Over the course of three childfree years of dating and marrying my hubby, I silently endured unacceptable behavior from some of our friends' and relatives' kids. I've dined in fine restaurants while the adorable rugrats ran circles around us adults and played hide-and-seek under our table, tripping the staff and patrons while crawling all over my new shoes. I've repeatedly witnessed one toddler punching his buddy in the face, to the point that the victim winces in anticipation every time the two get close. I've snottily been told, "Can't you ask someone else?" by one of my favorite 6-year-old girls when I politely asked her to help me distribute birthday cake slices at a party. Sure, I probably did these things when I was a tot, but I got in trouble. In my experience, the parents see their children's behavior firsthand and do not make a single effort to remedy the issues as they arise.
I'm not suggesting stifling kids with antiquated rules, but what ever happened to appropriate parenting? Now that I have the clout of being a mom, I'm sick of pretending that their kids' wild behavior is OK because "they're kids." It's NOT. I didn't grow up in a world where my parents allowed me to run amok, and I'll be damned if I'm going to raise my little girl as a self-centered brat who doesn't respect others or understand the meaning of the word "no."
I respect that each parent disciplines differently, but some of these kids desperately need to be put in check. Here's why I haven't been shy about expressing my opinions to the parties that cross me.
THE KIDS SHOULD KNOW YOUR RULES. For the good of our social structure, kids should learn what is respectful behavior towards adults outside their home. What might be acceptable with their parents might not be OK with you at your house. I've had plates broken and beautiful cakes smashed by dirty little fingers because I assumed the parents would see their kids' behavior and prevent disaster from happening in my home. Wrong. Be assertive for the sake of your own personal property (and sanity), and it might rub off on the kids. You soon might become the only adult that they listen to ... at least, that's what's happening with me.
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THEIR PARENTS SHOULD KNOW YOUR RULES. This is just a respect-for-your-fellow-adults thing. If you reasonably take charge when absolutely warranted, maybe their parents will get a clue? They might realize that you don't tolerate out-of-control nonsense, and make an attempt to enforce some of your rules -- when in your home -- out of sheer embarrassment. If they get angry, well, that's an adult-to-adult conflict that must be dealt with sooner rather than later. Nip the bad behavior in the bud while the kids are young (age 2) to prevent larger falling-outs with their parents in the future. (Otherwise, the problems might only get worse as your kids grow up together and reckless behavior becomes potentially dangerous.) Best-case scenario? Their parents might thank you for having the gusto to teach their kids some basic manners. Again, that's what's happening with me.
YOU NEED TO PRACTICE YOUR RULES. I've heard that one of the hardest parts about parenting is following through with discipline. Some say they feel guilty about being a "Mean Mommy," and that it breaks their hearts to see their wee ones unhappy with punishment. Who exactly is in charge here? Since I was raised in a household with consequences, I figure there's no harm in testing my skills on a modified scale. I'm currently finding that the afore-mentioned "punching toddler" responds best when I stop him in his tracks (yes, in front of his parents), bend down six inches from his face, look him square in the eyes, point my finger and firmly say "NO" in a loud, intimidating way (as opposed to his parents yelling "No, honey" from the couch across the room while the other kid is getting pummelled in the face). True, the little offender pouts and screams at me, but he always stops beating his friend. His glares initially devastated me, but now I've developed a tough skin. You must build up your disciplinary confidence for correcting your own child's bad behavior when it's time. I'm hoping that my assertiveness also deters Mr. Punchy from picking on my baby in the future!
DISCLAIMER: This philosophy is currently my experiment, and takes shameless guts. You might also feel like a real bitch for a brief time. However, from what I've found, the kids will adjust and their parents might even grow to respect you more (even if they talk a little smack about you behind your back at first). Fear not: It's for the greater good. Stand your ground. I have done this, and so can you. Who's with me?