Shoes off. Socks off. Into the sandbox she toddles. Straight to the play house in the center. She loves to stand at the window of the house and prepare ‘breakfast’.
Two older girls are running around. They look to be five, maybe six years old. They seem a bit rowdy. I keep one eye on Baby as I search around for parents. No adults are watching from the edge of the sand.
Loud, high pitched voices come from the far side of the sandbox.
“Get her! I’m gonna kill her!”
“Here! Poke her with this stick!”
I’m up on my feet and around to the other side of the play house in a single leap. Just in time to catch the girls stabbing my little girl’s arm with sticks.
“Stop that! Stop that right now! There is no reason for that!”
The girls stop and disperse. I sit down and hug Baby. I ask if she is ok. She struggles free from my grasp. I’m not sure she understood what was happening. She is no worse for wear.
But I’m shaking.
Last week, a group of fellow moms and I met for lunch and we found ourselves talking about discipline. Not discipline of our own children, but of others’.
As each mom shared her perspective, this story from last summer came to mind and brought with it feelings and questions that I had tried to forget.
How do you handle situations like this one? Do you reprimand other people’s kids? Do you do it when they are just generally acting out on the playground, and parents or caregivers aren’t around? What about when those other kids are bullying your child?
It’s no secret that I normally avoid confrontation. However, I’ve always promised Baby, and myself, that for her, I’ll be different. I’ll stand up for her and show her, through my actions, how to stand up for herself.
I didn’t hesitate that day at the sandbox. I yelled at those girls. I used a tone of voice that I have not yet used towards my own child. It came naturally, but it still felt weird. I felt myself shaking and looking around for their parents, prepared to react to any confrontation, feeling at once apologetic and indignant.
I tried to imagine how I’d feel if the tables were turned. It’s gonna happen eventually, right? I like to think that I’ll respond appropriately. But, like so many aspects of parenthood, there is just no preparing yourself for this kind of thing.
I haven’t had another experience like this one since. But I can’t stop thinking about it now that it’s resurfaced in my memory.
So I ask, what is your perspective on reprimanding other people’s kids? How do you handle these kinds of situations?
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