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Middling on Other People's Children...

I always laugh when I hear this, and cliche or not, it's amazing how often it's true, no? The thing is, we all have our own tolerances and not of childish behavior, and many times, our tolerances are quite different than those around us (even those related to us).

However, there are those children whose parents are simply not raising them at all. Thankfully, they seem to be few amongst our friends, but they do exist. We might be seeing one of those families this weekend.

The parents are pretty enjoyable to be with. I'm not that close to the woman, but I can talk with her and don't feel out of place or tense. Her husband is a nice guy (and I actually like him, personally, better than her), even though he's hard to talk to (he's got interesting social issues). By themselves, they're decent folk to spend time with.

Their sons, however...well, I guess that's where you can really see the family values (or lack thereof). And I'm not 'blaming' the parents, per se. It's obvious than neither of them were raised with any boundaries or guidelines, either (and probably their parents weren't, and so on). The mom's way of coping is to either shut her kids out completely (she used to leave her oldest alone in the house while she shut her door -- he was too young to open it -- and took a nap with ear plugs in for hours at a time) or yell. And I'm not talking a yell of frustration or something which happens once in a long while -- I mean regular, angry, disgusted yelling of the kids' names. It makes me wince every time I hear it -- which is about four or five times in one evening, if we're lucky.

The dad simply checks out. If the kid does something to him, in particular, he'll say, "Don't do that!" in a firm voice...but when the kid does it again (which he always does), he just ignores him. No follow through, no response. It's like the kids are invisible unless they're being yelled at.

The result? The older boy (who's E's age) is a nasty piece of work already. He can act very sweet, but he's manipulative, and I've seen him assess situations to figure out how he can get what he wants. He's cruel too. He has no qualms about going after the weak ones in the pack. And he torments his younger brother (who's around five now). He punches him, slaps him, pinches him, swears at him (yes, even the "F" word) -- and the parents do nothing. It's like they can't even hear or see what's going on right in front of them.

Needless to say, we avoid this family (when all four of them are together) as much as possible. In fact, when we're all together, we tell D to watch out for E (D's still bigger than the younger boy, but E isn't). I don't trust that kid anywhere near her -- thankfully, the kid looks up to D and thinks he's 'cool.'

Thankfully, this is the only family in our circle of friends who's like this. The others are typical families -- their tolerances are different from ours, but they're still actually raising their kiddos and working to make them decent human beings. They clearly love their children and enjoy being with them.

We know one other family -- NOT our friends, but friends of friends -- who have this issue. They have three boys, with the youngest two around D's and E's ages. We went camping with this family (and our mutual friends) right after D turned three. The boy nearest his age got angry and took D's pail (all the kids had their little dirt pails) and smashed it to smithereens with a bat and left the pieces in front of our tent. The parents just laughed and said, "Oh, well." We saw them again a couple years later, and the parents were divorced (no shock there -- the woman is one of the few I truly consider an absolute witch), and the boys were with their dad (who seems like a really nice guy). There was a bouncy castle, and within minutes of our arrival, they (the hosts, not the parent) were telling the older two boys (who were about 7 and 5) that they could no longer be in the castle with any of the other kids. They were targeting all the other kids and trying to 'take them out.' Blood had already been shed. Lovely, no?

So at least our friends aren't this bad. Still, I wonder how it goes from 'other people's children' to 'you're raising monsters?' Wouldn't you notice that such behavior isn't a good thing? Of course, if they're like our friends, they probably have no idea what to do. In a couple of vulnerable moments, our friends have admitted this. They didn't quite come out and ask for help, but they did say something like, "You know how hard parenting is. We're attending some classes for ideas on how to deal with strong-willed kids -- you should too." Granted, I'm stronger willed than just about any kid out there (my poor parents), so it's not so much an issue here ;)

I'm guessing you know 'other people's children' too. How do you handle them (and their parents)?



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)

My husband knows some people where...not being in the mental health field, but I'd guess the wife has some major OCD and other issues. Not cute, like color-coding, but like, freaking out over extremely tiny things. They have several extremely brilliant, creative, athletic children who are by nature happy and friendly. But the times we spent with them, the mom spent 100% of the time berating the kids--for nothing, as far as I could see. When they were at our house, I took all our kids and all theirs down to the park so they could have a break and just play and have a nice time. We ended up going to a Mother's Day service and sitting between them and another woman who had documented mental issues (and had had her children removed as a result). It was strange sitting there--with the one mom who was allowed to have her kids, even though she didn't seem to want them around much, and the other one, who wasn't allowed but who wanted more than anything to have her kids with her. There was something not quite fair about all that...

Edited at 2012-03-21 03:36 pm (UTC)
Mar. 21st, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
:( Yeah, that's a real shame. I don't quite understand why people who aren't interested in spending time with their kids have them in the first place (like these friends of ours) -- it's a lose/lose situation.
Mar. 21st, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
When I read about the wife locking the kids out of her room, it totally reminded me of a situation we had in our village. I'd love to say it came out happily. But eventually the kid ended up doing something bad enough to land him in jail and the parents went on the same.

It is truly tough and unfair situation.
Mar. 21st, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
It is -- and it's tough because I feel so sorry for the kids (especially the older boy, who gets the brunt of his parents' anger and neglect), but they're so difficult to be around. What a mess.
Mar. 21st, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
Parents primarily in name only
There's the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
To those parents who are "absentee" parents, I'd say, "Make yourself absent, and I will be fonder of that arrangement."

Edited at 2012-03-21 03:25 pm (UTC)
Mar. 21st, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Parents primarily in name only
Sadly true...
Mar. 21st, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
So sad. But I keep thinking that people have kids because it's what they're spossed to do not because they really want or know how difficult it is and how they'll change your life and accept it. Also we are living this new age were parents want to be friedns with their kids they don't want to be as their parents with rules and all that stuff. But what I think is that first of all you're th eparent and the you're the friend. Rules are needed and also you need to want to be a parent because is though and you just can't walk away. even when people actually do it.
Mar. 21st, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
I think you're right -- too many do it because it's expected (they might even expect it of themselves). And the trying to be a friend thing? Drives. Me. Crazy. I've heard way too many parents (from my teaching days) say things like, "but he won't like me if I do that."
Mar. 21st, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
"but he won't like me if I do that."
UUUgh. Like being a parent is a popularity game. Arg.
Mar. 21st, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
I know of a couple where, I'm guessing, only one of them wanted a child. The child grew up without boundaries and would regularly throw tantrums. The parents had no control over this child.
Mar. 21st, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
It makes it hard to be around the parents too, doesn't it? We rarely see our friends anymore, and it's simply because we can't stand their kids.
Mar. 21st, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
Sadly, after trying for years to work with a family who had problems controlling their younger child, we just eased off on the friendship. My older son was friends with the younger child, G, but G was just horrible to my younger son. Not usually physically, but rude and mocking and exclusionary and just plain mean. I tried for so many years to play peacemaker, to be kind to G, to talk to his mother, etc etc etc, and finally just had to stop, for my younger son's sake.

A big part of why we broke off the friendship had to do with G's parents. Dad was pretty absent and unconcerned most of the time, even before he left the family to move in with a stripper he'd met on Facebook (!), and mom was a chronic, compulsive child-dumper. She would always arrive early, to home school functions, parties, playdates, whatever, make apologies for having done so, breathlessly explain that there was some emergency and she had to leave right now and we didn't mind taking care of G, did we? and then disappear until way past pick-up/activity ending time. She would also vehemently defend G against anybody who had an issue with his behaviour, and accuse them of "targetting" or "prejudging" or "bullying" him.

With parents like that, nobody was particularly surprised at G's behaviour, but it was still pretty hard to deal with. And one by one, people dropped them from their social circles, until finally the kid had pretty much no friends. It was really sad. I'm not sure how he's doing now, but I can't imagine things getting easier as he's become a teenager :(
Mar. 22nd, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
It is *so* hard when you can see the reasons why a child is becoming a monster -- but you still can't stand to be around them (or moreso, can't stand for your children to be around them). The whole situation is tragic, really, and I'm impressed that you tried to work with this for so long. And yeah, they have no idea at what they're looking at for the teen years!
Mar. 22nd, 2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, I have a couple of nephews like this. The oldest is a bully and picks on my kids (even though they're older and bigger than him) and his younger brother (and younger brother picks on other kids to be like big brother--though most of the time he's a good kid and doesn't do it when not with big brother). Mom just let him do it for the longest time and would have a cow if/when we (or my brother--her husband) tried to say/do anything about it. It took a few years, but she's finally discovering that's not the best way to parent. Now he does get time outs and privileges taken away when he misbehaves, but it's a slow process (luckily he's only 7 so there's still time to "save" him). I have noticed that since she had her little girl (about 9 months ago), she's not as on top of things with disciplining the oldest anymore. But at least she lets my brother discipline him (most of the time--though they're having some marriage issues that she likes to use against him).

*sigh* It's sad and hard to deal with. Especially when my kids ask if C (the oldest son) is going to be at family functions. If I say he is going to be there, my kids say they don't want to go. =(

Edited at 2012-03-22 06:10 pm (UTC)
Mar. 22nd, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
*winces* Yeah, that's bad. I can't imagine having that within the family -- though, my SIL's boys were troublesome as kids, but only in property respect issues (they had no qualms about playing with and breaking other people's things). No one ever wanted my SIL and her kids to come to any family functions (because they didn't want to sacrifice their home to their destructiveness). Nowadays, however, both boys are old enough to be more careful -- and my SIL let DH (her older brother) discipline them anyway.

My kiddos (especially E) don't like being around our friends' boys, either...but, at this point, we'll still allow it. What a mess!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 25th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
I'm not sure, either...the evening went better than I thought it might, but now it sounds like there are marital issues too. *sigh*
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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