One of the most things that I find most challenging about parenting a toddler is discipline. Determining where to draw the line, what is a developmental phase, what is increasingly a bad habit, what is dangerous, what is little boy silliness, what are we willing to accept and what are we simply not going to put up with. And then there’s the question of warnings, punishment or distraction.
It gets more challenging when you mix in other toddlers, parents and a diverse set of parenting styles.
Sprocket and I have a group of friends that we met nearly a year ago. They had all met at a post-birth coffee group and thanks to my extroverted son inserting himself squarely in the middle of them all each week at class, we have since become friends and been adopted into their group. There is now a group of six toddlers and Mums and most weeks there is at least one outing planned for whoever is free. The age range spans about 4 months – not much in the scheme of things, but at this point there is a big difference in size and behaviour especially from youngest to eldest.
At the moment all of the kids are learning to share, which clearly isn’t always what a toddler wants to do. Unfortunately the oldest boy (OB) has no problem throwing his weight around, and this is where it gets challenging.This week we spent a couple of mornings with them and it ended up being really frustrating so I needed to vent.
Among other things, on Monday he straight out refused to let Sprocket onto a climbing frame with the rest of them, pushing him away and stamping on his hands as he tried to climb up. Again yesterday he was repeatedly pushing the smallest boy over, and snatching toys away roughly from the other kids. And the taunting. It’s not enough to now have the toy, he then dangles it in front of the others before screaming no and yanking it away if they reach for it. I’m quite sure that his mother saw him on each of these occasions, and yet she didn’t do anything. At one point there was a half hearted “are you sharing OB?” and a “don’t push your friends, if you keep doing that we’ll have to go home”, both of which were ignored and yet still nothing further was said or done.
I get that he is just a 2 year old kid, and goodness knows Sprocket has his moments too, but I find it really hard to deal with when the other Mum is standing right there and doesn’t do a thing. I get that you can’t jump on every single thing, nor is it always possible to make a timely intervention or conversation in a group environment. It’s just that I don’t think I’ve seen her ever even try. OB knows he can get away with it, clearly the threats mean nothing, and it’s frustrating when we’re trying to teach Sprocket not to do something that he sees others getting away with. And hurting others is definitely at the top of that list.
There was one moment yesterday after Sprocket had a car ripped of him that he turned around and looked at me so mournfully it was heartbreaking. I would probably step in much more, even with the other mother right there, if Sprocket didn’t distract himself so easily. While he is clearly not happy, usually by the time I could get there anyway he’s already off playing with something else – which is good at this point, but I hope that
in time he does learn to stand up for himself a little more as well.
Most of the group have a very similar parenting style, and won’t hesitate to step in and intervene when things get dirty no matter whose child is involved. I love this about the group, but for me at least the trust to do this grew from the time spent last year in two different classes per week. For the most part I have no hesitation stepping in on any misbehaviour if I’m the closest Mum, nor do I mind when Sprocket is pulled up by someone else. However OB wasn’t in any of those classes, and I don’t know his Mum well at all so although I have done once or twice I’m hesitant to step in when she is standing right next to me. The little I have heard OB’s Mum say on the subject was several months ago when she was expounding a ‘we just have to let them sort it out’ theory. Nice in…well..theory, but in my opinion they are too little to do that all of the time, they need adult guidance to determine right from wrong. Besides, it’s different for her kid when he’s not the one being picked on. If things continue like this I will be speaking out more, and I was heartened to hear another Mum firmly calling him on the pushing at one point yesterday so it’s not just me.
I know it’s all part of their development, and to be honest the rest of the group get along very well and, save for tempers and bad days, are pretty good playmates so it’s probably good to get some exposure to different temperaments like he would if he were in daycare.
But as a parent standing next to another parent with such seemingly different priorities, it’s definitely challenging.