Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Parenting in Public




I've mentioned many times before that my first born is a 'spirited' boy. He is a boundary pushing, rule breaking, loud talking energy ball.

It's taken me a long time to accept that he is who he is because thats how God made him. Not because he was born via c-section or because he stopped breastfeeding at 10 months or because he had symptoms of colic and cried as a baby.

It took the birth of his baby sister for me to truly understand temperament. Both of my children come from the same mould yet they couldn't be more different. One is placid, one is not.

 Zeph is intelligent, determined, driven, sensitive and intuitive. He is caring and loving and knows how to share. He can be tender and gentle but he also has a tenancy to be ... ehum... cheeky. Especially when in public.

If Zeph feels socially out of his depth or just plain bored he will act out, there is nothing surer.

Naturally, it is my responsibility to guide and discipline him when outbursts and meltdowns occur. I do this in my own way and I do it best when I don't have the pressure of being in a public place.

Therein lies the problem of public parenting - pressure.


We've had a couple of 'incidents' in the last week or so where Zeph has been duly reprimanded by strangers for socially unacceptable behaviour. I'm pleased to report that since way back here, it happens with much less frequency, but must confess that it still happens from time to time.

On each occasion I have felt conflicted in choosing an appropriate response.

I want Zeph to respect adults and listen when he is spoken to - so on one hand I feel the need to publicly reiterate what is being said to him - both for his sake and for the sake of the other parent. On the other hand, I want him to know that i'll protect him and keep him safe and that it's not really okay for anyone to speak to him rudely.

In those situations I'm almost overcome with weakness and a desire to please the outsider, rather than following my instinct to nurture my child (while simultaneously crushing and destroying anything and anyone who dares to cross him).

Everyday, I need to choose my battles very carefully. I have a limited supply of energy (and patience) and I need to use it wisely.

Mostly, I'm trying to spend my emotional energy (pregnancy hormones ensure I have plenty) encouraging his good behaviour, engaging in his long winded stories and down playing his attention seeking moments.





38 comments:

  1. So true Em - parenting in public is ridiculous. Why do we feel so much more pressure to get it right? Shouldn't it matter more about the stuff I do at home every day? How silly I am. My first born is spirited too, and struggles to express his emotions (namely frustration, anger, sadness) in an appropriate way sometimes. I am thankful that I have good friends whose parenting values I trust and respect who have often been the ones to help correct his behaviour when we are out. I reiterate what they say, as get him to follow through on what we do at home (apologise, ask forgiveness, hug, declare love for each other). However, if someone was rude to him in the process, I would be sure to call them out on it (as terrified as I would be to cause conflict!). Perhaps respect the other parent by reiterating their statement, and then - in front of relevant child - ask the other parent to treat your child with respect too. I feel you Em! I know how it is to have the rough kid! (Kids!) x

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    1. And I totally don't mean to sound all sage-ish and 'this is my advice to you, struggling parent, down there among the masses.' I mean, 'maybe this is what I'd try if it happened to me?'

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    2. I'm with you in being surrounded by excellent other mothers who guide, suggest and support.

      Bless the motherhood!

      xo em

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  2. What a battle that must be! I would be SO torn if a stranger were to berate my child, I am not sure I would be able to bite my tongue and contain my annoyance at the stranger

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  3. Such a hard situation, I agree. I always feel bad for making a decision based on being polite. At least after the fact. But it's in my nature. I know the stress of parenting a spirited child in public too. Gosh, it can be SO embarrassing. But I find when I stop trying to just melt into the ground that most parents and grandparents are actually quite sympathetic. And the ones that aren't, I just figure they haven't ever been in the midst of spirited toddler melt-down.

    And then I feel guilty for all the times I probably judged a parent before I was one myself. There is no way to truly know what someone is going through until you have been there yourself. Becoming a parent is most definitely a lesson in humility. x Laura

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    1. Yes, I agree most people are more than understanding of typical childhood behaviour and supportive of the disciplinary action taking place. I love the mums and dads that give you the knowing smile or remind you that it's totally normal ;)

      xo em

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  4. Great post! I have a 15 month old son and now we're spending more time at parks, play centres etc I'm coming across more and more kids of all ages. Some act out, muck-up and I've had a couple be rough towards my son. On one occassion when it went too far I removed my son from the situation immediately, found his mother and explained the situation she told me to ***** off so I left - I don't want to be in any bad situations or negative spaces with those types of people.

    Since I'm not their mother it is not my place to parent/discipline them at all but I also need to keep my son safe so when I do speak with kids are being rough or mucking-up I use a firm but friendly voice and ask them to please be careful around my son.

    I find alot of people are so quick to judge, compare their child/children with others and also snipe when they see a child mucking-up 'my child wouldn't act like that'.... At the end of the day what they say means nothing, you are his mother, guardian and the best person who knows how to handle your son and his emotions not strangers. Hang in there!

    Melissa

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    1. Hey Melissa, thanks so much for your comment! It's interesting navigating this 'playing in public places' thing, I agree!

      We truly do understand what works for our won families and children!

      xo em

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  5. ugh, I so hear you, I've got a spirited first child too. I'm starting to learn what triggers her (excitement, nervousness, feeling overwhelmed..) so that I can talk her through it & manage it with her. It's so draining!! Even with family I feel like I apologise alot & I'm always saying 'she's not always like this'. Which is totally true. When we spend large amounts of time around the house (esp without tv) I get the most darling behaviour!

    We experienced a melt-down with relatives the other week & I felt that pit-of-my-stomach feeling that we were being judged. My husband just looked at me & said 'F*** them'. He's totally right. Who cares what others think. I know that my daughter is thoroughly loving, kind & sensitive, screw everyone else!!

    ha - rant over!

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    1. Yes, I'm so with you. I feel like I need to prep Zeph AND myself before we go out- reminding us both about how we need to behave, what is acceptable, what the boundaries are and so on. It is EXHAUSTING!

      xo em

      eep, the christams season will be hard!

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  6. This is so hard hey? We've had a few park and public incidents too, one where i had to explain to a mother who's son had bitten my daughter(handled very well by the mum) and others where you get stares or head shakes( who knows if they think I'm being too hard to too soft) end of the day we all do our best and we know our kids best and what will help them. Take advice from the ones YOU choose to listen to and no one else. The spirited kids are the funnest adults...I have a feeling you're one?!

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    1. We are doing our best huh. I really respect the parent who can calmly approach another parent to discuss issues when necessary.

      And yes, oh yes, I am spirited too. And life is bloody beautiful most of the time- so i'm excited about Zeph's future!

      xo em

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  7. I had the opposite problem with my first. He was a well mannered delight when we were out and about but at home all his frustrations from the school yard or play ground would be spewed forth upon us. We were told by a professional that he did this because he felt safe at home, that was nice but it didn't make it easier. What it did mean though that none of our family understood our struggle. If by chance they did see an outburst they naturally assumed we as parents were "the problem". It does get easier, our number one still has the odd outburst but we know how to handle them and we all move on happily.

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    1. I love that you say 'we know how to handle them and move on happily'- what a BEAUTIFUL and accomplished place to be!

      xo em

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  8. I have one cheeky, one placid too. And yes the public parenting is so hard! I think hearing someone else reprimand your child before you get a chance to act throws you a bit. Pulls you away from your intuitive response. I try to talk eye to eye to my cheeky one to show my thoughts/feelings about what has happened. But it is never easy! Conserve your energy. Some battles just aren't worth fighting xx

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  9. Stranger or not, if you speak to my child from a place of good intentions....then go for it.

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  10. I have those same feelings. I don't love other people trying to parent my kids. That's my job. They don't know them like I do. It's a tricky situation for sure.

    www.slurfeefrenchie.blogspot.com

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  11. I totally understand what you go through! My second born son is the exact same way--loving, charming, smart...but definitely has his moments! I am always worried that I'm letting him get away with murder, yet at the same time, I don't want to crush him into some mold that the rest of society expects him to fit into. I always have had the mindset that if I don't stand up for my son, who else will? I do what I think is best for him, while trying to juggle my fears of offending someone. It's a fine line.

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    1. Oh i feel the same- wanting to tame him but not crush him. But one fact remains, he MUST learn to do what he is told and be respectful- a long journey i'm sure!

      I do what I think is best for him, while trying to juggle my fears of offending someone. It's a fine line- couldn't agree more!

      xo em

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  12. this is why is don't go to park or play centres. or play dates. or have friends, really. my mum was a bloody lioness- she would rip another's throat out if they looked sideways at one of us. it kind of embarrassed me, but now i kind of get it. i just try to focus in on what my kid is feeling at that moment, what he/she needs. i do my best to ignore what anyone on the sidelines is thinking. because it is usually only what i think they are thinking anyway. as for stepping in and parenting someone else's kid...hmmm...i'd rather teach my kid to deal with the conflict themselves, before i get involved. and mostly just stay home. remember, em, they are your kids, the way you are doing it is right- for them and you. :)sarah

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    1. shut up. As if you don't have friends (but I do understand the strain that kids can put on friendships).

      ahaha "i do my best to ignore what anyone on the sidelines is thinking. because it is usually only what i think they are thinking anyway" thats so the truth huh, I'm always thinking that people think i'm shit when i'm sure they don't really- DO THEY!!?? hahahah


      xo em

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  13. We have a situation at the moment where a couple we know keep jumping in reprimanding our kids before we can act. It's tough. It's gotten to tge point where I feel like it's not ok, and I've had a few sleepless nights stewing over what to do! They make me feel like my kids are extra naughty but in my heart I know what's acceptable and when they've gone too far.

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    1. Thats a really hard one Averil. Best of luck with it - I hope you can find a way to address it with grace and maintain your friendship.

      will be thinking of you

      xo em

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  14. I'm inclined to agree with anonymous on this one for a number of reasons. As the mother of two kids, one easy(ish) the other considerably more challanging,I find the idea of parenting alone depressing and isolating. I believe to my core that parenting was never intended to be a lone experience and that lessons about behaviour and socialisation are often most effective when delivered by people outside of the pack. When we make the teaching of our children our sole responsibility (and by 'teaching' I mean telling off)we are not only limiting our own resources but also reducing the greater communities sense of responsibility for our children. If a stranger is concerned enough to be bothered with your kids behaviour, that can only be a good thing. I am far more worried by a community that doesn't care.

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    1. Hey Estelle,

      I agree also. I love it when another parent graciously redirects my kids or politely asks them to stop what they are doing. Its a sign of great community spirit and something i relish when it happens. It's like with our community of girlfriends- it's all hand on deck at all times with all kids. BEST THING EVER.

      What I do have a problem with is a stranger yelling at my kids or speaking over me when I'm already dealing with my child regarding the issue. These are the occasions I was referring to above- maybe I should have gone into more detail but i didn't want a 'slam fest' in the comments section.

      Your views are ones to be treasured. Thanks for sharing them here.

      xo em

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  15. I have one placid and two, very cheeky, full of beans, push the boundry kids. I say "don't judge me unless you are perfect". After lots of random comments, I now just smile and keep walking. Not a word! Or simply say "thanks, I will deal with this". People need to stop being so damn judgemental. I understand that sometimes people feel that they are helping but truly, unless it is effecting them on some level. They really have no place to comment. Unless it is something nice they have to say! Don't let it bother you. You know you are an awesome Mum. People forget that children are just little! They are little people trying to learn. Yes they will make mistakes, as I am sure we all once did too!

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  16. The best is when people talk to your child telling them not to do something when they are really talking to you. That happend to me at target the other day. I let my kid ride on the side of the cart and the security guard came up to us asking my kid to get down (in a "nice" voice) saying it's dangerous. I obviously was ok with my kid on the cart so it totally bugged me. I would respect an adult just telling me "hey, we could get sued if your kid fell off and got hurt. Do me a favor and don't let your kid ride on the side of the cart". Whatever.

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  17. If his behaviour is socially unacceptable, then maybe you should be reprimanding him? It might be fine to think of him as wonderful and spirited at home where you don't mind putting up with him. But if you're taking him out in public and he's misbehaving, it's really inflicting it on everybody else. Don't wish to sound critical, but it's really annoying when children are misbehaving out in public places and their parents don't do anything about it.

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    1. Hi anon,

      your making quite a wild leap from my post to assuming that I don't reprimand my children when they are out of line (both publicly and privately). Obviously I do actively manage their behaviour - thus the discussion of the pressure surrounding the best way to tackle the issue.

      All families have different boundaries, different levels of acceptance and so on, I think understanding, compassion and goodwill go a long way in all aspects of life- especially when one is a parent.

      Furthermore, all children (not to mention adults) display socially unacceptable behaviours at some times and all parents struggle to deal with them at some times.

      xo em

      p.s feel free to leave your name next time anon, it always gives more credibility to your comment.

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  18. Thanks so much for this parenting post Miss Em - my little one's just about old enough now for this to start happening to me, and as a naturally shy/ridiculously over-sensitive person am dreading the judgement/encounter/me stuttering like Hugh Grant it may lead to. Since he's my first (my baby, not Hugh Grant) I have no idea how to handle it really, and it's so helpful to read everyone's thoughts and to know so many mums are in the same boat. I always assume everyone else has it sussed except me :-)

    Oh and as well as stealing all the awesome parenting advice, I also made your play dough this week. This place is basically my one-stop-mumma-shop. Big love X

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    1. HELLLLSSSSSSS (thats my hayyy darlin' lovely to hear from you voice)

      I'm so glad hugh grant wasn't your first, that man waits for no woman!

      Oh yes, it's a tricky journey this parenting one and trust me NO ONE has it sussed. We all hang out head in shame from time to time and shudder and our kids embarrassing behaviour.

      ahahah glad to be your one stop shop- little but of looney, little bit of crafty ... and a bit more looney!

      xo em

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  19. Sigh...the playground jungle!I have 3 boys, my little rogues move through different stages and I know what behviours I need to...hmmm focus? on! One behaviour at a time...!!! and... sometimes when a psycho parent is rude to my child and I agree with them... it scares the bejeepers out of my child! He he he... kidding...(Sort of... it can be theatrical!) I think when these things happen, our children learn how to deal with said psychotic parent (usually with one child...money, help, family support around or they are never around...the list goes on!) Yep Im prattling... time for a wine... but I do like speaking to my boys in the... "Dont worry "X" they weren't watching when.... happened..." Or other such statements! Wine time...

    And to anon above... you need a bottle o wine!

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  20. A great and thought provoking post, Em. It's such a minefield out there - judgements, perceived jugements, and different people's ideas as to how situations with children should play out. I really feel for Averil, as at least with annoying people at the park you have a good chance of not running into them again, whereas friendships where these boundaries are being tested can often crumble! At least we can all take comfort in the fact that "Anonymous" at 4:51pm has all the answers! Phew for that! ; )

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  21. The sad thing is there is always people out there ready to judge. It's a very hard thing to discipline your kid in public as people all have very different views. What would the public's reaction be if you growled at Zeph as loud as you might at home? Or heaven forbid if you gave him a little bum smack? I've seen a hell of a lot of bogans scream at their kids in public. Maybe that's the way to go- no one would be game to say anything to you then!!
    If the kid isn't hurting anyone (and likewise if the parent isn't hurting the kid) then people should butt the hell out! Parenting is hard enough without the added pressure of pleasing strangers. Plus, as they say, you can't please everyone.
    If you ask me, there's a lot more rude and annoying adults than kids out there anyway. And they should know better!
    Rant over.
    Rach x
    btw, I'm really sorry that you have to deal with people like anon. If you don't like it go away anon! Why come into someone's space and be mean? It's unfortunately those people who's comments stick with you more than the good ones. Gggr.

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  22. God bless your mere AWARENESS of these issues Emily. Better than the ignorant fog that accompanies many - parents or not. Children love us and that is such a frigging gift given what crabby, bad tempered, ill advised, (scarred from our own childhoods), cynical and impatient beings we can be (not always but I know my good days and I know my BAAAD days) .... The fact that you are even giving these thoughts your time, love, pondering and care already makes you a one in a million mum. I loved the way you described your Zeph and I love that he is blessed to have the most important lady in his life acknowledge that he needn't be "moulded" into anything else.
    Without trying to sound too "preachy" I just want to add one more thing ... (admittedly for "anonymous" above who said it was "really annoying when children are misbehaving out in public places and their parents don't do anything about it")
    I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children (they are the FUTURE after all) is the ability to recognise that their happiness does not have to depend on the behaviours of others. Imagine how intoxicating a human being can be when they "fully allow you to be you"

    ♥♥♥... Magic.... ♥♥♥

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  23. Yep, public parenting is a challenge. I like the concept of children being raised by not only their parents, but a whole community of people... that being said, you hope that when they are helping to train your child that they do it with love - otherwise it is pointless.
    I think all kids have their moments, mine do. Certain weather and situations make it more difficult at times too. Honey, just keep asking God to make you into the mummy your children need, and leave the rest to Him. :)
    Sheree x0x

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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em