This morning we had the annual Christmas party at our mothers group premises. There was a petting zoo, pony rides, a bouncy castle, face paint and LOTS of toddlers, babies and mums. It was busy but lots of fun. There were probably five or six different mothers groups and most groups had set up their own ‘picnic area’ and morning tea for their kids and mums.
While my son and I were lining up for face painting I was approached by a little boy (I am guessing he was at least three and a half or maybe even four): “I am a monster” he yelled out and growled. Exciting! I growled back and said he looked very scary. Then he poked my belly with his finger (I am 30 weeks pregnant and a poke is hard to resist, I get it), but when he did it again I told him please not to do that (I don’t mind a gentle rub or pet, but a firm poke is another story), but he did it again and again, after I told him at least three times to stop it. He eventually stopped after I told him to “go away” which is not very nice but the only thing that seemed to hit home.
Then 20 minutes later the “Little Monster” popped up again, at our morning tea table, asking (good manners!) for a muffin. We told him they were ‘for the mums only’ so he couldn’t have one. But when we looked away he had taken one anyway. He was laughing and eating it. I told him to put it back as they were NOT for children, and he needed to listen. He didn’t. So I took the muffin off him. He was not impressed and started growling and trying to grab it back. Then he climbed on the table and we (about six mums sitting around the table having coffee and morning tea) told him to hop down, but he didn’t respond. We told him to go to his mum, but she was no where in sight. He refused to leave the table, still yelling he wanted the muffin. And then his mum appeared wondering what was going on. I explained: he has been a bit naughty, as he was told clearly (and numerous times) this is ‘adult food and not for kids’, but he took a muffin anyway. No big drama really! Let’s hop down and move on. And while you leave perhaps apologise for eating food that doesn’t belong to you, and climbing on the table?
But no, the mum of Little Monster, spoke in a sweet soft voice to her kid “Oh honey that IS confusing, normally you ARE aloud to eat everything at playgroup”. And Little Monster was not moving on either, he refused to leave the table, while the rest of the mums tried hard to ignore the situation that dragged on for another five minutes. Mum and Little Monster eventually moved away after which the situation between them seemed to worsen and Little Monster had a tantrum that lasted for another ten minutes before they leave the party screaming and crying.
Call me over the top, call me rigid, but I do not like it when children don’t listen (who does?). I understand a two year old doesn’t always (choose to) understand instructions, and they get tired and they are never rational (especially when it comes to food and sharing) but trust me, my almost three year old knows very well what is allowed and what is not. And my son is no angel, far from it, he is right up there with the mischievous ones and tries to get away with anything. He would have tried to grab a muffin too if he sees one.
The thing I disliked about this morning’s situation with Little Monster was how his mum was ‘justifying’ his behaviour (or what was she doing?). While the child is in a place where he shouldn’t be, on top of a table, grabbing other people’s Christmas morning tea, and behaving rudely, she tells him in front of everyone “that it IS confusing and understandable”?! I don’t see what the confusion is, except that your child has been naughty and he needs to apologise, his behaviour doesn’t need to be “explained” (or justified) to everyone. It’s not confusing at all; not all food is yours, tables are not for sitting on and you don’t talk back or growl at an adult you don’t know.
That’s me. Maybe Little Monster’s mum would have just given him an “adult” muffin and let him sit on top of the table while eating it, and everyone lives happily ever after. To me there are simple rules that need following. And yes, the little monsters (including mine) will try to break them over and over again, but isn’t up to us to put them straight? I guess it comes down to the same old saying ‘to pick your battles’ and perhaps for this Little Monster’s mum this battle was obviously one not worth fighting…
Ps. What I would have done if I had found my son on a table eating food he was told not to touch and clearly annoying other people? (not a complete unthinkable situation!) I would have been mortified and made him apologise on the spot, and then we would have left in a split second to do something else (distraction is the best method right? Lets go eat our own delicious cookies!). If he was not doing that, I would have scooped him up and gone home, reminding him in the car, there is no place for “naughty boys at parties”.
Pps. Some kids with a certain condition (ADHA, autism etc) will respond differently to a certain situation. If this was the case it would have been great if the mum had explained this to us privately (without her son hearing it) and perhaps apologised herself on his behalf?