Parenting Advice from Ayelet Waldman
I’m a stay-at-home mom. My daughter, Natasha, and I have frequent play-dates with a good friend of mine and her daughter Celia. Natasha and Celia enjoy each other’s company. They are both 3 years old. But Celia often bullies my daughter. When my daughter takes a book off her bookshelf, for example, Celia will order her to put it back immediately. Sometimes Celia will snap her fingers in a very aggressive way, ordering my daughter around. Natasha is shy, so she winds up complying with Celia’s demands. None of this is terribly unusual, I realize. But the question is this:
My friend never disciplines her own daughter, and never intervenes on Natasha’s behalf. Is it appropriate for me to discipline my friend’s daughter? Is it OK for me to lecture my friend about how to parent her child?
Thanks in advance,
Dear X Mom,
Celia sounds like a brat. She also sounds like, well, one of my kids. I have a couple of bossy girls of my own, and I can assure you that they respond well to having limits set for them. If you firmly remind Celia that Natasha is her friend, not her servant, she may well change her behavior.
The way I see it, it takes a village, baby. It’s perfectly reasonable to tell Celia to behave, even if yours were not the loins from whence she sprang.
But, fair warning. If Celia’s mommy is one of the sanctimonious “positive-parenting” types who insist that her precious child’s ears should never be sullied by the horror that is the word “No,” then you’re probably going to end up getting an earful. There are some parents who are simply disorganized and ineffectual (including me, not infrequently), and who won’t mind at all that you step in when they can’t. But if Celia’s bossiness is an inherited trait, you’re going to end up just like I did one day at the bus stop, being berated by a mother for having dared to suggest that her little monster refrain from heaving massive boulders at my baby’s head. My crime? Saying something along the lines of “Don’t throw rocks at the baby.”
Apparently I was supposed to kneel down next to homicidal brat and say, “Let’s throw leaves or cotton balls at the baby’s head, instead! Won’t that be fun?”
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