18 answers

How to Handle Toddler Whose Mother Does Not Discipline at All!

I got together with two friends over the weekend for a playgroup/Mom get together. My son is 2 1/2 and their sons are 3 1/2. I am not a super strict Mom by any means, but I do expect my son to follow rules inside and outside of my home, including manners, sharing, etc. When we got the boys together, their boys were absolutely unruly and did not receive a bit of discipline from their Mom's. The one in particular was mean, rude, nasty to my son, the other boy, including his own Mother and myself. She did absolutely nothing. I would never allow my son to be nasty, especially to me or another adult. He didn't share and was on the verge of being slightly violent with the toys. I wound up taking a toy away and his Mom gave it back because he threw a fit. He starting hitting with it and I took it back away and would not give it back. He tried to grab a stool and reach it on a shelf, his Mom did NOTHING. The were both jumping all over the toddler bed and furniture, couches, etc. I told my son not to and he listened VERY well, I must say I was quite proud of him and praised him for his good behavior when we left. However I do not want my son to think he can take this mean behavior from his peers. He is still so young and not in daycare, so I don't want him to be scarred or shy of other kids because of this behavior. I also do not like disciplining other people's kids, but if my son is in the mix and could be hurt I have absolutely no problem intervening. Do the other Mom's out there have any advise on how to start teaching their toddler kids to stand up for themselves around peers. Do you have any advise on how to enforce some type of discipline, or speak to other Mother's on the lack of discipline in regards to their children? I do not want to offend, I know they are both good kids. But Holy Cow...I was shocked at the way they were allowed to behave. My son is not in daycare, so I do not want him to have a bad experience with other kids. I try to socialize my son as much as possible, so I do want to encourage a friendship with these two boys, but am now on the fence as to weather or not it is healthy for my son to be around such rude and unruly kids. Any advise on how to handle other people's kids, etc. would be greatly appreciated! Thanks :-)

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hello K.:

I'm sorry to hear this - how horrible for that boy NOT to have rules and discipline.

I was in a similar situation - here's how I handled it:

1. When the playdate was at my house - I made ALL the children follow my rules - PERIOD.

2. If hitting or fighting started over a toy - the toy is taken away and put in time out. The TOY, yep, but it seemed to work.

3. If we went to another's home: I would tell him child loud enough for the other parent to hear "just because other children aren't behaving, doesn't mean you can act like that."

The second ANYTHING got violent - pushing, hitting with a toy - I would stop it - I didn't care if I offended someone else. But that's me. I would also discipline someone's child too. One parent complained once and I told her that if she wasn't going to do anything about her child's behavior - I would. She didn't like it - because her little Johnny was perfect and just being a boy. Well, I didn't see the other boys acting that way. She was embarrassed and didn't come back.

I hope this helps you!!

Best regards,

C.

I do believe that EVERYONE needs rules and guidelines.

Honestly if these two kids are so poorly behaved I would not consider them a good socialization influence. Unfortenately some people have blinders about thier childrens behavior and the behavior wont change unless the parents are helping the child learn how to behave. One of the other problems is that when children are so young, one year age difference is a huge leap in how they interact and play. I would try to meet other kids in his age group instead. Some ideas: evening storytimes at the library, working moms groups (www.meetup.com).

More Answers

As for the other mother, you should say something but do it respectfully which I am sure you will. She may just be an overwhelmed mother who is stuck in a rut and not sure how to change her child's behavior. If she observes your discipline on your child and hers, it may help her out. As for your child handling kids like this, I will give you an example of mine. My daughter has been in full time daycare since 1yr of age. I am a single working mother, hence why she is not with me. My daughter has encountered many unruly kids like this and sometimes their behavior wore off on her. But, my daycare provider always disciplined them both and eventually my daughter did not act out just because the other kids were. My daughter adapted and is absolutely amazing with other children, even if they have never met before. The biggest benefit to my daughters exposure to unruly kids, is that she does not stand for bullying. She has been pushed around and always stands up for herself. She is 4 now and has no problems playing with other children. If another kid is being bad, she knows and doesn't follow their example. Plus I think she is prepared for those teen bullies she will face in the future. She once punched a boy in the face because he kept pushing her. Not that I condone violence, and she knows better, but it was kind of refreshing that she didn't just stand there and take it. Although, we did have to talk about how she handled the situation because I did not want her to think that you can go around throwing punches...that is unacceptable, but you get my point. Maybe it will be good for you to see this mom and her children again. You can set an example for her and your son will start to learn how to handle other children. It will be good exposure for him. It is a win win situation, it will be a great learning experience for you, your child and the other family. The other mother may be in need of some guidance on her disciplining and you could help her out. And you might not have to address her, observing you might be the all the help she needs. And kudos to you for not being afraid to discipline the other child. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I'd say you might want to find some other boys/kids for him to play with. The only person you can change is yourself, not them, so take charge and make the change in his environment.

1 mom found this helpful

Unfortunately you can't discipline other people's children. It's just not your place. I know how you feel and the best solution is to seek out other children for your child to play with. I think part of it is also that they are a year older than him, which can equal different behavior. You may find in another year that your then 3.5 year old might be acting a lot like them. Obviously you know that you need to react differently then the other moms did and it's a good lesson for your relationship with your child. If you want to maintain friendships with the moms then you can always plan mom nights out with them. Just because your friends with someone doesn't mean your kids have to be friends. Hope that helps.

1 mom found this helpful

If you want to continue to socialize with these children, you need to adopt a "house-rules" policy. When the children arrive explain that you are glad that they are here to play, and here are the house rules. Give them a few simple rules, no hitting, no throwing toys, etc. Then explain the consequences. If there is fighting over a toy, then the toy goes up here for 5 minutes, etc. Children who hit, need to sit in this chair for a three minutes to calm down. Keep it really simple and upbeat, and explain it all well within the hearing of the other parents. Then if you observe the children misbehaving, you simply step in and enforce your house rules, put the toy up on the shelf and loudly announce okay this needs to stay here for five minutes, house rules. Many times children who do not have rules at home do not know how to behave, and if you preemptivly explain the rules and consequences up-front then they (and the parents) will follow them. Somehow then you are not being mean out of the blue, they know what to expect. If another parent challenges you, you simply say I am sorry those are the house rules. If they choose not abide by them, then they need to leave. Your own child will then witness you enforcing the rules you have in place, and won't think the other childs behavior is okay.
What you don't want to do is keep allowing this other parents lack of parenting take over your house-hold. Several people have advised you to stop playing with this family, and if you continue to have problems maybe. However, this may be a chance to help teach these children appropriate behavior, they won't use it at home if it is not reinforced, but at least they will see what it looks like. What I wouldn't do is accept an invitation to these childrens home, then you would be under their house rules and clearly you don't agree with them.

1 mom found this helpful

I would let the mother of the unruly child know that unless her son starts behaving better that your son will not be aloud to play with him. Unfortunately I have seen this before, my step-sister did the same thing and now her children won't talk to her. If enough people stop playing with this child before he gets to school, maybe she will start disciplining him.
In my house, I let the parents and children know that we have rules and EVERYONE is expected to follow them. I let tthe parents know that if they don't say something to their kids, I will. I generally don't discipline their kids, but I do let them know that we don't do that here. I have done this since my youngest was about3. While I am sure that some people were upset about me saying somehting to their child, I have never had a problem with the parents, and my house seems top be the one where they get together. Children crave discipline, and if you show your friend that it can be done, maybe she try harder with her own child. Basically, it's your house, so you must enforce the rules of your house.

1 mom found this helpful

Quite frankly, I treat our neighbor kids as though they are mine. If one of them does something harmful or if they break the rules in our house, based on the action, I firmly explain the rules of our house. It is easier when both kids are breaking the rules, as it is easy to say, "Hey guys, we don't [insert action here] at our house!" But, regardless, I've taken some of my less favorite neighbor kids aside to say, "Hey, it isn't okay to hit others" or "We don't jump on the sofa at this house."

Regarding how to get your child to stand up for himself, we work on this all the time after one of our less socialized friends comes over. Basically, we just have conversations started with "It wasn't nice when [kid] did [terrible thing]. You know, when he does that, you don't have to put up with it. You can..." My son really listens.

1 mom found this helpful

If you're friends with the mom, ask her if she would like to attend a parenting class with you. I have been really pleased with the help and advice I have gotten from Dr. Rene Hackney at Parenting Playgroups http://www.parentingplaygroups.com/
and they offer classes at a variety of times to teach parents how to deal with all kinds of discipline issues using positive discipline. A nice way to ask could be to say, "sometimes I feel frustrated when my kid does 'x' or 'y', and I've been thinking about going to talk to this really neat lady Rene that someone recommended... would you be interested in tagging along to hear what she has to say?" She also has office hours that are much cheaper ($17 per hour, half hours available), I think, but you might have to email her to ask about this option). Even an expert parent could learn a lot from her, I think! Well, I don't know if it will work out, but I bet that the mom does feel frustrated sometimes and doesn't know where to go for help! Or, maybe you could just point her towards Mamasource -- this really is a great site, isn't it? Maybe she'll get some good parenting advice that way!

Hello K.:

I'm sorry to hear this - how horrible for that boy NOT to have rules and discipline.

I was in a similar situation - here's how I handled it:

1. When the playdate was at my house - I made ALL the children follow my rules - PERIOD.

2. If hitting or fighting started over a toy - the toy is taken away and put in time out. The TOY, yep, but it seemed to work.

3. If we went to another's home: I would tell him child loud enough for the other parent to hear "just because other children aren't behaving, doesn't mean you can act like that."

The second ANYTHING got violent - pushing, hitting with a toy - I would stop it - I didn't care if I offended someone else. But that's me. I would also discipline someone's child too. One parent complained once and I told her that if she wasn't going to do anything about her child's behavior - I would. She didn't like it - because her little Johnny was perfect and just being a boy. Well, I didn't see the other boys acting that way. She was embarrassed and didn't come back.

I hope this helps you!!

Best regards,

C.

I do believe that EVERYONE needs rules and guidelines.

I think you have to treat all kids as though they are your own. you did the right thing to take the toy away. My son was biting one of our neighbors when he was about 18 months old. He kept biting only this one boy. When I went to pick him up one day (my friend watched him for about 3 weeks) I was putting his shoes on and her son (a year older than mine) was kicking him. I looked up and she said nothing so I told her son that if he continued to mess with my son, he would get bit and my son would not be in trouble for protecting himself. It's sad, but a lot of parents just don't raise their children right today. You have every right to say something to the mom about the fact that the playdate did not go so well. Dont subject your son to rough play, but dont shelter him either. I wouldn't say to give up on this just yet, but I would definitely take a stance when bad behavior happens. Don't feel bad about protecting your baby ever :).

There's alot to respond to in your request. I am just going to mention one strategy for one situation. Sorry I can't get into much more: Having your child play with different personalities and lifestyles (different disciplines may apply here), provides good social skills in your own children. Intervening when you believe essential gives them the social guidelines they can follow when you are not around. When a situation seems inappropriate for your intervention or unsafe for your child, arrange for a more appropriate situation. In other words, Invite the mom and children to meet in a neutral location such as a playground or indoor public play (e.g. Chuck E Cheese). If the children need structure, try a craft store during craft time for their age level or the book store/ library at story time... Offer to drive together if there is room and time so adults and children can socialize before and after without running a-muck. And limit the visits to a frequency you have the tolerance for.

Your son does not need this kind of friends. I would take the time to find other friends for him to play with. These mothers will continue to allow their children to act in this manner, and it will only serve to harm your son's social and emotional growth. I would definitely not be available for play grouping in the future, if you want to stay friends with the mothers.

I think it is great that your have expectations on behavior of your son. Far too often the excuse for badly behaved kids is that, "they are just kids". And this is true to a degree. They are just kids but these kids need to learn how to behave and they cannot teach them selves. And as a mother why would I want my child to go through a miserable child hood of segregation because I was too lazy to teach them right from wrong?
You were absolutely right intervening. Your child learns from you that he should not be mistreated. Not only that, you are teaching him sympathy and empathy. By not letting the bad behavior happen to him, he will learn that behavior is not acceptable for anyone so in turn he will stand up for him self and his friends.
As for the disciplining mother just ask your self this? What is your child getting out of playing with another child who is undisciplined and bullies? The answer is nothing. In fact he might pick up those nasty habits and you will have to break them. And that is ok because that what parents are supposed to do. But if the other boy doesn't want to play nicely and you are still letting your child interact with him, it might send the message that it is ok for them to be mistreated by his friends.
If this is an all the time thing, which it seems it is, I would cut down on the play dates and look for other kids to socialize him with.
I know this is hard. I am in the same boat. It is my son's best friend but I am at a point where I have to teach my son that being mistreated is not ok and that when people are mean to you, after so many chances, you need to just back away. I thought that by telling my son to ask them to stop and try to play nice it would help but it didn't. There comes a point when enough is enough.
Dealing with kids like this is hard enough when the parents do try to correct them never mind compounding it with parents who don't.
And it is not your job to handle other peoples kids. Tell the mom. If she seems oblivious after your attempts and the mean behavior towards you and your child continues..end the play date.

Easy solution - don't schedule any more play dates with that family. As far as teaching your child to stand up for himself, just remember that children are like little sponges and he will eventually copy what he sees you doing. So model good assertive behavior of standing up for yourself against these kids and your son will eventually catch on.

Honestly if these two kids are so poorly behaved I would not consider them a good socialization influence. Unfortenately some people have blinders about thier childrens behavior and the behavior wont change unless the parents are helping the child learn how to behave. One of the other problems is that when children are so young, one year age difference is a huge leap in how they interact and play. I would try to meet other kids in his age group instead. Some ideas: evening storytimes at the library, working moms groups (www.meetup.com).

There is a big difference in a 2 1/2 year old and a 3 1/2 year old; a single year makes a huge difference in small kids. (And as someone who posted below said, you may find your own son who listens well now is much more rambunctious and doesn't listen in a year's time. Unfortunate but true.) So you could seek out playmates who are your son's age and at his stage of development, which will help. Of course, that's easily said but not always easily done, especially these days when (I find) it can be hard to schedule any play dates, what with everyone's busy lives, some kids in day care, some kids super-scheduled with activities, parents with several kids going in many directions....

I might give this another chance but with ONE other child, not two; try to go for play dates that are even numbers of children so kids can't team up against one child; two kids is preferable to three, because the older child will have only your son to play with and doesn't have another child his own age to react off of. It's also easier to redirect children if there are fewer of them; try to redirect the kids' attention from a toy that's causing a dispute to another toy or activity -- have some energy-burning activities like games and active songs ready, not just toys. This may require the moms to take more part in the play than you'd like but may be needed for a while.

You were right to take away the toys but next time I'd take it the first time, as you did, and remove it from the room (into "toy time out" as ohters have mentioned) immediately so the other mom can't grab it soon after and hand it back to a whining kid. This is easier to do if it's your home so schedule the play dates for your house for now. If the guest child continues the behavior, don't schedule any more. You can tell the mom(s) that the age difference and interest difference is maybe too big just now and you'll try again later.

Some moms seem to get paralyzed in a play date or playgroup situation and though they would stop their own kids from certain actions at their own homes, they seem reluctant to do it in a group. I've seen it myself, believe me, so you're not alone.

First, you're asking for opinions... so I'm giving one. I would NOT play again with that child. If the mother asks why, I would simply say I think my son is just a little too young to mix in with Frankie because he is just a little to rambunctious for us. You have not offended her by saying she is a bad parent. You have not offended her child by telling her he is out of control and a horrible role model. Actually, I think that is a VERY polite way of excusing yourself from a horrible situation.

I agree children need socialization and it is hard if you like the parent not to get together for playdates... but you also have to think about your child's environment. 2 1/2 is a very eager age when they are learning so much and developing so much. If you do preschool, you will only really have control of the situation for another year or two. Keep control. It is your job to keep him safe and teach him properly and if he is subjected to really bad behavior it will have an impact. As he gets older, he may try out some of that behavior. It is natural for them to test the rules and check out your reactions... do you really want this role model?

Also, the mother doesn't do anything... that suggests she doesn't respect your child or you. There are lots of wonderful parents out there who will respect your child and you. Don't put yourself in that situation. It isn't your job to fix them. If you go to church, scout out the parents in your son's class. If not, go to the playground without a playdate scheduled and get to know the other kids. If you like them, schedule to meet them back again in a day or two.

I am a SAHM and I think it is so important to use that time wisely and be the teacher for your child. I think it is wonderful that he reacted so well to the situation, but would you want to be scheduled into an abusive relationship? I wouldn't.

I suppose you were looking for advice on how to handle it and I'm saying not to... but really, is it worth it for the short time you have? If you choose not to avoid them, I would suggest you have a heart to heart about what you have experienced with the other mom. Explain how you are worried that your child will get hurt. I doubt it will change much, but you can try.

Good luck.
Liz

I think you handled the situation very well. In regards to assisting your son with standing up for himself, you've already started...by praising him for his good behavior. My son is 3yrs & 3 mo's old. He is an only child & has not been in daycare either (he's being homeschooled for now). He has 2 "best" friends that are basically close around the same age. His one friend (that's a bit older) is something to handle with regards to discipline. He gets some from his own parents, but he's the younger of two boys & is sometimes given his way to keep him quiet or from acting out (which is really counter-active in my opinion). When this child & my son play together, I am constanting looking over them & advising them both on how to play nice, speak nicely (in sentences w/proper manners), respect themselves & each other, etc. I think that the children should be spoken to as little people because they respond to that. Anotherwords, they don't need to be yelled at; just talked to. I've done this in front of other parents to their children and spoken to the parents as well. I think if you keep a level tone with the parents, it helps. No one probably really wants someone else to discipline their children, but we have to remember we are all responsible for the children in our circles/villages. And if you wish for your son to continue to build a relationship/friendship with these children, they all need to be on the same page in regards to how to conduct themselves when in each others' company.

there are all sorts of ways to parent, and not all of 'em are compatible. it might be worthwhile to have a gentle, courteous, yet frank discussion with your friend about how to reconcile the differences in yours. i'm NOT suggesting that you judge hers. i've watched in bemused horror as some really monstrous littles being raised by NCP parents (non-coercive parenting) grow up to be delightful teenagers. since i'm emphatically NOT an NCP parent i'm not quite sure how they managed it, but it's certainly an example of a parenting style i don't jive with that nonetheless can be effective.
if 'don't interfere and let them work it out' is your friend's system, that doesn't mean she's a bad mom or that your kids can't be friends. it will probably require that you go over several scenarios so that you can both react to situations in a way that won't step on any toes. for example, you may decide not to intervene unless/until hitting starts, but agree that her kids are not allowed to jump on your furniture. it may require meeting in a neutral zone for a while, or that you keep your friendship to moms only until the boys are a little older.
good for you for having a well-behaved toddler!
khairete
S.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.