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scribblerkate 03-02-2002 10:11 AM

This is a follow-up to some comments in the "Gender bias and our wee ones" thread. I said there that I am trying to the best of my limited abilities (only human!) to raise my 15-month-old DS in a "gender neutral" manner. Yes, I hate that term, too.

Several women on the thread pointed out that a lot of the boys-will-be-boys behavior comes from parents being overly lenient, lax, or lazy. I agree.

Now you've got me worried, though. I have noticed at some of the moms/playgroups I go to that I am more lenient with DS than many of the other women are. Some of them actually take items off of him that they feel he shouldn't be playing with (drives me crazy that they do this). They point out behaviors of his and say "can he be doing that?" Generally, my answer is yes.

I certainly don't let DS go crazy, and he has boundaries and limits. I just feel that as long as he is safe and not harming or bugging someone else, he's okay with monitoring.

I don't have a DD so I have no idea if I would treat a girl the same way. But I am wondering how I can tell whether I am being too lenient, as it can be so hard to self-assess. Any clues or guidance?

daylily 03-02-2002 11:15 AM

I doubt very much that you are being too lenient. All parents have different comfort levels regarding what their children can do. You say you're not letting your son hurt anyone, so I'm sure you're fine. It drives me crazy too when people step in and take things from my 3 year old ds.

My dh and I "allow" things that other parents tend to forbid such as climbing and jumping on furniture or climbing trees. We have 2 sons and 2 daughters and we don't expect our girls to be more sedate than the boys. They all have their moments of wildness. I do think that some parents are somewhat dismayed when they come to our house and perceive that our children are setting a bad example, but I'm not going to modify the rules in my house for other people. When we are guests in others' houses, I expect my children to abide by the rules of that house.

Forest Sage 03-02-2002 11:53 AM

I have noticed this too, scribblerkate, and it is maddening! Letting your child discover is not the same as being lenient. Lenient describes a term that has negative connotations. The way this bugs me most now that my son is no longer a toddler is with GETTING DIRTY. I get so many disapproving looks if my son looks like a dirty little ragamuffin. Moms are forever saying to me, "should he be getting dirty like that?" Or, "I couldn't handle it if my kids got that dirty!" I mean, it's not like he's dripping with mud....but it wasn't until I had a kid that I really noticed how uptight people can be about cleanliness. Once we got on the bus after my son had been playing in a sandbox and people avoided sitting near us like we had the plague!
When I see parents intervening alot with their kids, like taking away harmless things that baby has gotten a hold of, I see that as being controlling, not setting "boundaries." I mean cripes, there is a time and a place for everything.
I am a very attentive and involved parent. I have found that when people have the nerve to be critical of my parenting, it is not so much that they are bothered by what my child is doing (or not doing). They are insecure because we are not raising our kids the exact same way. Why does it have to be such a problem for anybody if my son wants to get marker all over his hands or put clay in his hair? He can be an artist if he wants to!
~~As for gender biasing, I strongly suspect that if my son was a girl, people would have MORE of a problem with getting dirty and mucky. But I wouldn't.

calgal007 03-02-2002 12:42 PM

There is a false sense of security achieved by parents who manipulate reality to conform to what they want touching their child. Of course, I'm not talking about baby-proofing, or safety issues, but about allowing parents who bend reality to reflect their own choices inflicting their personal views on the rest of us who have children the same age. (I found this particularly prevalent in that wonderful yet fraught with social minefields thing called "the playgroup".) We all have a right to show our children what we choose, and to live in a way that best suits our family philosophy.

daylily 03-02-2002 01:11 PM

LOL about getting dirty, Forest Sage. My 3 year is often extremely dirty by the afternoon. I'm proud of his dirty face. It shows he's been busy playing and hasn't been sitting in front of the TV all day. Luckily, we usually get nice comments like "I see you've been busy today!"

Jish 03-02-2002 05:37 PM

I think that we often have to tailor our discipline to the situation we are in. While I have no problem with my kids playing with the salt and pepper shakers at our local fast food restaurant, when we go to a nicer place, the rules are different. We all have to decide what we are comfortable with in terms of what we will allow. Some parents are comfortable with behaviors that other's are not. The things that I take issue with are the parents who are not willing to interrupt their conversation to deal with their child, and the parents who disrespect the parenting of the parents around them. If I go out to lunch with a group of women who expect their children to sit at the table and color while waiting for the food, I think it is impolite to let my child play on the floor under the table. Perhaps impolite is not the right word. I think that it is disrespectful to the other children who will get in trouble if they too go under the table. I don't want to be the cause of their getting in trouble. I am using myself as an example here, but there is another mommy I am thinking of.: I think it's okay for my child to learn that there are different rules for different situations, with different people. Perhaps I should be thinking more of my child, than of their children, but I know how my ds feels when he is the one who has to "follow the rules" when another child doesn't. I don't want to put another child in that position. How hard for a toddler.

Our comfort level and the situation we are in should be our guide.

Linda in Arizona 03-02-2002 06:43 PM

Some people seem amazed that my girls (who like dresses, ballet and dolls) also love dirt! We were at the park the other day and had their shoes off and were squishing their toes in the mud (it is nice and warm this time of year where we live). Anyway, other parents were trying to keep their kids out of the mud and giving me dirty looks. I just don't get it. It will wash right off.

The line for me is anything that could hurt an other person, land them in the ER, or damage property. Other than that, they are pretty much free agents.

The odd thing to me is that my kids usually listen really well when I tell them they need to stop something. I think that they have learned that I don't limit their freedom without a really good reason. Some parents are so busy micromanaging their child's every move that the kids have learned to just tune it out.

Jish 03-02-2002 10:47 PM

I WISH we could be out in the mud. As of yesterday, all we have is snow.:

scribblerkate 03-02-2002 11:08 PM

Ah, and I wish we could be out in the snow. We've had hardly any this year, and right now all we have is cold. Welcome winter, finally.:

Thank you for all of your thoughtful responses. To date I have felt that we have done a good job setting boundaries (no hurting or excessive harassment) while also trying to let DS explore the world. I am just worried that because I am more lenient than other parents, we could fall into the too-lenient trap without me even realizing it. I do want DS to explore, but I also want him to be aware of the needs of others.

jbcjmom, I find it interesting that you are so aware of the feelings of other children, who may be subject to different parenting styles and rules. DS is still young enough not to be able to comprehend these things, but I agree that this is important and will take care to think about it as he gets older. So far, with DS being young and a rather independent little explorer, I have been of the opposite mindset . . . bothered when other parents (of older children) comment that my DS's freedom is setting a bad example for their children (also all sons). In my view, he's only a baby and should be treated as such. Perhaps that is not a fair mindset, although I have always felt that rules should differ by age group (babies given more leeway than toddlers given more leeway than preschoolers . . .).

Here's to mud and the glory of playing in it!

Linda in Arizona 03-02-2002 11:22 PM

For me, it really depends on what the other parents' rules are and how flexible my kids are being. I refuse to get into power struggles with my kids because of someone else's issues. For example, we sometimes go to McDs with other moms and kids (I can hear you'all moaning ). I let my kids have the toys right away and I don't care if they eat any of the food at all (It has NO nutrients, so why push it?) Most moms I know make their kids eat all the food before they can have the toy. It sometimes causes issues with other parents, but I would rather other adults be annoyed with me that start rewarding my kids for eating chicken nuggets and fries!

I think that most parents see me as lenient.

Jish 03-02-2002 11:43 PM

I feel very lucky that 95% of the time, none of this is even an issue for us. With my group of friends we have unitentionally sort of evolved into a group parenting style when we are all together. There is this sort of unwritten set of rules that we just fell into. It is really nice. BTW, my oldest is 3 3/4 and it is him that I occasionally corral -- very occasionally. My concern for the feelings of other kids comes from my experince posted on another thread titled "gentle disipline or total lack of authority." This is a portion of my post...

"This same dad uses my older ds as a scapegoat when we are out. My ds knows the rules and is good about following them. For example, our mall has an indoor play area that is round and surrounded by soft, highback benches that encircle the perimeter. I don't let my ds run in a circle on the benches. People sit there, and I hate it when I sit down only to find a muddy foot print now transfered to my a**. Instead of telling his kids to get off of the benches, he will tell them, that they have to get off the benches because Christian's mommy won't let him play on the seats, and we don't want Christian to get in trouble and have to leave. It's important to note that my child is never standing on the seats when this happens. I find it awful to use a child as an easy way out for him. I don't want him to turn my child into the fun killer, and have the other kids dislike him for it when the fact is that he has no other way to get his kids to do what he wants. Arrrr!!"

I know how it makes my son feel when this happens. He knows the rules and desperately wants to run with the rest of them, but he doesn't. It hurts him when he has to watch the other kids breaking the rules and can't join in. I hate to see someone else's child sad because my kid is running wild. I'm not talking about things like letting my ds play with the salt and pepper shakers, I'm talking about things like letting him run around in a restaurant where he could knock over a waitress.

I must admit that, again, due to my empathy for the other kids, I would try to talk my ds into waiting to open his toy at McD's until everyone was done eating. Partly because I would feel bad for the other kids who would have to watch him, and partly because I don't allow toys at the dinner table while we are eating.

Perhaps I am too empathetic, but I remember far too much of my insecure childhood.

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