So what do I tell my son about mean parents? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 02:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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**THIS IS NOT A RANT ABOUT A "BAD" MOM I SAW!!**

DS is 6, and the other day we were clothes shopping for him, and there was this mother there with her 2 kids, boys, maybe 2and a half and 8ish? Anyway, the older boy went upstairs to look for clothes for himself (up the escalator), while the mom was downstairs looking at the womens clothes, and the little guy went to follow his big brother. The mother yells to him "Get back over here, @$$hole!"

And the kid says "No, you, ah-ho!" he was so little he couldn't even curse right.

Anyways, about 15 min later, ds was seeming very distracted and sullen (when we had come, he was excited and happy, talkative, etc). I asked him what was wrong, and he said "nothing".

About 2 minutes later he bursts into tears. I scooped him up and let him cry for a little bit, and when he calmed a little, he asked me "Why would a momma be so mean to her son?" and it broke my heart to see him so upset, yk?

So my question is, how do I *nonjudgementally* talk with him about this? I want to convey that the mother most likely isn't a horrible person, but I certainly don't want to be so nonchalant about it by exusing her behaivior with "Well, maybe she was having a lot of stress that day". I want him to know that this is not an acceptable way to treat ANYONE else, especially your own child without making the mom seem like a demon.

Any ideas? Thanks!

Kelly

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#2 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 02:51 PM
 
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Maybe reflect his feelings. "Hearing that mama made you sad" "You don't like it when mamas say mean things" or whatever.

I think its ok to say you don't know why that mama was being mean. (I like 'being mean' better than saying she 'is' mean...it gives a little grace)

oops, gotta run, be back to this later...
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#3 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 02:56 PM
 
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I think I'd stress the not knowing aspect- wow, I agree, that must have hurt his feelings, I wonder why she said that? You're right, it wasn't nice- have you ever done something you didn't mean to do that you felt sorry for later?

to your sweet ds.

-Angela
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#4 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 02:59 PM
 
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Whoa, that's a tough one. I think what you did sounds great for a start!

Maybe you can talk about how mommies get tired and frustrated a lot, just like kids. Talk about how most moms and dads have learned how to treat children well even when they're angry, but there are some parents that are "still learning". Frame it as a skill or talent that the parent is not very good at right now, but will probably get better and better at. (Though you and I both know this isn't always true )

Maybe you can relate it to times that you, dp, or even he have "made a mistake" and yelled because you were so frustrated you didn't know what to do anymore.

You could talk about how you and dp help him talk about his feelings respectfully, but maybe the mother behaved that way because no one has taught her "how to be angry in a nice way".

I don't know. That's a difficult thing to explain without passing judgement.
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#5 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by townmouse


Maybe reflect his feelings. "Hearing that mama made you sad" "You don't like it when mamas say mean things" or whatever.

I think its ok to say you don't know why that mama was being mean. (I like 'being mean' better than saying she 'is' mean...it gives a little grace)
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#6 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by kamilla626
Talk about how most moms and dads have learned how to treat children well even when they're angry, but there are some parents that are "still learning". Frame it as a skill or talent that the parent is not very good at right now, but will probably get better and better at. (Though you and I both know this isn't always true )

That's normally what i'd do, but I feel, especially in this case, it'd be a lie. This child looked very accustomed to his mom acting like that. She didn't seem embarassed to have been seen by some other shoppers. Seemed like to her there was no problem with her behavior.

Thanks so far! keep em coming!
Kelly

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#7 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 03:41 PM
 
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How about explaining "Most moms and dads have learned how to be nice when they're angry, but this one never learned."

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#8 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 03:45 PM
 
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Wow, good one Ruthla.

CMM--what a sweet little boy you have--such a big heart.
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#9 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Ruthla
How about explaining "Most moms and dads have learned how to be nice when they're angry, but this one never learned."
This doesn't address how the little boy felt, nor does it help to validate his feelings. I think it is more important for the child to be validated about his feeling hurt and sad. He has no control over other people's actions or words, he does have control over himself and how he will act when he grows up.
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#10 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 06:06 PM
 
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What a very thoughtful post.
I think it's important to validate his feelings and you've gotten some good advice about that. I guess I might convey what I think myself - some people relate to children and to each other very differently than we do. Some people talk to children that way. And some mommies and daddy's talk to each other that way and some managers talk to employees that way. And I'd leave it at that and only discuss this in more detail as your son brings it up.

Why does the mom talk that way? Well, her mom probably spoke to her that way and many of her friends probably speak to their children and each other in the same way. I'm inclined to see that kind of behavior as cultural.

The larger issues are what effect it has on one's relationship with (spouse, child, employee) but that's the part I think you can let your son figure out on his own when he's ready.

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#11 of 30 Old 08-18-2005, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Ellien C
Some people talk to children that way. And some mommies and daddy's talk to each other that way and some managers talk to employees that way. And I'd leave it at that and only discuss this in more detail as your son brings it up.

I'm inclined to see that kind of behavior as cultural.
: It is not "cultural" to call anyone a donkeyhole! It is not okay to treat any human being like that.
I don't know any managers that are allowed to call their employees names. In the United States that is illegal.
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#12 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 04:33 AM
 
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Managers may not be allowed to call their employees names, but there's enough anecdotal evidence to believe that it goes on, unchallenged and accepted by the perpetrators.
Back to the original question- I think you've already got some good advice from other people about validating his feelings, but I think part of him might also be wondering "will my mummy shout at ME like that?" So maybe some extra reassurance, if he doesn't ask the question, would be in order.
I think your son sounds like a very nice young man

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#13 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 11:04 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies
: It is not "cultural" to call anyone a donkeyhole! It is not okay to treat any human being like that.
I don't know any managers that are allowed to call their employees names. In the United States that is illegal.

Umm, No its not. I mean it is NOT Illegal. This is something many people do not understand. I am not saying it is O.K.

Many big companies make it against their own internal policies.


And it is illegal to treat someone badly because of race, gender, national origin or religion.

But it is legal to swear at an employee you just don't like. NOt that this is a good practice or anything!
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#14 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by maya44
But it is legal to swear at an employee you just don't like. NOt that this is a good practice or anything!
I am not sure where you live at, but here in the United States it is ILLEGAL to swear at your employees. An employee who has been sworn at can take legal action against their employer.
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#15 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 03:46 PM
 
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"Hearing that mama made you sad. You don't like to hear people talk in mean voices and call each other names. I know just how you feel! I don't like that either. Some people are used to it and think it's okay. But I would rather be with people who don't use mean voices and call names all the time because then, if they do, I know they are feeling really unusually mad."

I've been thinking about this a lot recently after an unpleasant day helping a friend move; he's one of these people who thinks it's just "friendly" or "joking" to insult and curse at someone who has made the slightest mistake (which, in this case, involved failing to read his mind about where to place particular boxes) even if the someone is doing you a huge favor! We've had conflicts over this from time to time in the past. He seems unable to comprehend that I was raised by civilized human beings who did not shout obscenities at me unless--no, wait, they didn't shout obscenities at me ever!--who didn't raise their voices or insult me unless they were seriously upset and who always apologized for it afterward and explained calmly why they'd been upset and discussed how BOTH of us could do better in the future. This friend and others I've known who have a similar style have argued that I should just be tougher, but I disagree.

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#16 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca
"... Some people are used to it and think it's okay. But I would rather be with people who don't use mean voices and call names all the time because then, if they do, I know they are feeling really unusually mad."
What about the people who are not mad, and still call people names?
I would rather be around people who talk with respect and love. And if they get mad, they will still not call me names or swear. I know that I have no control over another person's actions, but I do have control over how I feel about someone else's actions. I have control over how I choose to respond or not respond.

I think it is healthier to not only validate a child's feelings, but also empower them. It is not empowering to give a child false answers about someone else's behavior. No one can answer the why's or how's concerning another person's actions.
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#17 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 04:13 PM
 
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I don't mean culture as in "A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training."

I mean culture as in: The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

The OP asked for a way to discuss this nonjudgementally with her son WITHOUT implying that the mother was a horrible person. So assuming this mother loves her son and is not a bad person, what accounts for the way she speaks? I submit that her words and actions come from her culture. How she sees those around her treat other people and how she was treated by her own mom.

I'll give you an example from my own life. When I was growing up, if we'd seen something like that, my mother would have given me the raised eyebrow look - meaning that was something I should pay attention to. A little later, we would have had a talk where mom referred to people like that as "low-class" or even "no-class." This might have further devolved to using such terms as "trailer trash" or even "poor white trash."

Now, thanks to the lovely and educated mothers at MDC, I know those terms are both racist and classist or elitist. I also know that *I* am not racist and I'm working to become less elitist. So why do I use racist terms when I'm not racist? Well, that is because that's the way I was raised. It was my "culture." I wasn't raised racist, but I was ignorant of the effect the words "poor-white-trash have in a larger context. I was ignorant. Now I know better and I'm working to purge that phrase from my vocabulary. My point is, in that contex, though I used racist words, I'm not racist. My words don't necessarily define who I am.

So back to the OP. The mother in question used mean words, but that doesn't have to define her as a mean person. She probably used mean words out of ignorance and because that's how people around her talk.

For the OP - again, I really appreciate that this wasn't a rant about a bad mom, but that she's looking for an answer to a very complicated question. How do we convey something that conflicts with OUR values while still valuing the other person?

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#18 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 04:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alegna
I think I'd stress the not knowing aspect- wow, I agree, that must have hurt his feelings, I wonder why she said that? You're right, it wasn't nice- have you ever done something you didn't mean to do that you felt sorry for later?
:

I think this is excellent advice. I hope this is how I'd deal with the situation - validate my child's feelings; ask him questions that would help him to come to his own conclusions about the situation (With my guidance).
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#19 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 04:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies
I am not sure where you live at, but here in the United States it is ILLEGAL to swear at your employees. An employee who has been sworn at can take legal action against their employer.

Sorry but you are wrong. I am an attorney and I specialize in employment issues! I really do know the law. I apply it every day at work and I advise major companies.

Now there are union and company rules for some companies that prohibit this. And if you swear at a minority employee and are of a different race or gender, they might try to use this as evidence of illegal discrimination.

But there is NO LAW that demands that employers are civil to employees.
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#20 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by maya44
Sorry but you are wrong. I am an attorney and I specialize in employment issues! I really do know the law. I apply it every day at work and I advise major companies.

Now there are union and company rules for some companies that prohibit this. And if you swear at a minority employee and are of a different race or gender, they might try to use this as evidence of illegal discrimination.

But there is NO LAW that demands that employers are civil to employees.
That is disgusting, but I can see now how it works. If there was such a law then all the American Companies in Ecuador, Mexico, Columbia, etc would have to treat their employees as human beings.
The Ecuadorean mother who picks the bananas would be able to have a safe daycare for her child, rather than worry all day if her child will still be alive when she returns.
Third World countries all over the world wouldn't have such high rates of infant mortality.
hmmmm.
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#21 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 05:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies
That is disgusting, but I can see now how it works. If there was such a law then all the American Companies in Ecuador, Mexico, Columbia, etc would have to treat their employees as human beings.
The Ecuadorean mother who picks the bananas would be able to have a safe daycare for her child, rather than worry all day if her child will still be alive when she returns.
Third World countries all over the world wouldn't have such high rates of infant mortality.
hmmmm.

You are right mama, but it is indeed the fact. Many people are confused about this. They will file legal documents that talk about how mean and horrible their employer was to them but not tie it to any racial or other discrimination. They are shocked when the judge does not care AT ALL about this and their case gets thrown out of court immediately.

In fact there are many legal decisions from courts which say that the employer has no legal obligation to act in a civil manner to its employees.
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#22 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 06:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies
That is disgusting, but I can see now how it works. If there was such a law then all the American Companies in Ecuador, Mexico, Columbia, etc would have to treat their employees as human beings.
The Ecuadorean mother who picks the bananas would be able to have a safe daycare for her child, rather than worry all day if her child will still be alive when she returns.
Third World countries all over the world wouldn't have such high rates of infant mortality.
hmmmm.


I'm not sure i'm following this. A country is subject to the laws in which it does business. So even if there were some law against swearing at ee's in the US, Ecuador, Mexico or Columbia would need to have those laws before a US company was subject to that.

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#23 of 30 Old 08-19-2005, 06:44 PM
 
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You mean 'culture' as is "Our society is not unlike a Jerry Springer Show".

My teen and I have a look that lets the other know there's some Jerry Springer going on.


Sure we've discussed how the offending parents probably attended bad schools and/or had parents who were stressed out from trying to provide, or just simply couldn't be bothered with their own kids, so had the nannies raise them and now they are angry and searching.

But we still have our Jerry Springer look we give to each other when out and about. Even as we think the parents are a-holes, I've still trained him to smile at people like that to help diffuse the situation. Even he knows how to say "Your baby is so cute" at stressed parent.

Of course, we also have a family saying which goes something like this 'Most people are pretty stupid and disrespectful of children" . No lie, that.
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#24 of 30 Old 08-20-2005, 01:39 AM
 
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Originally Posted by CookieMonsterMommy
The mother yells to him "Get back over here, @$$hole!"

And the kid says "No, you, ah-ho!" he was so little he couldn't even curse right.

Anyways, about 15 min later, ds was seeming very distracted and sullen (when we had come, he was excited and happy, talkative, etc). I asked him what was wrong, and he said "nothing".

About 2 minutes later he bursts into tears. I scooped him up and let him cry for a little bit, and when he calmed a little, he asked me "Why would a momma be so mean to her son?" and it broke my heart to see him so upset, yk?

So my question is, how do I *nonjudgementally* talk with him about this? I want to convey that the mother most likely isn't a horrible person, but I certainly don't want to be so nonchalant about it by exusing her behaivior with "Well, maybe she was having a lot of stress that day". I want him to know that this is not an acceptable way to treat ANYONE else, especially your own child without making the mom seem like a demon.

Any ideas? Thanks!

Kelly
I don't know how to convey how unacceptable it is for a parent to call a 2 1/2 year old child (or any age) an @$$hole without being judgemental in any way. Why is it wrong to share any judgement on the parent in this situation? I think calling your child derrogatory names is verbal (emotional) abuse.

I would have to share my feelings with my child and that would include me saying that I feel that mom was very wrong to do that. I would have to say that I don't understand that behavior and do not think it is okay at all. If I said some people do not know better I would be making a judgement about their knowledge. If I said it is cultural I might be condoning the behavior for some people as long as they were from another culture.

I guess you can just reassure your dc that in your house, in your family, in your culture (whatever) that is not considered okay and you do not treat each other that way. It doesn't really help to explain why other people do it.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#25 of 30 Old 08-20-2005, 07:11 AM
 
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I have to agree that it would be pretty tough to explain this without being judgemental. What she was doing was sad and wrong, whether she was raised that way or not. At some point in our adult lives we all need to take a step back from the way we were raised and the culture around us and reflect on whether or not we want to behave in the ways we were taught. Pretty tough, I know, but I think it's a continual process and one that helps us grow as people.

Here's a related story I'd like to share. About 10 years ago, long before I was married with a babe of my own, I was keeping an eye on a co-worker's 8 year old daughter. In the course of our interaction, I playfully called her a little demon. That sounds awful, I know, but my mom always called us demons. It was one of her pet words for us when we were being a bit spirited (not to the point of misbehaving, but borderline, kwim?). Anyway, when I called this little girl a demon she ran to her mom crying and explained what I did. She also demanded to know on what grounds I would call her such a thing. Pretty smart kid. It wasn't until that moment that I thought of the literal meaning of the word and how it might sound to others. Now I have no idea why my mom would chose this word and I would never use it on my dd, but I do understand how people can act all "Jerry Springer" without realizing it.

Okay, long winded, sorry. Your little boy sounds wonderful. What a big heart. This post has given me something to think about - - - how would I want to respond? With judgement or without? Not your question, I know, but thanks for the food for thought.
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#26 of 30 Old 08-20-2005, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your input. I most certainly validated his feelings, but he really doesn't understand why a person would treat another person that way (again, especially a mother to her son).

I do *not* want to blame this on culture. The woman and her son happened to be black, and I do not want my son to think "Well, black mothers talk to their kids like that. It's just the way they are". Even though ds is half black, and has plenty of great west-indian and african american role models, I never want to give him the impression that I think like that, or that that's the way it is, you know?

Along the same lines, I will mention that her parents probably spoke to her like that, and unfortunately she probably never learned to speak to a child any other way.

UU Mom, I thank you for posting, but I'm not sure your answer is even close to what I'm looking for. What you've described, in my eyes, seems very judgemental...especially
Quote:
...just simply couldn't be bothered with their own kids, so had the nannies raise them
That isn't really something i'd ever say to my son about another parent unless I knew them well enough to know that to be true. I'm not here to argue with you, and I really don't have much more to say about your post.

OnlyZombie, I don't want to pass judgement on the woman because I don't think she was a bad person (she may well have been, but I know next to nothing about her). I don't want my son to grow up thinking that anyone who acts like that is a bad person. I also don't want him to grow up making snap decisions about people. I do, however, want him to know that those actions are unacceptable and wrong.

I know there have been times where people could have taken a 60 second video of me and put it on tv and I could have won for New Yorks meanest woman or something...maybe I snapped at a cashier, yelled at a pedestrian crossing the street, or hollared at my son, etc. But really, I am not a bad person. I've done mean things for various reasons, and while these actions were wrong and unacceptable, I'd hate for someone to decide from that 60 seconds alone what kind of a person i am.

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#27 of 30 Old 08-21-2005, 05:39 AM
 
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Along the same lines, I will mention that her parents probably spoke to her like that, and unfortunately she probably never learned to speak to a child any other way.
I understand you don't want to make judgements on the woman and her general character over 60 seconds... but isn't the above also a judgement- about her upbringing and knowledge? In that statemt I see judgement on her parents and her parenting skills.


I just fail to understand how a person can explain or excuse this behavior without forming some kind of judgement even if it is a more charitable one like "she was having a bad day" or "she doesn't know better".

I feel the only way you can avoid judgement is to say that you also do not know or understand why someone does that. It isn't satisfying but it also isn't judging or excusing the behavior.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#28 of 30 Old 08-21-2005, 02:30 PM
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Just my personal experience
My mother never swore at us. She was always very careful to talk to us in a loving, caring, intelligent manner. When she did get angry, she would remove herself or call someone to come get us, so that we would never be victims of her anger, kwim?
Anyways, my younger sister, who by all means, was raised completely AP, slept in the family bed, nursed until she was over 5 yo, etc. She is now the type of mother that screams and swears and hits her kids. No one in our family understands where this behavior came from or how our sister could possibly justify treating her children, in our minds, so horribly.
No, we don't call her a bad mother, but we are very clear in that her behavior and treatment of her children is unacceptable when they are visiting.

Our own children are always upset when they see their cousins treated in such a manner.
We validate their feelings and let them know that they have the choice in how they choose to treat others.
We also let them know that it is okay to want to love and care about their Aunty without supporting the behavior.

It is not easy. My sister co-sleeps, breastfeeds, never does CIO, and yet she has no qualms about yelling at her children to "Shut the F*** up!" or "Quit being a b****!",or "Get your A$$ over here!"

Things my mother never said to us. Things we never say to our children.
I do want to believe that most of it has to do with her struggle with alcohol. I hope that if she ever decides to get treatment and doesn't use, then she would not treat her children that way. And, no, she is not always drunk when she tallks to her kids that way, which makes it all that much harder for us to understand such unacceptable behavior, kwim?

Just my experience and how telling a child that that is the way a person grew up is not always the truth.
As an adult, you have the choice to make a decision about how you will treat your children. Even if you decide not to decide, kwim?
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#29 of 30 Old 08-21-2005, 08:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hmmm.....I'll have to let that marinate a bit......

Kelly, mama (12yoDS), doula, RN, and writer.
There's no where you can be that isn't where you were meant to be, its easy
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#30 of 30 Old 08-22-2005, 11:18 PM
 
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Zombiecat I agree with you.

If you want to convey that what this woman did was wrong, you are forming a judgement. The only alternative is non judgement~simply accept her words and your sons reaction without forming any opinion about either.

With spanking or verbal abuse (calling a child an a$$hole, in public, to get his attention, would qualify), I think it's okay to let my son know such things are wrong.

I would probably just acknowledge that it was wrong, since your son already knows it was! "That was wrong. People shouldn't speak to each other like that." and see if it leads into a conversation about why and how people should speak to each other.

As far as his question about why she was mean, I would probably answer "I don't know for sure. Maybe someone speaks to her like that, so she thinks it's okay. She should find a nicer way to talk to her son."

Empathy is important. So is honesty. Intuition is a good guide for kids to listen too. This woman clearly upset your son. I think it's healthy that he recognized harsh, hurtful behavior, and that he *was not* okay with how she acted.

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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