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People who feel they "have" to intervene

post #1 of 160
Thread Starter 
Hi, I'm hoping to get a wide variety of perspectives on the best ways to deal with this issue.

We've been attending a new church for about six weeks. We'd been out of church for a while, and the primary catalyst for our long non-attendance, and for the many theological changes we've been making, has been the lack-of-respect for children that we were encountering among many religious people.

But we are feeling a need for community, and don't want to keep getting offended and moving on.

My 4-year-old's Sunday School teacher seems concerned that I'm not properly establishing my authority with my child. I've told this teacher and the other children's workers that dd wants everyone to call her "Baby" right now (she's been wanting this for several months now, and it upsets her if anyone tries to call her anything else).

I feel sure that she won't want to be addressed as "Baby" forever, and I look forward to the day when she chooses a "regular" name to be addressed by, whether it's one of her given names, or some other name that she chooses.

But for the time being, I just call her Baby. I believe in addressing people however they want to be addressed, so long as they aren't wanting to go by "Butt-head" or some sort of profanity.

So, anyhow, the children's workers have acted pretty cool about it up 'til recently. I've been going to Sunday School and children's chapel with dd all this time, to help her adjust to the new people and new situations.

Then Sunday before last, dd's Sunday School teacher offered to stay and help dd with chapel, so that I could finally get to attend an entire church service (when I stay with the kids, we don't go into the adult service until time to take communion toward the end).

She promised she'd get me if dd wanted me, and dd was comfortable so I went on to enjoy church. Later, at home, dd told me that she didn't like her teacher, and that next time she wanted me to stay with her, because after I left her teacher started telling her, "You're not a baby," and addressing her by the name that I'd previously mentioned was dd's nickname 'til she started wanting to be called "Baby."

I felt rather miffed that this woman would try to pull something like this the moment she got me "out of the way." Though I realized she probably thought she was being helpful. I meant to say something the following Sunday, but then we overslept and missed church.

I did mention something to the Children's Director when she called me this past Saturday, and said I thought the woman meant well but it really wasn't helpful for building dd's trust. Then on Sunday we got a late start again, and didn't make it until after church, just in time for the rehearsal for the Christmas pageant that both my girls are in.

I said hi to dd's S.S. teacher, and she was standing by me whe I had to explain to another adult that dd wants everyone to call her "Baby" right now. Then she asked me, "Do you mind if WE call her (legal name)?" And I said I really didn't want people pushing this, and that she is four and she's not going to want to be "Baby" forever.

And the teacher said that HER problem wasn't that dd wanted to be "called" Baby -- but that dd was actually saying she WAS a baby -- and that was why she had felt compelled to talk with dd and explain to her that she WASN'T a baby ...

And I'm standing there still not getting what the big deal is, she is four, she KNOWS there is a difference between her and the little people being carried around who can't walk or talk yet. Even if she says she is a horse I see no need to argue the point.

And I think it's kind of dumb to argue the point, as if you just HAVE to be "the one" to persuade a child THIS MINUTE that she's not a horse, or else she'll go through all her life confused, and neighing, and trying to eat grass and mate with farm animals ...

But I didn't want to tell this woman "You're an idiot" -- so I just repeated that I really don't want the issue being pushed, and she kind of said okay, but didn't seem exactly "satisfied."

I know there's this sort of ignorance everywhere you go -- so I guess I just want some insights about the best way to stick up for my daugher and still be gracious. Thanks for any and all insights.
post #2 of 160
I'd just say it's a friends and family nickname, like the character in Dirty Dancing.
post #3 of 160
I'm assuming that your dd is not actually wanting to be treated or is acting like a baby... she's not talking hard-to-understand baby talk or asking to be carried around. This is just a "nickname" that has come about. I would have more than just a passing conversation with the SS worker and just flat out tell her that right now, your dd's nickname is "Baby" and that's how she is to be addressed.

If the worker refuses to use the nickname, then I'd start deliberately calling her the wrong name. If her name is Mary, call her Sue all the time. After she corrects you, explain to her that if she wants to use a name for your dd that is not what dd wants to use, then it must mean that names are irrelevant and you can call the worker anything you want. Harsh, but maybe that's what she needs to understand. There's a lot of meaning in a name. It's why they are so important. They aren't irrelevant. Good luck to you.
post #4 of 160
Were there other children around when your dd was saying she is a baby and has your dd's babyish behavior been really out of place and affecting those other children? Sometimes children who act really immature for their age drain the teacher's ability to interact with other children and that isn't fair to those children. I could see her commenting on the behavior if that was the case. If this is the case, then I think you should talk to this lady about calling her the name she wants to be called, but not accepting radically immature behavior. If she doesn't act babyish or if her behavior doesn't affect other children around her all that much, then I think you should just continue to insist that she be called by the nickname she wants to be called by and continue to say she will get over it eventually.

I do think you should worry about your child if she has been reverting to baby behavior for several months. Is there a lot of stress in the house right now? Has your dd experienced something she is having a hard time coping with? I may be completely wrong, but you mentioned that you really need a community right now and I know that when I feel like that it is usually because I am stressed out and need to be around other people who care. Could your dd be reacting to whatever is making you feel under so much pressure that you are reaching out to a new community?

When my dd feels to much pressure she starts acting like a cat; she crawls, meows, and wants to be carried while she speaks in only cat. She did this for almost a year after my divorce because I thought of it as a phase and was really stressed out myself and having a hard time dealing with a very difficult three year old. Now when she does this I can pull her out of being a cat in a few days at most by spending lots of time giving her cuddles, working on rebuilding our relationship, and addressing the things that are stressing both of us out. I think reaching out for a community is a great first step, but are there other things that are causing stress?
post #5 of 160
Do you like the Sunday School teacher in other areas?? Is this the only thing that bugs you about her? Do you like the church otherwise?

It sounds to me like you and your daughter may need you to stay in the nursery a little longer to ascertain whether it is a good fit.

That being said, and I mean this gently:

For the most part I expect other adults to keep their mouth shut about anything relating to "guidance" and my children. There are a few exceptions -and teachers (including Sunday School teachers) fall into the exception. To a degree, it is their job to offer guidance -and if you do not agree with their underlying beliefs in general- then your child should not be in their class.

Good luck mama!

kathy
post #6 of 160
Quote:
And I think it's kind of dumb to argue the point, as if you just HAVE to be "the one" to persuade a child THIS MINUTE that she's not a horse, or else she'll go through all her life confused, and neighing, and trying to eat grass and mate with farm animals
:

I think you should go on a tirade and include this! Maybe she'll get the point.
post #7 of 160
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post
Were there other children around when your dd was saying she is a baby and has your dd's babyish behavior been really out of place and affecting those other children?
So far, other children haven't seemed to be affected by my dd's chosen nickname. Sometimes they'll ask why I call her Baby -- and I just say that's what she wants to be called right now, and they say Oh and just go on with their playing.

Quote:
Sometimes children who act really immature for their age drain the teacher's ability to interact with other children and that isn't fair to those children.
She seems to act pretty much like the other children, and plays really wonderfully with other children her age.

She IS very much on the active side. Which is one reason why I've been staying to help, because I think it would be kind of overwhelming to deal with dd, and also have other small children to deal with.

The only reason I went on to adult church that one Sunday, was that this teacher was offering to basically stay and take my place caring for my dd. I really couldn't imagine leaving dd with an adult who had an entire class to deal with.

She can be a real handful -- not because she's trying to be babyish, but because if she gets bored she impulsively does stuff to liven up the class, and the other little ones tend to join her and they all run amok together.

One thing I like about this church, is their responsiveness to our unique family. It seems that they were often just putting all the little kids in chapel with the older kids, and expecting them to learn to sit more (or at least they started this after one of the teachers quit a short time ago).

But when we started coming, they started just having them all together for a short time, and then taking the littles off to another room to play.

And maybe it didn't all "start" with us. I just know that the first time or two that we came, they had them all, big and little, in one group, and I was just taking dd out when she needed to move around and play more. Then they started accommodating ALL of the little kids more.

Quote:
I think reaching out for a community is a great first step, but are there other things that are causing stress?
While we certainly have our fair share of stress, and dh is unemployed at the moment (and I stay home), I honestly think she just likes being called "Baby" right now. It's possible it might help her with some stress.

She does like thinking of herself as a baby -- but in group settings she is playing and interacting with the other kids like a normal 4yo kid.

Her speech may seem babyish -- we've been going to speech therapy and she's made leaps and bounds, and is much more understandable than she was several months ago. And she likes having her communications understood -- so I honestly don't think that any mispronunciations are intentional on her part.

Again, I DO think dealing with her would be a strain for anyone who's trying to work with a whole group of children. This is why I'm there to help, to avoid causing added stress to the kind people who give of themselves so graciously every Sunday.
post #8 of 160
For me, in a case like this, I would leave it to my child to negotiate. I might way once or twice that we were calling her "baby" right now and make sure I did so within ear shot of the teacher. But for me, if my kid really wanted to be called that, I wouldn't do the insisting for her. I would leave it to her to negotiate with the teacher. I might give her tips, hey - you can let them know that you prefer to be called "X" right now but I would leave it to her. Maybe it's just thing your child wants from you.
post #9 of 160
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
Then she asked me, "Do you mind if WE call her (legal name)?"
"Yes I do. In fact, I've been meaning to mention that it was very wrong of you to undermine my authority as her parent and call her 'nickname'. It really hurt my trust in you that you did so."

Okay, more graciously, "hi, you seem concerned that my dd thinks she actually *is* a baby. She's 4 years old, she knows the difference between kids and babies, just like she knows the difference between people and dogs, or people and horses. If her pretend-play disrupts the class or keeps her from doing necessary work, then I want you to come get me. I hope that relieves your mind. Do you have any other concerns?"
post #10 of 160
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
Do you like the Sunday School teacher in other areas?? Is this the only thing that bugs you about her?
I wouldn't say that I DISlike her. I think she is a nice and well-meaning person. She's a lot younger than me -- maybe late 20's (I'm 45), and seems to have gone straight from teacher's college to parenting. She is also a fulltime schoolteacher, and her 2 children are around 6 and 4 I think, and of course are in their schools all day while she teaches.

They are both in Sunday School class with her and she's pretty affectionate with them, and has a good relationship with all of the children. But is also big on laying out her expectations, and expecting children (especially her own) to rise to them. Dd has enjoyed her classes so far. This teacher is engaging and prepared with the storytime, and then after that they have a playtime.

Dd actually gets along quite well in her S.S. class since it's never boring ... it's the chapel that she sometimes gets rambunctious in, especially in periods where the kids are sitting there waiting for adults to get started.

Which is why when they encouraged me to go on to church that one day, I did make sure that they were going to be splitting up as usual for the little kids to go play. And also that they'd get me if dd wanted me.

Quote:
Do you like the church otherwise?
Yes. And I feel that overall they're the most respectful of children, of any church I've been to so far.

Quote:
It sounds to me like you and your daughter may need you to stay in the nursery a little longer to ascertain whether it is a good fit.
I agree!

Quote:
That being said, and I mean this gently:

For the most part I expect other adults to keep their mouth shut about anything relating to "guidance" and my children. There are a few exceptions -and teachers (including Sunday School teachers) fall into the exception. To a degree, it is their job to offer guidance -and if you do not agree with their underlying beliefs in general- then your child should not be in their class.
I can see your point here. With my older dd (now 9) I went with her alot, too. And didn't leave her until she and I both felt comfortable with the situation. Now that she's 9 (we homeschool), we talk over her experiences in the various activities she's part of, and I'm basically her sounding-board as she figures out whether she, overall, enjoys an activity enough to want to stay with it, or not.

At least with my older dd, she is feeling such a strong need to branch out and get more connected with others outside our family -- and I honestly find a whole lot more children's leaders who think differently from me than who think like me.

So I just give her the opportunity to weigh out what she doesn't like against what she does like about any given activity, and make her own choice.

I'm not sure if my 4yo will be needing the same degree of outside-connections as she grows, but at this time she does seem pretty extraverted. At this time, I'll just keep going to stuff with her ... but at some point she may just need to evaluate activities and make her choices just as my older dd does.

It all depends on her needs.

Quote:
Good luck mama!

kathy
Thank you!

And I am really appreciating your, and everyone's, thoughtful advice. Thank you all!
post #11 of 160
Does your dd want other kids to call her baby as well? Or just adults? I imagine it would be rather hard for other kids to remember calling her baby or it might take the tone of teasing if not explained properly. I think One Girl raises some good points. Dd1 (3 yrs) goes through a baby phase quite regularly these days and it mean she needs extra love and attention. It started after the twins were born and she will actually crawl on the floor, drool on purpose and toddle around like she is just learing how to walk. It drives me mad.

If this sounds somewhat similar to what your dd is doing, and the teacher doesn't want to use the name baby, could she give your Dd a little 'extra' attention or cuddles or whatever she needs until your dd grows out of it? To be honest, it would be hard for me to call an older child 'baby' around my kids without confusing them. But, that's cause I like to explain things like so and so is a baby so you can't play with small toys that she can choke on. Or, so and so is a baby and can't talk yet so that's why she cries when she wants something. Is the name baby something that can be causing the teacher some difficulty in leading the class? Is it confusing for the other kids? Just some thoughts as it sounds to me like you are already sticking up for your daughter just fine but maybe if you look at it from another angle and explain to your dd that not everyone will call her by her name baby and they might have valid reasons for it.

ETA: oops, i guess i should read the whole thread before i post a reply
post #12 of 160
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellien C View Post
For me, in a case like this, I would leave it to my child to negotiate. I might way once or twice that we were calling her "baby" right now and make sure I did so within ear shot of the teacher. But for me, if my kid really wanted to be called that, I wouldn't do the insisting for her. I would leave it to her to negotiate with the teacher. I might give her tips, hey - you can let them know that you prefer to be called "X" right now but I would leave it to her. Maybe it's just thing your child wants from you.
Yes, I would stay out of it for the most part. Children are resilient, and can deal with little frustrations. We can support them in dealing without stepping in and changing the situation for them.

It is really important to me that my dc have relationships with people I trust (extended family, family friends, church members, etc). For me, part of fostering those relationships is letting go of some control, and letting my dc experience other personalities and approaches. I try to sit back and watch my dc, looking for signs that I really need to step in, but otherwise letting them negotiate their own relationship.
post #13 of 160
I'm of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, it doesn't *seem* like a big deal to call a child what they want to be called. In high school even, I had teachers ask us on day one how we preferred to be addressed. However, I'm also a believer that, as long as adults are generally respectful and appropriate with children, it's okay to let children learn to deal with OTHER adults' expectations for them. Your DD may be called "Baby" everywhere else, but in the church class, it's different. That also seems to me to be no big deal, especially since you've expressed that DD seems to enjoy the class and have a good relationship with the teacher.

I don't expect other adults to fill my *mom* shoes, kwim? Not everyone has to do as I do, and my kids will learn that people have different boundaries. I don't see a problem with that.
post #14 of 160
Oops wrong thread lol sorry
post #15 of 160
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellien C View Post
For me, in a case like this, I would leave it to my child to negotiate. I might way once or twice that we were calling her "baby" right now and make sure I did so within ear shot of the teacher. But for me, if my kid really wanted to be called that, I wouldn't do the insisting for her. I would leave it to her to negotiate with the teacher. I might give her tips, hey - you can let them know that you prefer to be called "X" right now but I would leave it to her. Maybe it's just thing your child wants from you.
No, this is actually how she wants to be addressed all of the time, not just with me.

I think she's too young for me to expect her to negotiate-it-out herself with adults. An old example comes to mind.

A few years back, when my oldest was 4, she was spending some time with my mother, who disagreed with our plans to homeschool, and was trying to persuade dd that she would miss out on so much fun if she couldn't persuade us to enroll her in kindergarten when she was 5.

I told Mom to stop doing this, and also explained to dd our reasons for homeschooling, and dd felt much happier after I named off many of her friends who were homeschoolers. And I just told her that sometimes grownups disagree, and Grammy disagrees with us and that's okay.

So she was cool. But then she was playing with her older cousins one day at Mom's, while I was resting in another part of the house due to pregnancy nausea. And suddenly dd came to me, very upset. She said, "I just started getting up in Grammy's face and screaming at her." And she said she was also licking her hand and rubbing spit on everyone.

I wondered why and she just said she was sorry for doing it. So we went up to talk to everyone, and it quickly became clear what they'd been up to (my mom had seen this as a great moment to have my niece and nephew, who liked school, to tell dd about their experiences).

I realized it was wrong for me to trust my mother alone with my child. It is just too much pressure on small children, to expect them to stand up to adult manipulations.

Too often they can end up getting "in trouble," because they don't know how to handle it "appropriately" (according to the disrespectful adult's standards of appropriateness) -- and just start licking everyone in desparation.

But I still appreciate you sharing your thoughts, I just want to express how I think this can set children up for making themselves the subject of unfair adult disapproval. Because some adults feel entitled to be shown respect by children, even when they themselves are being disrespectful. So they don't fight (or negotiate) fairly.
post #16 of 160
It would annoy me that the teacher took it into her own hands to deal with, before talking to you first. But if I must be honest, I'd feel funny calling someone else's kid "Baby". It sounds like an endearment, that should come from those closest to her.

If that's really her nickname and will be for the foreseeable future and you are truly into calling her that and you don't feel it's just a phase, then introduce her initially as "Baby". But otherwise, what if she changes her mind every week... it would be hard for people that don't know her well to keep up with her latest nickname. I don't see anything wrong with people she doesn't know that well using her given name (unless she totally hates her name), and family/close friends using the endearments.
post #17 of 160
You mentioned that the teacher said she was acting like a baby. If she is a school teacher then she has probably had kids with speech issues and that probably isn't why she said that. It may be that when you left your child really did start acting like an actual baby, perhaps because she feels comfortable enough to behave the same way she behaves at home when she is there. Generally kids don't act like they would at home unless they are very comfortable and secure where they are, which is why the first month of school is so calm and peaceful and the second is horrible. I think that it is good that she feels comfrotable enough with the teacher to act like she would at home and that she can get along without you now as she adjusts to the teachers expectations. You mention that the teacher has a lot of good qualities that make you comfortable with having your dd in the class, so I think you should trust that she can help your dd adjust to class expectations. Did you ask the teacher what your dd did that made her think that she was acting like a baby? Maybe you could tell her what you do at home when your dd acts in those ways.
post #18 of 160
My dd went through a long phase of wanting to be called certain names...for instance after reading Charlotte's Web she wanted to be called Fern. It lasted almost a year and she was serious about it.
Then she went through another long phase of being Nim, after we read Nim's Island.

Finally now, she can read a story and like it without actually needing to change her name. So I understand and I agree it will not last forever.
And yes, I know a girl who pretended to be a horse ALL the time (not my dd) and she outgrew that eventually too.
post #19 of 160
Thread Starter 
overseasmomma -- from my observations, this doesn't seem to be all that confusing, or all that much of an issue, for the other children in dd's age-group. They'll sometimes ask why dd's called "Baby" -- but I just say that's what she likes right now, and they don't seem overly-stressed about it or anything.

It's kind of like how, when she used to prefer wearing diapers (which she suddenly quit doing just before turning 4 1/2 a few months ago), sometimes a child would ask me why dd wore a diaper "like a baby." I'd just say that she knows how to use the potty but prefers going in her diaper right now ... and they'd say Oh and just go on with their playing.

I imagine that if they have baby brothers and sisters, they still understand that they're less mature and can choke on small items. I don't think knowing one child their age who's called "Baby," is going to totally warp their understanding of what a baby really is.
post #20 of 160
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
I realized it was wrong for me to trust my mother alone with my child. It is just too much pressure on small children, to expect them to stand up to adult manipulations..
That's why I specified "people I trust".

There is a huge difference between someone manipulating your dc and undermining your parenting, and a teacher who wants to use given names only in their classroom. I think your dc will most likely be able to adjust to the teacher calling her by her "proper" name 1 hour a week.
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