When parenting methods clash. | Helpful Mum

Friday, 16 November 2012

When parenting methods clash.


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?

Picture from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1251555/Parents-avoid-telling-children-fear-upsetting-new-survey-finds.html
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?
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28 comments

  1. Oh my word! I should just watch her struggle as her child grows older! I am assuming she doesn't have more than one child - imagine the mayhem at home with no boundaries and a few children. Children don't need to be yelled at, but they do need right and wrong explained to them and boundaries put in place. Sounds like she has some difficult years ahead of her.

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    1. She also has a baby but yes, I think she is in for a really tough time ahead.

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  2. I'm a mum of 4, including 2 ASD children, now aged 17, 10, 9 and 6. When my 6 year old was three his behaviour was horrendous so my husband and I - by choice - applied to go on a parenting course. There we learned that the most important thing to a child was praise. You don't need to go on a course to know that. Punishment is eked out in the form of time outs - only when the child has received a warning. It's Nanny 911 basically. All common sense, but as a group of harrassed mums and dads, we had a support network, and the difference in Adam, in all our children, at the end of the course was amazing. You cannot praise a child enough, you cannot spoil a child through praising them.

    I don't mean to be disrespectful to your friends, but I can see nothing but trouble ahead for them. Add in to the equation that they won't be learning how to mix, and share, and integrate at school? How on earth will they react in later life when they encounter authority? Will they think they're above the law?

    It sounds to me like you're doing the right thing, but I wouldn't remove your son. Why on earth should you have to? Can you have a word with the group leaders and see if they've noticed anything, if they have, maybe they would be prepared to have a word with the parents? What a horrible situation for you to be in, I feel for you.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, it is a really difficult situation. I agree with your parenting methods, we are very similar in our approach.

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  3. It sounds to me as though your friends are using the unconditional parenting route as an excuse to be lazy parents. There are more than one way to skin a cat. I never found punishments worked particularly well with my DD, and she gets embarrassed by praise. I think she has had time out a couple of times, and she was SO upset by it, I can't think of anything she could have done that would have warranted upsetting her that much.

    I do however, talk to her a lot about how she behaves and how the way she conducts herself impacts on other people. If her and a friend were 'bullying' (I don't think 3 year olds bully by the way, not in a systematic way), I would take her to one side and talk about where we were and how we behave when we are there etc. and ask her if she wanted to stay. She's 6 now so it's easier to talk to her about how her behaviour might be making other people feel.

    I'm not saying she's perfect but she is very well behaved at school, and always meets her teachers behavioural expectations because I take the time to explain that these things are in her interests.

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    1. And this is why I have accepted their views previously. Different methods work for different people. I think you are right though, their attitude is lazy.

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  4. Methods will always clash on the parenting front, though it seems this is rather exterme in that nothing is done by the parents of these children when they are behaving in an unacceptable manner.

    If its a play group have you thought of mentioning it to the group leader to see if they can have a quiet word with them or something mentioned about behaviour to the whole group?

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    1. I think we do need to discuss it with the group leaders. They mentioned it had been rowdy for the past few weeks.

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  5. Oh dear not a great situation to be in, I would be reluctant to remove yourself from the group, and like other have said maybe having words with the group leaders is the way to go, maybe the parents don't agree with praise or repremanding their children but if they wish to partake in activities then they have to follow the groups rules, and if the organisers say to them 'unfortunately their behaviour is upsetting other children you have to stop them - or leave' then that is that isn't it... if they feel it is acceptable to allow their children to do as they please they will have to not partake in group sessions until the children have managed to suss out the rights and wrongs for themselves... which may be a long long time away!

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    1. Thank you. I agree. I think they're probably going to be quite lonely for the foreseeable future if that is how their parents want to bring them up.

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  6. I agree with Jo (above). My first instinct was not that they are following some philosophy as part of a learned process, but that they have found some nice words to basically say they can't be arsed with all this parenting shite. Good luck with this one, it's a tricky one.

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    1. Thank you! It is really tricky and I don't want to lose a friend.

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  7. Sometimes you meet parents where the way you raise your kids clash but these 2 mums you describe are just lazy mums, scared of their children. Rules are good, routines are good. It's proven and it works, you can then choose to how strict and so on and how routined and so on you want to be.
    I'm very happy I'm not anywhere near those mums you mention cos would not be able to not say something!

    http://oddparent.blogspot.dk/

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    1. Thank you. I hadn't thought before about the fact that thy might be scared of their children.

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  8. I think that's insane of them ignoring their children's behaviour - or at least, not guiding them to understand what it good or bad behaviour in society. Fair enough when they're at home, let it be anarchy, but why should other children suffer because another parent refuses to set guidelines for their children to play within.
    Children need guidance - and young children can learn right and wrong. It seems wrong for them to wait til they work it out for themselve - how will they if they never get told off or praised?

    If you don't want to talk to them about the toddler group situation, then I'd do what others have suggested and speak to the group leaders.

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    1. It must be anarchy at their house. I am very glad that mine is not the same! I think my husband will speak to the group leaders this week.

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  9. My little boy is only one but at some of the play groups we go to we have seen all kinds of parenting styles.

    Having not got to a discipline stage all we have done so far is lots of praise. I personally find it hard to remember the names and methods of all these approaches and to be honest its all a bit scary - what if I choose the 'wrong' parenting style?!Whatever happened to good old muddling through?

    Maybe these parents have got stuck with a style and feel obliged to carry on. Do they realise the impact that their method of discipline, or lack of it, has on your little boy? Perhaps they either haven't noticed or haven't realised what an effect its having.

    If I were them I would be so embarrassed to cause upset to someone else's child- is there a gentle way of letting them know how your little one feels? It may not change their parenting style but it might give them a heads up and a chance to re think how they approach things?

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    1. I am meeting with one of the mums this week. She knows it is a problem but she is not willing to force her child to obey. She would rather her daughter withdraws from society, which can't be good either.

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  10. Oh dear, that's tricky. They don't sound like they are following a parenting philosophy really if they do nothing. I guess you hav to decide how much you want them as friends and how much you want to keep going to the group. I dont think people will change. You just have to work out what you can do so your kids are safe and happy.
    Hope you can sort it out.

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    1. Yes. My husband said that I need to question whether or not I want to keep them as a friend. I am meeting with one mum this week so we will see how we can hopefully work it out.

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  11. As a mum of six children, and a childcare professional, I have seen many forms of parenting, but this just seems, as others have said lazy on the part of these parents, how this will impact on these children as they grow up could be quite awful, how will they learn any form of boundaries. I would definitely have a word with the group leaders, who may have picked up on it already and looking for some back up from other parents, I suppose they connot really act if no-one mentions it, so you may also be doing them a favour, they certainly wouldn't want to start losing children from the griup, for the sake of two xxx

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    1. I have concerns about both children and their futures. One is very insecure and has no self confidence.

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  12. My Son was/still is/is (hopefully) just growning out of the terrible 2's/3's (he is 4 now) and if he ever got a little boysterious at a group or he pushed it too far I would always take him to one side and explain what he did was wrong and explain if it was done again we would go home. He was asked to appologise and 9 times out of 10 he would. There were also a couple of time when we did actually go home because he did what he was doing again.

    Children need this kind of structure and discipline to learn and grow! I appreciate everyone has different styles of parenting but when in involves upsetting others then they need to realise that as a parent they need to step in.

    If it was me, and I did not want to approach the friends about it (although actually knowing me I would just tell them!) I would approach the group leader and discuss it with her/him first. Hopefully they would be able to say something, but if not then approach your friends and explain how you are feeling about what they are doing to your son.

    Do not leave the group, that is not fair on your son. x

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    1. Thank you. They have said they won't go to the group this week so with any luck we can try and sort it out.

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  13. I am very conservative in some ways and very hippy in others. I am such a mixed bag. I tried cloth nappies for all of a couple of days, I breastfed for 13 months but due to low milk supply I combination fed. I dreamed and planned a water birth but in reality had a c-section. I carried Aaron in a sling but used a buggy whenever necessary. We now co-sleep.
    I am not a fully fledged "attachment parent" but you know what, even if I was, I think 2 year olds (and 3s) need to be told where the boundaries are. That's why they do what they do, to test where the edges are.

    If we fail to praise/reward and tell off, they live in a boundary free world which bears no reference to reality.

    I agree with you.

    Liska xx

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    1. Thank you. I think that is ny main problem, that the way they are bringing their children up has no bearing on reality. It seems unfair to bring them up like that.

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  14. Great post. In regards to the toddler group, is there a chair person who looks after the group that can give out a list of rules to the parents? Surely they have guidelines RE discipling children whilst at toddler group? They have to have rules like this because it isn't fair to your child or any other child on the receiving end. We had rules like this at our toddler group and if parents didn't like them, then they were asked not to come back.

    I'm not one to judge how people choose to parent but when it impacts on how my children are treated then I wouldn't hold back on saying anything. My children are no saints but they know right from wrong and know that if they do misbehave, there will be consequences. Similarily, if they do well they get plenty of praise and rewards. Children need these things to grow and develop.

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    1. Thank you very much. It is run by some elderly women in the church. They have commented that it has been boisterous but I am not sure what they would actually do. We will see this week. Praise, in my opinion, is the most valuable thing you can give your child, after love.

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