they still have a lot to learn when it comes to good manners. And it's up to me to teach them how to be polite and likeable people.

This weekend Candace was invited to the movies by her friend V and her parents. V's parents have been our friends for years, long before Claude and I even met. So we are glad that our daughters are friends, for the most part. Candace came home upset after her outing. They had invited another school friend too, and apparently V alienated Candace during the outing to be with the other kid. It hurt my kid's feelings. I don't have to tell you I wasn't too happy about it, but what could I do?
Then, as she was getting ready for bed, Claude saw that she had holes in her pants, and asked her what happened. She said V had pushed her down and she fell. WHAT? Needless to say, I was beyond mad.
I had to compose myself and explain to Candace why I was mad about the incident. It is not OK to treat friends that way and she should not allow her friend V to be mean to her. I'm not sure if I got the message across, how do you teach a 6 yr old what's acceptable in a friendship?

This isn't the first time V has done this. As a matter in fact, she hit Candace in the face once before, at our house and in front of me. I immediately stepped in and told her that behavior was not acceptable because we are not to treat friends that way. She was not pleased, as a matter in fact she rolled her eyes at me. I did tell her parents about the incident and how I handled it. They were less than pleased.

Was I out of line?

Growing up, every time we left the house our parents reminded us about the rules and how they applied anywhere we were. We knew if we misbehaved at someone's house, we were in even bigger trouble than if it had happened at home. We were a direct reflection of our parents and as such, we were expected to be polite, and well behaved at all times.

I wonder sometimes if I'm a misfit because I'm culturally different from other parents. Other times I think culture has nothing to do with it. V's parents are Hispanic too, just like me. We speak the same "culture", so why do we have such different parenting ideas?

When they dropped Candace off that night, they came in the house to visit. They also have a 3 yr old son, whom they admit behaves pretty badly. I blame the parents, not the child, for his behavior. The boy took some of twin's toys and started to play. Braden, being his social self, went up to the boy and wanted to play with him. The boy PUSHED him! His parents were sitting right in front, and did nothing! I was beyond mad, and told Braden to go and defend himself. As if that wasn't enough, he then proceeded to throw a toy at my child.

I'm sure you are wondering what the parents did. The mother told him "honey, please don't do that, please", in the sweetest tone and that was it. Had it been my kid, I would have taken the toys away, told him to stop being a brat and put him on time out right then, after giving him a good pat on his butt.

I know times have changed. These days spanking is no longer practiced, and we are all zen about raising kids. I agree that children deserve respect as any other person, and should be talked to rather than talked down to. BUT at some point, we have to be the parents and provide guidance for those kids.

I don't spank my kids often, and when I do, it's a pat on the butt to get their attention. I discipline often like my parents did, I take priviledges away and explain to Candace why I'm doing it. With the twins, even though they are young, they get a time out (which usually lasts a whole second but at least they are getting the idea), and they have to hug whomever they hurt/offended.

I'm not a perfect parent but I have little tolerance for children who have no manners. I expect my kids to respect all elders, anyone who is older than them must be respected, whether it's their cousin or their grandparents. I don't care if I'm not there, they are expected to be polite and courteous, specially when we are at someone else's house.

Does it always work? Of course not, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up. My parents didn't give up and I am thankful for that. I finally learned that some behaviors are not acceptable, whether at home, school, or work. I believe I'm a better person because they weren't afraid to show me the error of my ways and point me in the right direction, and even more so, they weren't afraid to discipline me.

So my question is, do you discipline your friends' kids if they are misbehaving in your presence? Or your nieces/nephews? I do. Maybe that's why I'm not very popular with some parents. Then again, my 16 yr old niece, whom I have disciplined plenty of times, loves me and we have a very close relationship. Perhaps I'm not all wrong after all.