Thursday, January 12, 2006

Rules for Dealing With Other People's Children

I recently have had some fun discussions with my childless friends about dealing with other people’s children. So I have developed some rules.

  • Forget about all of that “It takes a village to raise a child” crap. Many parents say they believe this but try to participate in the raising of a child and you will learn very quickly that they don’t mean it. Or rather, by “it takes a village to raise a child” what they mean is that single people should pay lots of taxes to support programs designed for other people’s children but should keep their mouths shut about them. Now, I think that it is perfectly ok for any tax payer to have an opinion about how their tax dollars are spent but one should expect some parents to pull out the “you don’t have kids, so what do you know about kids or education” thing if I happen to mention my opinions around them. I have found that the best approach is to remind them that I am only expressing an opinion as a tax payer about a public program (and I make sure that is what I am doing too. Saying, “parents need to spank their kids more so they are better behaved in school” is REALLY saying something more about a parenting style than a public program)

  • Do not *ever* think about giving any parent advice about child raising unless they ask for it (and even then I proceed with caution). Even if I know that even though I don’t have kids, I know more about raising kids than they do. Sure, I don’t have kids so I know less about raising kids than I would if I had kids of my own, that isn’t in dispute. But there are seriously stupid people out there who raise their kids in really terrible ways. So I might know that verbally abusing a kid to the point of tears every night is probably not a good parenting technique but, trust me, if I were to ever suggest that to a parent who does that, they will say, “what do you know? You don’t have kids” as if I would suddenly change my mind about calling children names and telling them they are worthless if I had kids. Yes, if I had kids, I would have more insight into the world of parenting than I have now but I would still be me and my fundamental values probably wont change. I know this. But they don’t. And they don’t want to hear what I am saying so unless I see the kind of abuse that needs to be reported to Social Services, I just stay out of it. Seriously.

    On issues less obvious than the verbal abuse example I gave, I just remember that there are lots and lots of ways to raise kids and most of them work pretty well, even the ones I don’t like. So while I might do things differently, it doesn’t mean that the parent I see is doing things wrong. And if I were a parent, would I want everyone telling ME what to do? I mean, I wouldn’t because I already know that if I had kids, whatever I did would be totally 100% correct….(hahaha. ok just kidding). But you get the idea. I wouldn’t want a bunch of busy bodies getting on my case if I did co-sleeping or natural fiber diapers or whatever other hippy dippy parenting thing I would be prone to doing. It took me a long time to learn to keep my mouth shut in such situations and I still slip up sometimes but really, it probably is better for everyone when unsolicited advice is kept to oneself.

  • Do not *ever* think of reprimanding another person’s child. There are two exceptions to this rule but generally, just don’t. Every parent seems to have a different method they use and unless you have been given permission and detailed instructions from a parent it just is better to keep your mouth shut. So…if you see some kid engaging in poor behavior, just ignore it. It isn’t worth the trouble to say *anything*. But as I said there are two exceptions to this rule
    1. Exception 1: My House, My Rules. If it is your house and you see a kid wipe a booger on your wall, it is perfectly acceptable to tell that child that booger wiping isn’t allowed in your house. I have lots of rules in my house that I enforce with *everyone* (not just children). As I have already mentioned, I don’t allow booger wiping. I also do not allow annoying the dogs, writing on the walls, screaming, running, climbing, and there is a definite bedtime of midnight if I have to go to work the next day.
    2. Exception 2: My Body, My Rules. Oddly this is an exception that a friend who is a parent asked me to do. Her kids sometimes hit me or jumped on me and I didn’t like it but was afraid to say anything. She said that she was trying to teach her children that they had the right to control their own bodies and how other people touched them. She wanted me to set an example by telling her kids that they couldn’t hit me. Then I thought to myself: Hey, I have control over my body and I have control over who touches me and in what way. I mean, if an *adult* hit me, I wouldn’t just stand there and smile and say “oh how cute” I would say something like “It is not ok for you to hit me” because it is NOT ok for someone to hit me even if that someone is a child. So now if a kid hits me, I tell them that they aren’t to do that anymore and if they continue to do it, I leave the room.

  • If you have a friend who only talks about their kid and seems to have no other interests, there are some things you can do.
    1. You can talk about your pets in the same way they are talking about their kids. Trust me, if you start describing your dog’s poop in the same animated way they describe their baby’s poo, they usually get the idea. And if they don’t? Well, who else is going to listen to you talk about your dog’s poop? *snort* I secretly LOVE doing that. Yeah…so bring it on, you parents who like to talk about your children’s poo. I have *two* dogs and they poo every day. Sometimes TWICE.
    2. Remember that sometimes (especially if they are a stay at home parent) your friends with kids don’t get too much adult conversation and simply need to have the conversation redirected with simple questions. In fact, getting the topic off of the kid is usually doing them a favor. They are talking about the kid because that is all they have been focused on but everyone needs to have other things in their lives. Your friend NEEDS to discuss Madonna’s new look or the BUSH administration’s latest fuckup (depending on the friend).
    3. Just go with it and listen to them complain about the sleepless nights and how they have no life anymore. This almost always makes me GLAD that I don’t have kids which is good because I don’t have kids and it is a lot better to be glad about that than wishing I had them.


E-Speed said...

all v. true.

I love the talking about your dogs in response to kid talk, that is great!

Sandy D. said...

All good advice, except that the other exception I make is to intervene when one kid is physically aggressive with another kid. Whether or not my kid is the victim (or the aggressor!), I'm not shy about stepping in and saying "Hey, you stop that right now." I haven't another parent pissed at me yet.

In terms of the verbal abuse some parents may heap on their kids, if it is being done in a public place I *might* ask if there is something I can do to help, like letting them get in front of me in line.

Anonymous said...

i made the mistake of breaking rule number two. when i suggested to my husbands parents that the way they raised him was both abusive and seriously hurtful to him (even though he has told them this also) they went on the major defensive. I agree with you however. just because i dont have kids doesnt mean that i don't know that screaming obsenities at them is wrong.