Monday, April 12, 2010

Proper Protocol?

The local gymnastics place opens it doors several times a week for kids to play on all the equipment - SUPERVISED by their parents. In addition to balance beams, trampolines and the beloved foam pit, they have toys of all kinds. Push toys, trucks, ponies-on-a-stick, slides, you name it - they got it!

It has been a favorite place to take Grace - particularly in the winter when it's too cold to play outside and someone (I won't name any names) needs to burn off a little steam.

But today, we had - shall we say - an incident. A run-in of sorts. With H. A boy about to turn two this Friday.

Grace had been playing with a ride-on toy that looks like a giraffe (pictured below). She LOVES giraffes so this was an instant hit.

But no matter how much she adores giraffes, her attention span lasts only minutes, so once she spotted a pony-on-a-stick, she was off!  H, the perpetrator, spotted that the giraffe toy had become available so he hopped on. No problem. Grace, even after realizing that someone else was playing with "her" giraffe, was still interested in the pony. However, she did walk up to H on the giraffe and began to point out to him the giraffe's eyes - another fav thing of hers to do - pointing out anatomy to anyone who will listen.

Before she was able to point to the eyes, H, clearly on the defensive that Grace was going to steal the giraffe, hauled off and SMACKED Grace's hand. Now I know kids hit and push and take toys from one another - that comes with the age - but this was a hit like no other. It made an extremely loud smacking sound.

It stunned me. Took my breath away. I might as well have been donkey-kicked in the gut. Grace just froze. She didn't know what to do and then ran back to me, curled up in my arms and fought back with every ounce of courage and pride, her tears and cries. A few managed to slip out and her lipped quivered for quite some time. 

No one has ever hit her. The idea is as foreign to her as humans breathing under water. Being the first born, physical "correction" is unnecessary. Fear of disappointment is all the "correction" she needs. No spanking or slap on the wrist carries as heavy a weight as that feeling of disappointing your parents. Even when she does something out of sorts at this age, by just saying "uhhhh-ohhhh" I can see her internalizing the "disappointment" she has caused. 

But disciplinary tactics aside, here I was, the parent of a child who had just been hit by another child. What was I to do? What was I to say?

The mother, to her credit, did step in right away and she did reprimand her child. She told him to apologize and eventually H ended up giving the toy back to Grace. (For the record, he never did mutter the words "I'm sorry" and within moments he was back to running around with little thought or consequence.) The mother gaped about how H is so much harder to discipline (maybe because he's a boy - her words, not mine) when it comes to the "mine" issue that all toddlers grapple with.

I am still upset at myself at how I handled the situation. There had to be a better way. While it isn't my job to discipline someone else's child, I don't think I defended Grace to the best of my abilities. I don't think I made it clear to H's mom that while I understand toddlers are learning to share and socialize it's not ok to hit. Period. 

What do you think? Am I being too hard on H and his mom? Too hard on myself? How do you react when your child is on the receiving end of hitting, biting or other socially unacceptable behavior? Flip that coin, how do you react when your kid is the one doing the hitting, pushing, name calling, what-have-you?!

[For the record, I have to mention {quickly} two other incidents that happened today at gymnastics. Another child, a boy, jumped and landed on Grace in the foam pit. No parent was supervising the child. Only moments later, Grace was walking around, minding her own business, holding a ball. A bigger boy, walking by, slammed the ball out of her hands so that it hit the ground and bounced back up into Grace's face. No parent was supervising him either. At this point, I had had it and I took the pony-on-a-stick I was holding, shoved it into the boys chest and told him "Don't do that. That's mean." Then, I quickly picked up Grace and headed for the door. We both had had enough!]

1 comment:

Megan said...

Awww. Poor Grace. I hate that she got hit! I don't have advice, but I can share that I used to work summers at a daycare/learning center. The toddler room was always full of activity. And hitting, biting, etc. was a hot activity for every child. They don't quite know how to express their feelings yet, so when they got angry the fists would fly. Even the sweetest of the bunch would take a swing now and again. I hate to sound like "oh, it's common, don't worry about it" because hitting IS NEVER OK. But, I guess I'm saying that at that age is is bound to happen a lot and I don't think the littlest kids fully know what they are doing. They are still learning that it's not ok and they will outgrow it. They aren't understanding that they are hurting someone. Once they get to be 3 and 4 and up I would be furious if the kid were still hitting and I'd want the parent to take the kid out of there and go home for punishing. At that age, a firm talking to doesn't really do much without a time out punishment with it. Even at two I wish the mother had given some form of taking him outside for a time out for a minute before he could come back in. I also don't like how those other kids weren't being supervised. It's not fair for the youngest kids to get all bullied and knocked around because the parents aren't being vigilant. You pay good money to go to these places and deserve the same respect of the rules. I'd have told the kid he was being mean too! Why do our kids have to grow up!!!!????