Does it really take "a village"?
I've been grappling with a problem ever since my toddler hit
the tantrum-y terrible twos, and I really would like to know how others have
handled themselves in this situation.
I'm not unfamiliar with the whole "it takes a village" concept
of childrearing, but does that mean that the entire village has a right to
weigh in on how I handle my toddler's difficult moments when we're out in
public? On at least three occasions, perfect
strangers have felt compelled to publicly criticize my disciplinary methods.
The first time was when we were at toddler story time at the
public library. My son started to act up
and become very disruptive, at which time I removed him to the lobby, gave him
three sound swats on his rump (through his jeans and his diaper) and brought
him back to join the others. He didn't
peep, whimper or shed a tear, but it got his attention enough to make him
realize that it was time to sit quietly and listen to the program.
When the program was over, the librarian came to me and said
that another parent was "disturbed" because she (or he) had seen me
"strike" my child. The
librarian cited "cultural differences" (I'm Asian American) and said,
"We don't want to break his spirit," as if three swats on the rump signaled a
lifetime of abuse. I was stunned and
mortified and could hardly formulate a cogent reply except to thank her for her
concern and tell her I would consider her advice.
Another day at the post office, my toddler saw a boy playing
with the dividers between the customer line and the counter. When I wouldn't allow him to join in, he
threw a tantrum. Mindful of the librarian's
words, I tried to calm him by holding him tightly in my arms, which was not
very effective. Someone behind said
quite loudly, "Why doesn't she just smack him?" prompting another to
answer, "She can't. She'll get
arrested." (The few people ahead of
me in the line motioned for me to go ahead just to get us out of there.)
Then just the other day we were forced to visit the post
office again, and true to form, my little angel had no desire to be there. However, instead of kicking and screaming, he
decided Gandhi-like to passively resist by lying in the middle of the
floor. Not wanting to cause a scene, I
picked him up and put him to sit in an unused corner while the line dragged along. I figured at least there he wouldn't be able
to wreck anything or block traffic, and he wasn't making any noise.
The manager of the post office went to the front and loudly proclaimed
that he was to stand with me in the line.
When I explained that I had been attempting to get him to do just that,
but that I thought that having him wait quietly in the corner was preferable to
subjecting others to his screaming, she looked down her nose and declared that
screaming was preferable to his being on the floor. Again, I could only stammer an apology and do
my best to hold my son (and my chin up) while the line crawled along.
From what I understand, my son is by no means an anomaly. He's usually a cheerful and playful kid who
has uncooperative moments just like any other toddler. My friends assure me this stage will pass,
and he'll settle down. However, short avoiding
all public appearances until that day arrives, I need to learn a more effective
strategy to cope with meddlesome busybodies who feel compelled to make
these moments fodder for public discussion.
In cases of outright abuse and extreme neglect, such intervention
would certainly be warranted. However, since
I'm neither abusive nor negligent, these encounters leave me feeling defeated
and humiliated for not having spoken up to defend myself. ( I'm familiar with the standard advice about
leaving the place and returning when the child calms down, but we don't always
have the luxury of the extra time that would be needed to go and come back.)
Is there a gracious and concise way that I can respond to
such unwelcome interference without looking and feeling like an utter
doormat? In this case, comments and
advice would be not only welcomed but also very much appreciated! Thank you for your kind assistance!