This week's parenting conversation (which will air tomorrow) perked up my ears. The sticky social predicament of handling a friend's misbehaving child — or "Bratzilla" — is something that I've now experienced from both sides.
This weekend, I spent part of Saturday at a museum, and there was this kid. He was about 2 years old, and he spent most of his time literally running through the exhibits. Every time he saw one of those ropes or barriers that are supposed to signal people to keep their distance, he ran under them or climbed over them, giggling and jumping up and down. Attempts to keep this little tyke in-check were met with kicking, crying, screaming tantrums.
What could have been a relaxing outing turned into a first-class workout of my nerves. That's because this was my kid.
Having spent close to two decades of my adult life as a spectator of parenthood, tutt-tutting moms who failed to keep their little darlings from behaving like wild beasts in public, I've got to acknowledge a certain karmic justice to my current challenges. And I know now that having a kid misbehave in a public place, or away from home, can present a logistical nightmare.
Take my own semi-sweet, wonderful son, Liam. When I'm at home and he throws a tantrum, I have a few strategies: I'm doing my best NOT to go the corporal punishment route, so I take him up to his crib or sit him down on a step for a time out. Sometimes, I follow my uncle's advice and ignore him — I walk to another room until he sees that a tantrum will NOT win my attention, and then he settles down.
But you just can't do this stuff away from home. I thought about using my strategies at the museum. But if I had left him kicking and crying on the floor, he could get trampled; if I walked away, he could get lost; and the museum didn't have any handy, unused staircases for a time out.
I can't imagine a friend's house is much more discipline-friendly than your average museum. Are you going to ask your friend to join you in leaving a room in their OWN house to let your kid work through a meltdown?
Are you going to say, "Liam is thrashing around like a madman. Can you let me put him in your master bedroom — the one with your prized collection of glass figurines — until he calms down?"
Um, not really.
So to all those who see themselves as Bratzilla victims, I'd ask that, when your friends tell you little Johnny or Sue is NOT a monster, but a dear wonderful child most of the time, give them a break and take their word for it.
... And join us for tomorrow's Bratzilla-themed parenting discussion. You'll hear how these situations aren't always as they appear.