Recently, my husband and I have encountered our first ever problem stemming from a clash in parenting methods. A woman I know does not believe in praising or blaming her child. I also have a friend who does not believe in "forced obedience", she would rather her child worked out for herself how to behave. Whilst I do not agree with their methods, we have always got on and kind of agreed to disagree.
Our children are all 3 and two of them have spent a lot of time together. They get on, although the girl has a tendency to shout at my boy who, if I am honest, doesn't take well to being shouted at. And why should he? But for the vast majority of the time, they get on well and play nicely together.
This week, and for the past two weeks, the other two parents have taken their children to the toddler group which my husband takes our children to every week. Both children have ganged up on our son and made him cry each week. Their mums, in keeping with their parenting methods, do not adequately, if at all, tell their children off when they are bullying my son.
I have never had a problem with their viewpoint of parenting before. However, when their choices are impacting on my child then yes, I have a problem with it.
One mum does not believe in 'conditioning' children to know what is right and wrong. As such, her child is not praised when he does something well or blamed if he does anything wrong. He is basically allowed to do what he wants. The other parent does try to tell her daughter off but doesn't follow up with the punishments she threatens. There is no consistency.
My problem is that this isn't how society works. Both children are going to be home schooled and able to get away with things for a lot longer. I hasten to add that I have no problem at all with home schooling but in this instance it could create problems for the children when they get older. Society works because we all agree, whether implicitly or explicitly, on rules and norms. Things which are acceptable and things which are not. If we do not teach our children what is right and wrong then how do they learn?
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In a group situation, is it really acceptable for two children to behave completely differently from the others? To effectively cause havoc without being effectively punished or taken away from the situation. What kind of a message does it send to the children who are behaving well? That it is OK to do what you want and your parents won't mind.
If I went to a meeting or a lecture and started hitting people there would be a huge problem. That is not how we behave. There are sanctions as adults, laws, rules and norms to adhere to. Whilst we might not agree fully with them, we accept them because otherwise society would not function. If we all did what we wanted, without a thought for others then there would be anarchy and chaos which is why we need a structured society.
Should we not be guiding our children, setting examples rather than trying to let a three year old work out how to behave by themselves? How can you begin to know what is right or wrong at that age unless you are helped to know? I have only just started to work out how the world works and I am in my thirties. I cannot begin to comprehend how a three year old could be expected to compute such an overwhelming task.
Maybe I am wrong. I guess that I am using "forced obedience". My children know what is right and wrong and they are rewarded for good behaviour and punished (by sitting on the stairs for a minute) when they are bad. I wouldn't have said that we are overly strict and our children are very much loved. They are confident and outgoing and generally behave well in social situations.
I really don't know what to do on this one. If the parents and their children continue going to the toddler group then the most sensible thing seems to be to remove our son from the situation because he is the one who is coming out of it badly. But that doesn't seem fair. It sends a message to him that we don't get to do what we like to do because the people who are being mean are getting to do it instead.
What would you do? Have you encountered different methods of parenting which have clashed with your own?