March 17, 2009

Other people's children

J is an elflike 4-year-old girl with the personality of a grumpy old Bavarian man. She tells everyone what to do regardless of age or status and is free with personal criticism as well. She also has her childish side and loves to throw herself on the floor and scream. She pushes and hits other kids, too, when she doesn’t get what she wants, which is pretty much all the time because what she secretly wants is a beer, a Schweinebraten and a cigar.

Her mother, a petite, gentle person, is no match for J and also busy with a new baby, a gorgeous plump baby with adorable blond fuzz that smiles at everyone. The mom has difficulty disciplining J, which may be because J knows she's 65 years old and isn’t going to take any direction from some woman in her early 30’s.

I know what you're thinking: J is jealous of the baby. But she was like this before the baby, too.

J admires K, who is popular and twice her size, but considers L to be 'just a kid'(although she’s much closer to L’s age than K’s). So her comments to L are pretty much along the lines of telling her she can’t play, can’t come through the secret entrance, can’t come in, etc.

L mostly ignores J but yesterday as she was trying to follow J and K into the school for gymnastics J tried to shut a heavy door on her. I looked up at L’s cries to find her pinned in this massive door with J pulling it shut as hard as she could.

So, I don’t know what your philosophy is on yelling at other people’s kids in a highly public setting. Mine tends to be that I don’t appreciate other people criticizing or yelling at my kids so I don’t generally yell at their kids.

But when I saw L stuck in that door I yelled. Oh, did I yell, I surprised even myself. I don’t think J has ever been yelled at like that. If I do say so myself, I can really yell and when I finished she was shaking like a leaf and swearing it was an accident.

I almost believed her and felt a bit bad afterwards, since L didn’t seem to be harmed.

On the other hand, it might have been good for her. J, I mean, not L. I saw contrition in J's eyes. Or at least, shock masquerading as contrition.

I'm not sure her mom appreciated it but she, um, didn't say anything.

My girls know I can yell - especially when one of them does something that can get someone hurt - and they watched all of this in thoughtful silence, which is pretty much what they do when I yell at them, too.

K’s judicious comment later: Nice one, mom.

Me: Er. . . thanks, sweetie.


  1. Oh, Honey Pie, please accept my apology, in advance, for my lack of spatial and relational reasoning. Maybe it's the hour. More likely it's my brain, regardless the hour.

    I tried in vain to venn diagram this JKL scenario so I could understand which initials belong to which mothers. That one mother in this equation was 68 threw me off completely. So forgive me. Please. I did try.

    Suffice it to say, if another kid pinned your kid in a door, slug away. Scream away. Slug away.

    Yours in vindication,

    Lawyer Mom

  2. I did follow, but then, I'd read the key first. :) Some situations are worthy of yelling, and the potentially dangerous ones fall into that category regardless of which child belongs to whom. If my son had tried to shut a heavy door on another child, I would really hope the mother in charge would have yelled at him.

  3. Good for you HPH! As a mom we're here to protect our kids. J deserved it. No guilt.

  4. In my experience in Germany it is much more socially acceptable to yell at other people's children (I certainly have) than in other countries, especially if the situation is dangerous. A child being squashed in a door is potentially dangerous. You were right. And it was probably a secret relief to allow yourself to yell at a child who sounds spectacularly irritating. Well done, Ms HPH.

  5. Well, she was kind of asking for it. . . ;-)

    And it's true, more yelling is acceptable here, although more censure also seems to be OK. I once watched a scenario with an impatient German mom yelling at her son to get in the car and a passer by scolded her for yelling at her kids.

    It's not easy being German, I guess.

  6. People don't shout at their kids very much in Sweden.. they try to reason with them with quiet tones... But - they are only human - like all of us and shout in the privacy of their own homes...

  7. I have NEVER yelled at my kids--that's my story, and I'm sticking with it... (unless you're my neighbor and you heard my yelling through the closed doors and windows last week--sorry!).

    I yelled at my teenage boy's girlfriend. I did it at a fancy restaurant, in a quiet voice, with a calm demeanor, in a polite manner. None of the other guests knew what was going on. But the girlfriend couldn't have heard me louder or more clearly. It was beautiful--and she deserved it. Don't judge me, please.

  8. I am a full believer in yelling at other people's kids when they are hurting themselves or someone else. Other times, probably off limits.

  9. when i yell (for real not the everyday stuff) my 3YO ignores me and my 6YO straightens up and gets sugar-sweet (picture Eddie Haskel, you look lovely today Mrs. Cleaver). I think the 6YO response scares me enough to get over my angst most days. Or at least feel incredibly guilty (which is the purpose). When my 6YO is mad at me she yells AND glares and I'm not at all smart enough to play her game back at her...

  10. I think it's completely appropriate to yell and appropriate for the kids to silently take it. Looks like you're doing everything right...

  11. Yelling is not my favourite thing in the world, but it is true that it cannot be avoided sometimes. The situation was dangerous for your own kid, so everyone would have done the same. It is natural instict, and I am sure that deep down, it was good for J.

  12. I'm definitely appreciating this post!
    We had 2 nieces overnight recently and the tiny 8 yr old niece is always bullying my twice-her-size 7yr old daughter. My daughter simply doesn't have a confrontational personality. It does not compute that her cousin is being mean and she should defend herself.
    I had them all in the car waiting with me when they started wrestling and playfully pinching cheeks. I could hear it starting to escalate and turned around to see purple fingernail marks in my daughter's cheeks.
    My response? Yelling to my niece 'That's not being funny, that's just being a b*+ch, knock it off.'
    I was ashamed, but still mad. sigh. What's a mama bear to do when they're hurting her cubs?


Related Posts with Thumbnails