Monday, March 26, 2012

Party Pooper

It's the weekend... you've been invited to a good friend's child's 2nd birthday party. It's in a smallish apartment, and you really don't know anyone else there apart from the host. There are other small children there too, of course. They are playing happily with the little plastic trikes and toys and their parents mingle comfortably with wine glasses in hand.

Your 18 month old son barrels into the scene and within minutes has tipped a bowl of crisps over the carpet, had a screaming temper fit on the floor and scratched a large gash in the face of a little toddler girl you have never before met because she was playing in the little car he decides he wants for himself.

Do you,

(a) Shout and scream at your toddler;
(b) Smack his bottom;
(c) Apologise profusely to host and parents and carry screaming toddler out of apartment for time out, or
(d) Do nothing?

I took the (c) option but it felt hollow. How do you explain to someone you have never met that your child really is a beautiful little boy with no intentional malice when they have just scratched a chunk out of their precious little girl's face?

The mother didn't say a word as I attempted an apology, just gave me a half glance and requested Detol from the host and my friend to attempt to repair the damage. Detol, like my child has rabies.

But I couldn't judge her. I know would have done the same. I would have been horrified if the shoe were on the other foot. And, before Elliott, when it was just Fern (who at three has never scratched anyone in her life), I would have cast immediate judgement at the parents of such a child for 'allowing' such inappropriate behaviour.

But now I am the parent of such a child. And I was mortified. Embarrassed. Horrified, actually. And, as a room full of people watched with interest to see my reaction to this spectacle I wanted to crawl into a hole and quite literally die.

Folks, I did not raise my children to be violent. I hate violence. I can't even watch a movie with any violence in it without leaving the room. I do believe in discipline, but I am at a loss for how to discipline an 18 month old child, and teach him that this behaviour is not appropriate. Elliott is an energetic, vivacious, otherwise adorable and loveable little person who - in social situations - does not understand the difference between right and wrong.

Any advice you can offer will be gratefully accepted; what do YOU do when your child behaves inappropriately in public? What do you do when your child smacks another child? And how do you deter such behaviour in the first instance? Please tell me I am not the only one who has had this experience and that it is not my dreadful parenting that has made my child this way?! xx


  1. I completely understand where you are coming from. My daughter is 20 months old, and her idea of "play" is whacking me and her dad in the head. I've tried EVERYTHING, ignoring her when she does it, walking away, putting her on the floor, time out and it doesn't work. The only thing I've found that works for me is to pretend to cry. And when I do that I feel horrible because I feel like I'm guilting her into not hitting me. I really don't like to smack her, it doesn't work and she pretty much laughs i my face if I raise my voice, so I sit here hoping its something she will grow out of. Having said that, My daughter is a happy-go-lucky child, So I cant have it all! I'd rather cop a whack in the head once in a while then have a constant sooky baby. Still I can only hope its something she grows out of!

  2. Oh sweetie, its *apparently* normal behaviour....and we care so much because we want to raise children to be better human beings than know...My O, now 2, was certainly that child....I was the one apologising left right and centre, he's calmed down a little now and is a bit mr I guess its just a stage, until the next mortifying act of terrorism! xo

  3. oh dear, welcome to my world. Boys, they are rough and tumble. You will be judged, people will talk about you behind your back and you will be boo-ed out of the park/ play centre.

    It's tough going.

    but i've heard it ends?!

    In the mean time we encourage 'using your words' (bit hard with an 18 month old) and showing gentle hands- i'm sure you've done all of this.

  4. In our world option C has been our choice MANY times with our son.
    Boys are very different to girls and kids are all different. They do grow out of it (he's now 10 and hasn't clocked anyone since he was 2 1/2!) and is a lovely empathetic boy with lovely friends.
    To those that mock, sneer and scoff - their time will come! Maybe they'll get shocking teenagers!
    Be confident in your approach, stick to your guns and follow through with your consequences and he'll get it eventually. And love him lots because next thing you know he'll be riding his bike to school and yelling goodbye from the gate.
    If all else fails have a stash of chocolate in the cupboard for you.
    Trust in yourself that you are a good Mum and are doing a great job.

  5. Oh darling, I feel for you so wholeheartedly. I know only too well the shame and embarrassment that comes from having a 'spirited' boy... or two! My first boy was a dominant toddler and I thought he was hard work, then along came my second boy and he is proving to be just as dominant, if not more. In January, we held a party with close friends for my eldest's 4th birthday. The 18 month old (at the time) was a nightmare! He pushed and grabbed and bullied the other children, including the older ones! I was a nervous wreck by the end of the day and of course I was in the comfort of my own home, with very close friends who didn't blink an eyelid, but as a Mama, we always feel bad for our children's behaviours. To be honest, this probably isn't the best way around it, but I just limit the things I take them to when they're going through this phase... and it IS a phase. My 4 year old is the sweetest, most caring and easy to get along with little boy when he's with other kids now. I also started explaining to my 18month old that instead of pushing, we should hug and/or kiss our friends. So he IS getting better and giving LOTS of hugs to children when he sees them. It is never easy and I'm sorry you had to go through that ordeal. Most parents should understand though, no matter how displeased they may seem on the surface, after all, they're just kids xo

  6. Oh love.
    I can so relate.
    At that age, my boy was a prize tantrum thrower.
    And apparently not one other child out of the 14 at our playgroup was!!!
    The other Mums used to question why he was so 'angry' as he screamed blue murder.
    All I could do was put him in 'time out' to cool off - or eventually leave when I'd had enough of feeling like I was a 'Mum on display'!!!

    He did a similar thing at a birthday party in one of those teeny,tiny party rooms at a play centre.
    I had to carry him kicking and screaming and squeeze past all these strangers just staring at the spectacle!
    Absolutely mortifying.

    I'm pretty sure I didn't/don't model aggressive behaviour or unbridled rage - but my son could be a monster.
    (The other 98% of the time he was/is the most gorgeous, loving little thing.)

    Now, I would NEVER judge a kid's behaviour or see it as a reflection of their parents.

    I don't have any real advice for oyu.
    I know smacking would have only made Magoo even more outraged - and there was no way on Earth his behaviour could be 'ignored' when I was out. At home, it's easy to simply leave the room - but socially is so difficult.

    I feel for you.
    :-) xx

  7. I hope that in these moments you don't get too upset, it's not you that has the problem - it's just kids being kids. Anybody who doesn't understand that shouldn't worry you. (I know you probably will worry, but please don't.) As the Mum of the most gorgeous and sensitive little boy in the world (to me!) i'm often on the receiving end of spirited toddlers frightening my sensitive one. I try and be as reassuring as possible to both Jude and the Mum (the spirited ones are usually off playing in a pile of leaves/halfway across the playground by that time) and reassure them that it's fine, we love their kid, all kids are different, Jude's a bit sensitive, please don't worry...blah blah.

    I think a little apology is always nice for BOTH of the kids. I ask Jude to apologise now for the odd thing here or there, and he's getting the hang of it. (He's 2 and 4 months now though.)


  8. Oh Nic, I feel your pain. I'm still dealing with this with Max as you know.
    When you find out what the answer is, let me know! xo

  9. I feel your pain sister!!! My bubby number three, Elliot as well is a tantrum thrower and he BITES. After having two very quiet and sedate kids, this one is a wonder to me. The time he bites me the most is in swimming lessons. So bad that I have purple bruises all over my arms and shoulders. And as expected he bit a child in the class the other day. So what did I do.... walked out of the lesson, my head hanging and him screaming. What more can you do. Well the threat of leaving the swimming pool mid lesson again was enough for a bit of a reprieve from the biting during swimming. When ever we get into the pool, I tell him that if he bites me or someone else we will leave straight away. They do grow out of it as Em said, but what do we do in the mean time??? I used to be one of the mums that would scowl at misbehaved toddlers. All I can say now is there are worse things they could do. And I keep my eyes focused on the end goal. Most adults don't walk around biting/scratching/hitting others, so it will end!!!
    We all feel with you

  10. Hi Nicole - you are not alone....faced with the same reality as you i went in search of some answers and found this site it talks a lot about positive discipline and really made sense to me. i thought i would pass it on just in case it made sense to you. good luck and remember that what you know about your child is enough - you don't need to justify his behaviour to other people so they will approve or "understand". i say that to myself constantly

  11. Oh, I so feel for you. We all want the rest of the world to see our children as we do and it's so hard when they don't. No advice as my son is just nine months but he is an active, curious, very physical boy so I imagine we'll come to this crossroads in time. I think all you can do is remind yourself that this isn't a reflection on your parenting, it really is just a phase. Keep doing what you're doing and you'll come out the other side.

    P.S new reader here, loving your blog!

  12. Have you read 'Raising Your Spirited Child' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka? I started reading this book a few months ago, it gave me a much needed positive perspective on my 'spirited' 4yo daughter & helped me to understand her better. (I haven't finished the book due to the arrival of bub no. 2, but what I read was helpful!)

  13. The little ones both have wonderful smiles on their faces.



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