jer7195's picture
jer7195

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!



tamz's picture
tamz

First of all, you should understand that if you spank your child in public you are going to invite criticism. People have strong opinions about physical punishment and some people feel it is abuse at any level. So, if you can understand a comment for "outright abuse" then you will understand that some people believe hitting a child IS outright abuse. I believe you should avoid hitting your child in public.

Also, you are restricted by the guidelines of certain places of business. For example, the post office asked you to have your child in line with you. If that is the rule there then you are restricted by it. So, you either follow the rules of the establishment or leave your child at home when you visit.

As for ignorant people who offer unsolicited comment, I'm certain I would not offer an apology. In fact if anyone said I should just smack my child I'm certain I would explain that I did not ask for advice and I that I found the comment ignorant.

acitez's picture
acitez

Find Aesop's fables. Read "The Man, His Son, and the Donkey" or something like that.


The best response to a buttinsky stranger is a gracious and confident "Thank you." Look them right in the eye and smile.

My kids usually only pitch fits if they are tired, dehydrated, or they have low blood sugar. Keep juice or Koolaid handy.

tamz's picture
tamz

Good advice acitez! That's a much better response!!

jer7195's picture
jer7195

I wish my little guy always had a physical cause for his meltdowns, but they seem to happen even when he's had his nap and a full belly. Other folks have told me that he's unusually strong-willed (which I suppose could be a good thing if we channel it in the right direction), but since he's our only one, I thought all two-year-olds were like this. Anyway, thanks so much. I'll look up Aesop ASAP.

jer7195's picture
jer7195

Yours wasn't bad either. I appreciate everyone's pearls of wisdom. The only thing I don't have it in me to do is to call someone "ignorant" out loud (although I'd be thinking it.) I'd be afraid of making an already inflammatory situation worse if I started name-calling, and I don't think that would set a good example for my little guy. Thanks a bunch for your help. And that fable by Aesop is a great one - how true, how true!

SnglDad's picture
SnglDad

Jer, I can understand your frustration. In this day and age much of society views any type of punishment as "abuse". Even during our custody battle I was accused of abuse because I spank my children. After I explained my method, and reasons for using corporal punishment, the judge had no issues with it.

It sounds like you are a bit "gun shy" after having complete strangers critique your parenting style. Do not let it stop you from raising your child how YOU see fit.

One thing I found that was helpful, was the trip to the car. Trying to get some grocery shopping done one day and my youngest starts to cry and throw the same type of tantrum he would throw with his mother. This was his first trip to the car. I took him and his brother to the car and my little one received two swats on the bottom (Gasp!!). I then waited for him to compose himself and told him that we would finish shopping and the next time he threw a fit we would come back to the car. After that lesson he realized two things- Dad would not tolerate his fits, and he did not want to go back to the car.

I do not discipline my children in public. Once my kids learned what a trip to the car meant, the mere suggestion of it was enough to curb whatever undesired behavior they were demonstrating at that time. I show no emotion. I simply take their hand , bend down to their ear, and calmly say "Do you want to stop what you're doing, or do we need to go out to the car?". This gives them a clear warning that they are about to be in trouble, and gives them time to change their behavior.

MEANMOM's picture
MEANMOM

MY YOUNGEST IS 5 SO I HAVE A FEW IDEAS. 1.MAYBE MAKE A DEAL WITH A FRIEND OR SET UP A PLAY DATE OR HAVE DAD KEEP HIM WHEN YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE STORE OR POST OFFICE. 2. ALWAYS EXPLAIN WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE YOU DO IT. BEFORE YOU GO IN ASK HIME TO LOOK FOR CERTAIN COLORS MAKE A GAME OUT OF THE TRIP. 3. MAYBE NOT EVERY TIME BUT KEEP SOME DUM DUM SUCKERS IN YOUR PURSE OR A COLORFUL BOOK? HAVE AN ACTIVITY BAG READY TO GO HE CAN EVEN PLAY INTHE CAR CARDS OR MAGNA DOODLE IS GREAT. ORDER PRESCHOOL MAGAZINES TOTAKE WITH. I'M TRYING, I HOPED I HELPED
PS. SPANKING I DO AGREE WITH YOU DID THE RIGHT THING AT THE LIBRARY AND PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE PEOPLE THAT SPEAK OUT LOUD

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

I'm not totally against spanking, I just don't believe it shld be used all the time. I've done the car trips w/ my children like single dad mentioned. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. In the cases that it didn't work, we left all together.
I try to only take my boys to the store if I have to. Otherwise I do my shopping when my husband is home to watch the kids. I realize not everyone has this luxury, but if you do, take advantage of that time. It will makes things a lot easier all around.
I totally can relate to your feelings about ignorant people. I had a police officer come up to me one time and make a comment. My oldest son at 3 yrs old had a meltdown and refused to sit in his carseat. We were in a grocery store parking lot, and I had my other son w/ me as well. My 3 yr old insisted on kicking and screaming and putting his foot in the door so I cldn't close it. I was so emotionally and physically drained after literally having to sit on him to get him in his seat. As I was struggling to strap my son in, he bit my arm. That's when I lost it and hit him. During this time, a police officer happened to be walking through the parking lot (I obviously didn't know he was there), and he approached me. He was a young cop, probably in his early 20s. He told me he witnessed me hit my child, and that I shld consider taking parenting classes to learn how to be a better mother. After the battle I had just been through, I felt like knocking some sense into him (of course I didn't), b/c that was the last thing I needed to hear at the moment. All I kept thinking was obviously this guy isn't a parent.
I think the suggestion to just look the person in the eye and say thank you, is a good one. You're responding, but not getting into a conflict. Then you can just walk away. Some people just feel the need to put their 2 cents in. I don't agree w/ this either, unless of course, like you said, they're witnessing an abusive situation. Try to pay these people no mind, and do what's best for you and your child. I recently read a book recommended by several people on these boards called 1-2-3 Magic. It discusses a different means of disciplining children w/out using your hand. This might be a helpful source to have. I ordered it from Amazon. Hang in there, and good luck!

mimi2's picture
mimi2

HaHa! The wonderful moods of a two year old. I can't imagine people saying things like that! I have many times been thinking things in my head but would never say them out loud because that is not my kid and I am not their parent. I have two sons - one is 23 months and one is 9-1/2 months. I try my hardest to not leave the house unless my oldest son has had his nap and i always bring food to keep him occupied - like cheerios etc. Sometimes toddler meltdowns just happen and are unavoidable. There's nothing you can really do but grin and bear it. Unless you are doing something illegal like beating your kid no one really has the right to say anything. I just try to keep a sense of humor and most people seem to be more sympathetic than mean!