Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Baby Battles

Times were simpler once. There wasn't a guru on every corner spouting unproven twaddle; everyone did what they had to do with the time available, and that didn't leave much left over for analyzing life too deeply. 

Take parenting, for instance. There are all sorts of "methods," claiming to raise the most well-adjusted child who won't blame his parents in twenty years for creating psychological trauma. 
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I was once at a Shabbos meal when I was not that close with the other guests, a couple with a five year old daughter. The mother measured out her portion, and told her, "Don't throw it on the floor." 

The fact that had to be said could not be good.

Immediately the girl began to snivel, intentionally shaking the food off her plate. I reacted immediately, my mouth unattractively stuffed with challah, when I roared at her, "We don't throw food on the floor!" 

She stopped, and contritely padded off to the kiddie table. As for her mother? Not leaping to her defense; if anything, she seemed happy that someone else was doing the dirty work, her eyes focused on the other side of the room. 

(Aside: If your kid would rather throw her food on the floor than eat it, then she doesn't have to be given any lunch.)

But what if she had leapt to her child's defense, which is what other people face when their friends' children are rat-finks? 

New parents bring their own childhoods to the table, some wanting to provide their offspring the direct opposite of their own experience.
Ms. Dederer believed that many of her generation’s parenting practices stemmed from the fact that they were nursing psychic wounds from the family disruption and disengagement that had swept through their own homes in the 1970s. 
Take, for instance, a mother cited in the article who does "attachment parenting"—her children are pretty much glued to her side, all the time—because both she and husband had felt abandoned by their own parents. 

She referred to her method as "healing" for her. But then she is making parenting about her, not about her children. That is the crux; one has to examine their motives very carefully. It shouldn't be what makes us feel good, it should be about how to raise a competent mensch. But I digress. 

Then there is the mother who, while perfectly able and stable, feels inferior as she doesn't have a fellow mother-friend's slavish devotion to her progeny.
I’m feeling inadequate with her ‘I-do-everything-for-my-children’ example,” she said of the first friend, who has curtailed her own creative, prestigious career because she’s rarely able to find a baby sitter who meets her high standards. “I have these pangs of ‘maybe she’s doing everything right and I’m doing things all wrong.’ ” As for the second: Around her, Ms. Smith Rakoff feels like an undisciplined slacker. “I almost can’t see her because she makes me feel too bad about myself.” 
I would actually feel the reverse, I think. If a woman was remolding her identity through her children, I would actually be awash in superiority.

Raising children is not rocket science; youngsters don't crave much more than stability and seder. And as I have said, I would be the type to get aggravated if a parent ignored bad behavior. If a "method" advocates that, maybe the friend has a point.       

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Come back in a few years with a few kinderlach, iyh, and let us know how things are going.

Princess Lea said...

Since I practically raised my fleet of nieces and nephews, I have high hopes. I have already reprogrammed them in the space of one afternoon. Not hard, with a little consistency.

%Shocked% said...

Hmmmm... You "roared" at someone else's children? I mean, I've given mussar to children before, stopped them from fighting and done other such unpleasant parenting things when the parents weren't aware or available, but I could never imagine raising my voice to someone else's kids (unless the behavior was dangerous or whatnot).

And don't you think it's even worse that the mother looked away? What does that say about her as a mother? 1) Sorry, but it's her job to raise her children, not yours. 2) Parents and other permanent people in a child's life are the only ones who can effect change. I humbly believe that you are only undermining her parents authority by responding first, and that she will continue to throw challah on the floor- at least, when you're not around. A child only needs one mother and one father. Regardless of whether they are doing a good job, unless you're a staple in the girl's life, I don't see anything positive coming from what you did. I agree that a firm hand is necessary when raising a child, but I think the right people have to do it.

Talking with your mouth full? ;-) I never would have thought!!

Princess Lea said...

Let me clarify:

I am not delusional enough to believe that one time will change this kid's behavior. If a mother condones her child acting like this at home, that is one (terrible) thing; but when they are in someone else's home (specifically, my brother's) and this kid proceeds to waste food her hostess prepared and make a mess for the hostess to clean up, then I am MAD. It's simply rude and inconsiderate behavior, and I am not going to tolerate such disrespect.

There was a neighbor's kid who used to come to my house when I was little. My mother gave her a cookie. "In my house, I have two cookies at a time," she complained. "Well, in THIS house," Ma responded, "we have one at a time." She's under someone else's roof, bro, and she better play by the rules.

As for undermining the mother's "authority"? What authority? The mother told her not to throw the food on the floor, and she did it anyway. There is no authority to undermine; it's nonexistent.

Anonymous said...

"Since I practically raised my fleet of nieces and nephews, I have high hopes."

The point is, it's different when they're YOURS. VERY different. That's why I hope you'll come back and tell us your results in a few years.

Princess Lea said...

Chances are, I won't be honest either way. :) Mothers rarely are.

%Shocked% said...

I was wondering if you had left out a piece of information; namely the location of where this incident had occurred. In that case, I can understand that you feel you have someright to intervene (to some extent).

You aren't going to tolerate such disrespect? Is it your house? Noooo... If your sister-in-law or brother were so bothered, they're perfectly capable of making it clear to the child. No offense intended (honestly, none intended), but who are you to intervene?? Not your house, not your place. It's not on you to enforce someone else's rules on someone else's child. And harshly at that?!

Wait, with her mother instructing her not to throw food on the floor, how is that condoning? Maybe she felt that screaming at her child at someone else's home isn't the greatest chinuch? Is there not a time and a place to rebuke a child? Perhaps someone else's home is not the place to be giving mussar.

Your anecdote is far from analogous. Your mother informed the neighbor's kid of the rule, did you? Sure, there's a generic rule of "we don't throw food on the floor" but maybe some families wait until their child is older before focusing on that? Who's to say?

And all you did was further reinforce that lack of authority!

Unless there's something else I'm missing?

(Again [and for the last time... ever lol], please don't feel that I'm attacking you personally. I simply disagree with you on this and am trying to understand how you believe what you did to be the correct thing to do.)

Princess Lea said...

Cookie, these kids are rotten all the time. You know how I know? Any mother that makes a point to discipline her child inside their house does not have a kid that throws food in someone else's. That's how the world works.

Wait until their older? I gotta ask you, have you been around kids a lot? I have. Kids are capable of being socialized at a very young age; if one waits until the age of 5, they are asking for trouble.

Screaming is not the only way to discipline. If your child doesn't understand you mean business the first time you say something, you have no authority. None.

I find it funny how your blog is filled with sagas of others' misbehavior - isn't that's why you call yourself "Shocked"?

What horrifies you and what horrifies me obviously differs. I didn't put her over my knee and whack her to pieces. I told a child that "We don't throw food on the floor." And we don't. Not just because her great-grandparents are Holocaust survivors.

Who am I? If a teacher demands better behavior from this kid, is she usurping her mother's (lack of) authority? The teacher can put her in a corner, or send her to the principle, but I can't say one sentence?

Think of me as a teacher, teaching this kid that the world will not give her the same leeway her mother does.

%Shocked% said...

First "bro" now "cookie"? What did I do to deserve a pet name? Lol

I don't disagree with you that a 5 year old should be trained not to throw food on the floor, but until you know everything about the child and how she's disciplined and trained, I don't see how something like throwing food on the floor could possibly elicit a harsh reaction from anyone but her parents (or teacher, etc. which I'll address further on).

Yes, B"H I have about 50-60 or so younger cousins of all ages, nieces and a nephew and all of the kids at my hosts that I go to on a regular basis. In short, I'm around kids of all ages very frequently.

All sorts of trouble? Have you ever seen a child of 11 throwing food on the floor? Ever? I agree that a mother should do her best to knock it out of her child early, but I believe that to be the kind of thing a child grows out of eventually.

As well, there could be circumstances that you aren't aware of. You said yourself you don't know the family very well. Something about the child perhaps? I obviously have no idea, but do you know the child well enough to render judgment on how quickly she can learn social norms?

"Screaming is not the only way to discipline." I agree with you on that completely. On the contrary, my adverse reaction was precisely because of your reaction of screaming. You can be very firm without raising your voice at all. Didn't you once write about your "death glare"? And eerie quiet voice? I think the eerie quiet voice would have been a tad more appropriate.

"I find it funny how your blog is filled with sagas of others' misbehavior - isn't that's why you call yourself "Shocked"?"

Hehe, good point. I'm "shocked" by your behavior lol. Although, truth be told, that's only catalyzed my blog; it wasn't my intention to consistently write about that sort of thing. But the people I meet...

"What horrifies you and what horrifies me obviously differs." No doubt. Two points. We aren't discussing what horrifies us; we're discussing the appropriate reaction to another child's peccadillo. Secondly, educating a five year old by means of the Holocaust as a medium seems a little bit unrealistic to me.

"Think of me as a teacher..." That's my point! You're not her teacher! If you were you'd have the right to not only harshly rebuke but even scream (maybe lol). But a teacher is implicitly, if not explicitly, given a free hand to assist a parent in raising a child. You're not a parent, teacher or even a relative of the kid.

"[T]he world will not give her the same leeway her mother does." You don't honestly believe that a five year old will pick up on that, do you? They don't have the capacity to 1) make such a generalization or 2) think in such a long term manner. What she'll probably walk away with is "that girl is mean!!!" (don't worry, we know the truth even if she doesn't lol)

Princess Lea said...

No more nicknames. ("Cookie" was used by my mother when she got tough).

When I said "roared," I didn't mean that literally; call it poetic license. If you are going to nitpick between "scream" vs. "talking loudly" vs. "firm tones," that is not the crux of the issue.

Your point is I should have said nothing, is that not so? The "death stare" would not have used in this instance; it has its time and place.

To start analyzing in terms of what I SHOULD have done is not the point here. It happened, and the kid does not seem to have any lingering trauma, and the mother is still pleasant to me. This was more than five years ago, for God's sake.

Of course I didn't give her a Holocaust speech; I am just SHOCKED how descendants of survivors can be flip about waste (meaning her parents, not her).

What makes a teacher a teacher? If a teacher raises their voice, whether justified or not justified, parents often get involved and defend. This mother could have, but she chose not to. It's not like she's a frail mouse; she speaks her mind all the time.

AGAIN, I don't claim to have changed this kid's mentality around, or now she is magically angelic. I said the world won't give her leeway. And by world, that includes me. If she is going to be hanging around me, I'm not taking any crap.

What exactly are you trying to gain by harping on this? That you will make me "see the light"?
If two people are at an impasse, and time or the elements will not have an affect, move on. I do not debate for futility's sake.

If you respond again regarding this topic, I will stay silent. I'm done.

%Shocked% said...

And to think that I thought you were chilling out a bit... How naive...

No, that was not my point.

Oh, I'm sorry, was I supposed to know that it occurred 5 years ago? Because I must have missed the memo, i.e. you didn't say that in the post or in the comments.

The teacher that we were talking about was the one first referenced by you, that is, a teacher who has the authority to put a child in a corner or call a principal.

Here we go again with you shutting down a discussion. It would be one thing if we were repeating ourselves and going in circles. We aren't. We're having a dialog with points and counter-points. I don't see that as harping nor do I see us at an impasse on the topic.

See the light, yes, precisely. If you can't defend your point of view or rebut my arguments with a logical one of your own then yes, maybe you are wrong and need to rethink things.

I apologize for having upset you. In the future I will refrain from defending my opinions and answering the questions you pose to me.