Now that the holidays are over we can all take a deep breath. For about two weeks before the holidays and a week or so after, my house was crawling with friends, friends of friends, cousins, cousins of cousins, neighbors, and even some total strangers. While my family and I absolutely loved hanging out with each and every one of them, there were some times that I was left questioning my guests’ (and my own) individual methods of discipline when it came to the wide variety of holiday-candied kid visitors.
As my kids will tell you, when it comes to their behavior and manners I tend to fall on the “strict” to “very strict” end of the spectrum. I have no patience for whining, crying, and tattling. The result of my tough love is friends and teachers confiding in me that my hellions are angels. I, however, secretly know that my kids are terrified of punishments waiting for them when we get home that include, but are certainly not limited to, an inordinate amount of time spent in their rooms wondering if and when their next meal will be delivered.
To date, this strategy has served me well. I have perfected “The Look” that can send my ladybug into tears, and my little one slowly, carefully backing away from a confrontation with me. I try very hard to give my kids clear expectations and limits before we arrive somewhere, so that “The Look” clearly signifies just how dangerously close they are to crossing that very real imaginary line. For the record, this may be why my kid had some issues earlier this year sticking up for himself (see my bullying blog here).
Now I know that each parent (including the two within my own family) has very different ideas of what may or may not be appropriate behavior for kids. When we have our friends over with their kids I am always amazed to see just how many parents are often more interested in hanging out with the adults, rather than parenting their kids. (For example: I have on many occasions pretended that the whining coming from the next room was not from my off spring and continued to dip my carrots into homemade hummus while fully enjoying the adult conversation. What? Just because I said I was strict doesn’t mean that I don’t slack like the rest of you!)
But, and this is a biggie, what are we supposed to do when we catch someone else’s kid acting inappropriately? Or worse even, when your kids thinks they didn’t do anything offensive, but when they are clearly in the wrong? Do you have different rules for your house versus another house? What about when everyone is tired and it is getting late? Do the rules change then? Are we more forgiving of poor choices when we know everyone is tired? Am I able to discipline my nephews more easily than my friends’ kids simply because they are family?
And therein lies the rub. This holiday season, with so much social activity taking place within the usual calm of my own four walls, I found myself struggling with decisions to make when it came to unruly child behavior. Who is it ok for me to discipline? When is it ok for me to discipline them? And how strongly am I allowed to discipline them? The discipline questions are magnified when the Mom or Dad of the offender have their feet up with a drink while their little one swings from the rafters!
I have to say with my friends and family I am lucky in the relationships we share. My friends seem to trust that if I did find it necessary to single out their kid for some wrongdoing, it was probably justified. I also am grateful that my friend’s love and care about my kids enough to put an immediate stop to any of their inappropriate acts or unkindness.
Have you ever been faced with disciplining a friend’s child? Have you ever had to ask one of your friends to step up and parent their own kid? I know I’m not the only one who has found themselves in this situation. What do you do? My first step towards resolving these issues does usually involve pouring a nice glass of wine of course!
Over these holidays I have tried my best (if not always in the moment) to remember that when my friends and family discipline my children they are truly looking out for their safety first (as I am when the shoe is on the other foot). I have also had to step back and remind myself that each family has a different and fluid set of limits, depending on the social situation. What were your strategies and limits to getting through this holiday season?