We talk a lot about bad behavior and when a child is treated poorly we are all appalled and rightfully so. We also talk a lot of crap about parental response. After all we have become increasingly judgmental in the age of social media as we tell our children not to be judgmental in the age of social media.
BC (before children) when I and pretty much most people I know can tell you exactly what we will and will not do and how our future offspring will be the next perfectly behaved child with endless talents, we are all perfect parents. Before children we of course will know how we will parent and will never use "because I said so", let them eat cookies in the supermarket, ever cave to making separate meals to accommodate their lack of wanting to eat what the adults are eating and will never lose our shit with them (in private or public). Ha! We may try to do these things but in the end this mom is very comfortable with admitting I have lost my shit privately and publicly while yelling at a child eating extra cookies in the supermarket, box that I opened to placate, while shopping for food to make meals for them that are not same ones we will be eating. I do not parent perfectly nor do I want to anymore.
I am admitting that I too have often thought, ok and said,when I hear a child behaved poorly what the hell are those parents going to do about it. I still believe that parents (whatever that is defined as for your family) are the biggest influence for kids. Yes I know it seems they quote everyone from a commercial to a YouTube guy and never you as the parent but you are by far the biggest driving force. You are just not going to get credit until they are adults and mostly when they become parents.
I am grateful for my boys and even when they aggravate me it is because they are kids and sometimes they just need to poke one another, fight over imaginary slights and just you know be kids. However, I take great pride in the people they are. So how could my kid have been the one at a sleepover to make the bad choice I asked myself?
I do not like sleepovers and they only are limited for my kids to a very select few people because I just do not see the need to have you stay at someplace where I do not know the family very, very well. Yet there are a few birthday parties where the number of boys sleeping over seems to have grown to beyond 10 - I did it myself last year with 13 boys of about 9-11. It was exhausting, they don't sleep, they are all over the place. I have a normal sized house, read not giant space one, and I was thrilled they and we survived. However, let's face it as the lights go down, the sugar kicks in, the devices are out with games and then there is the ones that fall asleep vs the ones that don't you know the temptation to do something that you may not have without group think grows exponentially. So it was my kid with the egging on, but hey he made the choice here to listen and be the one to do it, that decided to draw on another kid. Something not appropriate - something that rhymes with Dennis. Yeah ...that's right that is what he drew, on another kid.
Apologies he made aside I was annoyed with him - mad that he had done this thing but even more upset because he did not do it to a larger child who could have biffed him upside his head but one that just got upset and then very kindly forgave him. That is bad choice. The other part well it's stupid stuff that I can attribute to hormones and tween lack of maturity. The fact that he did it to someone who is mild mannered made it a choice that had consequences. At first my son didn't quite see why I and then his father were so upset with him about - after all it washed off I believe was his line of reasoning. After all the other boys thought it was funny. After all others were drawn on, albeit nothing that was that wrong.
I went for a drive because my parent self wanted to shake the kid and the annoyed look he was giving us off his face. I came home calmer and decided this was it - this is that thing we all get so judgmental about. That moment when we want the parent to take charge -- I was the parent. I sat and spoke to my son about what I saw as wrong - the fact that he did not think about his actions, that he did to be "cool" in front of the others who only talked about doing it, to doing it to the person who was least likely to frankly kick his ass for doing it. I asked him when choices are coming at him like drugs, or stealing, or bullying or doing something with a girl because others are egging him on does he want to be in control or be controlled? He broke down, this was not about me and my anger it was about him and his choices.
It was a great teachable moment. There will be other choices he will make and some will be really poor but picking on another kid is unlikely to be one of them. I wanted him to know that there were consequences and that I was not wrong in being mad but that even at my maddest I still was there for him, that he had a place to come to and we would work out how to address whatever happened and hopefully how to not repeat it.
I learned from this lesson - in my opinion it is still the parents who can change behavior but we do not need to add to the pressure of being one by shaming them, much like we should not shame our children we should teach them how to make better decisions. We can parent better when we support one another and I am so grateful for my good friend Kris who really helped me through my own anger as I went for my cool down. Kids - sigh, eye roll - we can protect them and help them protect themselves from becoming people that they would not like.