A look at how parents should handle these sticky situations.
Throwing a Party
So you’re ready to throw your toddler her second birthday party, but do you have to invite all 15 kids and their parents from your Mommy and Me class?
At a recent playgroup, a 3-year-old who’s large for his age snatched a Thomas the Tank Engine from your son and then smashed it against your angel’s pudgy little fingers. The assailant’s mother turned away, pretending not to notice. What to do?
You bring your 18-month-old to visit a relative and you discover that your beloved relation has covered her coffee and end tables with Wedgwood and Waterford. Do you really want to spend the next three hours screaming at the tot and readying the checkbook to pay for the expected breakage?
Dilemmas, Dilemmas, Dilemmas
When you’re the parent of a wee one and you’re out and about in the world, there’s no escape from questions of parental etiquette. Even if you try to tread softly wherever you go, you’ll inevitably be faced with potential breaches of etiquette, particularly when parents ignore open infractions, or well meaning people have absolutely no idea how to deal with small children.
While Emily Post never penned a definitive volume on how you should handle such sticky kiddo questions, I will humbly attempt to fill in the gaps on: birthday parties, discipline, temper tantrums in public, breakables at relatives’ or friends’ homes, sick kids and on unsolicited advice.
It’s My Party
Here’s a situation rife with potential problems: Whether you’re throwing or attending a tot-centered soiree, you need to take into consideration a number of things before placing the orders for a gazillion Mylar balloons in the shape of cartoon characters and for over-sugared, neon-colored drinks.
When you’re giving a party, particularly for a very young child, less is more. I’m not a subscriber to the philosophy that, out of social courtesy, you need to invite every single kid in your child’s playgroup, plus all the neighbors and the kids of your college friends to a child’s party. Remember, it’s supposed to be about your kid, not you.
A two-year-old need not be overwhelmed by a party attended by 15-20 children plus their parents, where the event is elaborately planned including crafts, performers, pony rides and a Space Shuttle jaunt. True, when it comes to family parties, there’s not much you can do if you have a large family and everyone really wants to help celebrate, but when it comes to a young child’s friends, you need to think about your kid’s needs first. Keep it minimal.
What about when a particular group of friends finds out that you threw a party and didn’t invite them? Tell them you wanted to keep it small and leave it at that.
When you’re attending a party, you should make sure you know whether it’s a gift-giving occasion. Some parents—noting the mountain of molded plastic constituting its own zip code in their homes—tell parents of the invitees to either please refrain from bringing gifts, to bring something small, or to perhaps bring a donation to a particular cause in lieu of a present. By all means, respect the host’s wishes. Too many parties degenerate into a base, animalistic form of greed as the birthday celebrant tears through the gifts and some gift givers who gave a book or two feel cheap compared to the giant box of toys the more affluent parents bought. Keep it simple. On the other hand, if no gift criteria are mentioned, expect to bring something that:
- Is either in your budget or homemade.
- Teaches your child the fun of giving.
- Isn’t inappropriately large or extravagant.
There’s nothing worse than being in a situation where a kid in your child’s play group, in the children’s room in the library, or at a play ground starts bullying your child. It’s doubly worse when the bully’s parent does nothing in the face of obnoxious behavior.
I’m the non-confrontational type who doesn’t like to reprimand other people’s kids unless absolutely necessary. If I see a child being mean to one of my kids, I try to stay out of it and let my child handle it (I’m not always going to be there to save him or her). In instances where I see that my child is overtly upset, say a toy was taken away from him and the thief won’t give it back, I try to divert my child’s attention to something else, silently hoping that the thief’s parent or caretaker will step in and reprimand the child. (Full disclosure: My children have been offenders on occasion and I’ve instantly demanded that he or she return the stolen item, apologize and have a time out.)
But the moment my child, or any other child for that matter, is threatened and the parent of the bully does nothing (and believe me, this happens more than people would like to admit), I will intervene. One little boy repeatedly shoved my daughter out of the way around a train table at the library once. After the first shove, I loudly told him that, “We don’t shove people.” His mother looked up, but did nothing. When he shoved her a second time and then crushed her hand with a train, the angry Momma Bear emerged. I grabbed his hand and said, “No hitting!” His mother came over, picked up the child and then let him select videos to check out of the library. No apology. No nothing.
My thoughts: If one child physically threatens another, it’s your duty to step in. You’re the grown-up. When it comes to other inanely obnoxious behavior—like not sharing—I tend to refocus my kid on something else and pray that someone will teach the bully proper manners someday.
If your sweetie is the ill-mannered one, do us all a favor and remove sweetie from the situation. No one likes a bully.
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