When a group of kids come running up to you at a bounce house playdate, you know they’re not bringing good news. I grabbed my bag containing the Band-Aids and Neosporin and prepared to play nurse when I heard the words:
“There was a fight. David was punched in the face!”
A PUNCH TO MY BABY’S FACE!?! Band-Aids forgotten, the mama bear in me reared its ugly head.
As the boys and moms gathered, I heard what happened in a way only a group of overly excited boys can tell a story. The boys were playing Star Wars. A larger boy (aka The Boy) held David down. David yelled for The Boy to let him up, The Boy didn’t. David pushed The Boy off him. The Boy punched David.
David wouldn’t let me hug him, other boys were around. But he stood there too shaken to talk (something is really wrong any time David is at a loss for words) and trying not to cry while the red mark on his face continued to grow. At that moment The Boy and his mom walked up. I put on what I hoped was an understanding face and waited for the apology:
THE MOM: David pushed him.
Shocked silence while I try to formulate words in my head that can be said in front of children.
ME: Yes, David was trapped by him. And he pushed him in a bounce house. He bounced.
THE MOM: (looking at David) It’s not okay to push.
ME: Don’t talk to him. (Counted in my head 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..10, trusted myself to speak again.) I think you and I need to talk away from the kids.
At the time, I didn’t want the kids around as there was a chance I would not be using tact in my explanation of the situation. However, in hindsight and taking into consideration the fact that I was in mama bear mode, it may have sounded a bit like a threatening, “Let’s take this outside.”
End of the story: The Boy and his mom left the bounce house while we stayed and continued to play. David ultimately thought it was very cool that he’d been punched.
Let’s face it, I did not give birth to angels; I gave birth to children. Interestingly enough, other parents share in my fate and also gave birth to children, not angels. In this instance, David (in my opinion) was on the side of angels; however, he was not angelic. He and the other boys were playing too rough. The question is not are kids going to misbehave but how are we, as adults, going to react.
We’re prepared for when our own children misbehave. But how do we handle the situation when it’s not our kid misbehaving?
- Do not discipline a child in front of their parent. As tempting as it is, it’s not your job.
- Do not discipline a child in front of their parent UNLESS the issue is one of safety. Safety trumps etiquette every time.
- Do not discipline a child in front of their parent, but if you have to (see #2) do not touch or yell at the child. Just tell them to stop their behavior.
- If their parent is not around you can step in and correct. However, disciplining is still the parent’s job. In the parent’s absence your discipline options are limited to distraction, a brief time out (for a breather from the situation), removing the toy in play if it’s the source of conflict, or calling the parent. If the child’s behavior becomes too much of an issue you’ll need to stop having the child around without their parent!
Kids will remember how their mom or dad reacts in these moments. They will learn to justify bad behavior, respond in anger, or make threats if that’s what they see mom or dad do. What did David learn that day? I know he learned that his mom has a momma bear inside. He also learned that he can take a punch. Hopefully, he also learned that reacting calmly is effective.
(And thank God he didn’t hear the words in my head.)