OK, so I am a parent at home and quite often at work too. I have no problem vocalising to modify dangerous behaviour screeching at my kids if the need arises. There have also been times where I screech at other kids at work, usually to stop dangerous or inappropriate behaviour and I have no problem doing that. I do however find it difficult to yell or try to modify the behaviour of someone elses child when that child is in my care, if that child is at my house playing with one of my children. This afternoon was a perfect example of me not being able to get boy-child’s friend to listen so boy-child ended up getting in trouble.
Now let me state quite clearly that boy-child is no angel, in fact at times he can be an obstinate little shit however the bulk of the time he is a decent kid. He likes to push boundaries and is often oblivious to the world around him and forgets to listen but he is generally polite and well behaved. Of course like any other 8 year old little boy, when he hangs out with friends he often mirrors their behaviour.
Today he had a friend join him in an after school activity, and since they are in the same Cub pack he joined us for dinner and now they have trekked off to Cubs together. They are good friends and seem to enjoy hanging out together, without needing to be together and allowing time to play with other friends. My biggest issue arises when the two boys are together, boy-child mirrors the behaviour of the other boy. The other boy is a sweet boy but a sweet boy who needs boundaries. If he is told exactly what he can and can’t do, he will follow the instructions and be a pleasure to have around but if he is given any freedom he runs totally wild. The phrase Give him an inch and he will take a mile springs to mind. When the other boy sees that he is getting a reaction from boy-child (or any other person in the vicinity) in the manner of laughter, copy-cat behaviour or even strange looks, he gets louder and more obnoxious. This in turn gets boy-child more hyped up and the cycle continues. Before you know it, the other boy is practically hanging from the ceiling with all the manic attention.
Of course I do know this circle of demise, I have traversed it many times before, with this child and other kids that come over to play. I know that clear boundaries have to be set with known consequences, something simple like ‘if you wrestle with the kittens you won’t be allowed to wrestle for the rest of the day’ or ‘if you leave the table I will assume that you have finished dinner and don’t want to eat anything else, including dessert’. For some reason, after a manic day back at work, struggling through crazy traffic, trying to control a dozen very active primary school kids for 2 hours and dealing with crazy traffic again I really didn’t think about the boundaries that would need to be re-set for when we were at home. I did clearly state that as I was getting dinner organised Cub uniforms and assorted paraphernalia would need to be laid out. Then when dinner was on the table they were required to eat their dinner as I quickly got changed. I explained that we had less than half an hour to get ready so they had to hurry. I had given them permission to traumatise play with the kittens once they had eaten and were dressed and ready to go, but reminded them that they would have to get ready quickly if they wanted to play.
It sounds simple right? The rules were clearly defined what could possibly go wrong? Oops, silly me, I forgot to mention that dinner needs to be eaten at the table, sitting down and consisted of more than a single tortilla wrap with no filling! He knew that when he finished dinner he had permission to leave the table so when I returned downstairs a mere 3 minutes later he was outside in the yard jumping off furniture. I don’t know where the jumping off furniture was considered normal behaviour for someone who still wasn’t dressed ready for Cubs so he was cajoled back inside to get changed. Unfortunately by now the cycle of manic had begun and boy-child was catching it.
With only a few minutes until the designated departure time for Cubs both boys were miraculously in their uniforms, sans footwear. I figured that surely they could get their shoes on without me looking over their shoulders. I reminded them of the task they had to do and began clearing the table. I looked up to see both boys trying to chase kittens, neither with both shoes on. I temporarily lost it and screeched at them to finish getting ready or boy-child would miss out on Cubs. Boy-child continued to put his shoes on, his friend was in his own hyper world, was ignoring everything said. I screeched at boy-child again saying if he didn’t calm down he would go to bed instead of out to Cubs. Boy-child instantly withdrew and became sullen and sulky on the couch and the other boy was completely oblivious.
Of course, I became annoyed at myself for losing my cool and more annoyed that I had ruined boy-child’s fun by giving him a hard time instead of his friend who was clearly in the wrong. Boy-child and his friend did eventually leave for Cubs, late and I feel crappy that I made boy-child feel crappy. I hope he understands that I was trying to encourage his friend to listen and take more responsibility rather than just give him grief, that he knows I can’t really yell at his friend or make him do anything. I hope he is in a better mood when he gets back so we can talk about the way we interact with different people and how to cope with adversity. I hope he understands that I don’t want to be the grouchy parent all the time, that he knows that just because he understands boundaries and how to cope with freedom not everyone else does. I hope that I am not too tired and cranky to actually talk with him properly. Oh and I hope that Cubs finishes on time so there is a slim chance we can chat and get him settled into bed before NCIS starts!
Any suggestions on how to explain to a kid that despite how much you love them, sometimes they get in trouble for things that their friends do?