Bit of a conundrum

This evening, Daniel and I went to a shindig for the grad students and professors in the piano department. There were some kids there, including the 4.5-year-old daughter of the woman hosting. This child - let's call her "M" - is extroverted, to say the least. Some might say she's bossy and aggressive...what the heck. She's spoiled. I feel bad saying it because her mother and father are great musicians and wonderful people for whom I have a lot of respect and I want to give them more credit as parents.

Of the four children at the party, Daniel was the youngest by far. He was also the only one still too young to understand directions and play with others. The other three, all girls, were involved with dressing up as princesses and playing with ponies, while Daniel mostly wandered around the small area where people had gathered and practiced climbing the steps into the screened-in porch. At one point, M had brought in a pink plastic chair, the kind sized for toddlers, and when Daniel approached it, she yelled in his face, "NO! YOU ARE TOO YOUNG TO BE IN MY GROUP! YOU CAN NOT SIT IN THIS CHAIR!" Fortunately, this didn't upset him, so I let it go.

Later, M brought a doll's cradle full of stuffed animals. Daniel wasn't so much interested in the animals as sitting on the cradle. It was definitely sturdy enough to hold him, but she started yelling at him again: "NOOO! DON'T SIT IN MY CRADLE! YOU'LL BREAK IT! AND MY BUNNY'S IN THERE!!! HE CAN'T BREATHE!" "M," I said, "It's strong enough to hold him. And look, your bunny's fine. Daniel's not even sitting on him." She continued to yell at him before eventually getting distracted with something else and leaving the room. Daniel wasn't upset by this, either. I'm sure it was the first time a kid has yelled at him and there was so much other conversation and activity in the room, he was busy soaking it all in.

M's mother was elsewhere during these incidents, or I'm sure she would have said something to her daughter, even if it wasn't particularly effective. As it was, I was on the verge of saying to her something like, "M, you should say 'please' if you want him to move." I was hesitant, though, because I have never been in a situation like that before, where another kid was being mean to my kid, and Daniel didn't seem bothered by her behavior. On top of that, M is the child of a professor I know and respect, and I was in their home. (Oh, and she's on my committee, too. Did I mention that?) If Daniel would have gotten upset, I suppose I would have asserted myself more. As it was, other people were staring, and one friend of mine said "What do you think about that?" I shrugged and said "I'm not sure what to do. No one's ever talked to him like that before."

I wouldn't want to blame it all on bad parenting. Some kids have more difficult, aggressive personalities than others. Nevertheless, she was acting inappropriately. But if something like this happens in the future, what should I do? Just remind the rude kid how to be polite?


Mrs. Ann said…
If the other child is temporarily under your care (like, if the party's at your house, or if you're babysitting), I'd say Definitely. The same would go for the child of a close friend or relative where there's a relationship of complete trust. But one thing I've learned working in a preschool is that parents are sensitve. I would suggest, in this circumstance, that you redirect Daniel (not that he's doing anything wrong--just sort of as a protection for him) by showing him something else he can play with, if you can, or if you're at a park or something, smiling sweetly at the child (maybe even winking at the parent) and then playing with Daniel in another area.

I think it's a great instinct that's in you--the "teacher" instinct--that comes from being a parent, being a teacher, and being someone who wants the world to be a better place--that gave you the desire to correct the other child. Maybe you could even say something like, "Sweetheart, he's still a baby. He doesn't understand," which shows her you know how she feels, but also lets her know that he isn't trying to hurt her (without making any commentary on her social graces).
Animal said…
Not a parent yet...but, absolutely understand how you feel, and think that Mrs. Ann has the right idea altogether. I would certainly hesitate to outright "scold" another child, no matter how much she may deserve it, in that kind of delicate situation. 'Cause, yeah, the LAST thing you need at this late date is to piss off a memeber of your committee! Sounds like you ultimately handled it very well; kudos to your parenting/teaching skillz!
Suze said…
i almost moved daniel out of her cradle so she would stop yelling, but the stubborn in me was annoyed with her behavior, so that's why i told her he wasn't hurting anything, rather than moving him. i would never have actually "scolded" her, esp in her own home with her mom around.
Anonymous said…
An irrelevant story. Because I was too young to remember it. I rely on my memory of what Aunt Mildred told me.

My parents and I went north the 40 miles to visit my grandparents, and I guess Aunt Mildred was there. Then my parents went somewhere to do something and left me in the care of the remaining three. When they returned I went crying to my mom and complained that Aunt Mildred had spanked me. My mother's reaction? "Oh? What did you do to deserve it?"

This lesson cannot be applied, I am afraid, to a family member of your committee.

Anonymous said…
Ann's suggestion is excellent and better than mine, which is to model appropriate behavior for the child. "Let's try that again. You can ask: Would you please not sit in the cradle? I'm afraid it might break."
Since the mother is on your committee, you do need to walk on eggs.
Suze said…
funny thing is, daniel's too young to have responded to her request, no matter how rude or polite she was about it. but these suggestions i'll definitely keep in mind next time around!

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