How far is too far when it comes to other people's children?
The playpen diaries
This is a question I have had to ask myself on more than one occasion.
When is it OK to discipline someone else's child and when should you just bite your tongue?
As my children get older, the way I parent and my expectations of both them and myself are continuously evolving. I will no longer sit by and watch as my son takes a toy from my daughter and say "it's OK. It's good to share," because he doesn't know better. Or on the flip side, I will no longer run to my daughter's aid every time she has a breakdown because something isn't going exactly her way.
It isn't always easy determining which situations require my intervention and which ones should be left alone, but as they learn so do I and I feel like we are all getting closer to being on the same page everyday.
As much as I would like to help them out of every sticky situation, intervene when one is not being kind to the other or scream at the top of my lungs when they are both pushing each other's buttons, I know they need to learn. They need to learn how to solve their own problems. They need to learn when to say yes and when to say no. They need to learn how to defend themselves when others are being bullies or pushing them to do something they don't want to do. And they need to learn that there are also consequences when the shoe is on the other foot.
However this is when things get tough.
It is easy to sit back and watch as they learn these lessons from one another. It's a whole other ball game watching them face similar dilemmas with other children.
I think we can all think back to situations in our childhood where we felt bullied, belittled or alone and I know personally the thought of my children feeling even an ounce of how I felt in those situations makes me want to cry.
No one wants to believe his or her child will be the one left out, made fun of or hurt. But the reality is children, especially young children, truly do have the attention span of about three seconds and the kid who was in one second could be out the next.
The term "children are mean" comes to mind, but I don't necessarily think they are mean; they just need to be taught how to be nice.
This is where the original question comes into play: when is it OK to discipline someone else's child?
I know with my children, if they are being a bully, speaking inappropriately or being disrespectful, I want someone to either let me know so I can deal with it or intervene themselves.
I am very open about this with my friends and family because I feel it is important that my children know that they have to respect and listen to all authority figures, not just mom and dad.
However, I have also found myself stepping in and defending my children when other kids have crossed my own personal imaginary line and it happens so quickly I don't even think to ensure I myself am not overstepping another parent's imaginary line.
We all parent so differently and what is OK for one may not be OK for another, and there is nothing wrong with that, but that is where things get complicated.
For me, watching my daughter be told "we don't want to play with you" and someone screaming at her to go away while she stood there confused, defeated and hurt had my heart aching and pounding at the same time.
In that instance I stepped in for two reasons, first to show my daughter that not only would I stand up for her but also that it was OK for her to stand up for herself and the second, because these kids needed to know how they were acting was not OK.
Luckily for me the parents of the other children were not offended by my reaction. In fact they were grateful because they had not seen what was going on.
This will not always be the case and now knowing how I felt watching this all transpire, I can see how conflicting parenting views could quickly escalate into more.
My personal goal is to not become "crazy mom," however I think that might be a bit of a challenge.
It is a scary thing sending your children out into the world. You hope you have taught them enough to ensure they are kind, don't feed into pure pressure and are confident enough to evade being a follower, but at the same time you can't control those they are surrounded by.
I am going do my best to let my kids fight their own battles, draw their own lines and set their own limits as long as they know mama bear is always watching.