March 21st, 2012

aspen leaves

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)?
  • Current Mood
    calm calm
  • Tags