Recently, my husband picked up my son from his classmate’s 5th birthday party. It was a rowdy party, held on a weekend night from 6-8pm in a crowded playplace. You can imagine the typical scene of over-sugared, hyper, over-tired, sweaty little boys. I’m sure the noise and chaos from the fun was enough to give the host parents a headache.
Upon pick-up, our child was in a different spot than all his friends. Standing in a corner ball cage, with a pouty lip and eyes about to spill over. My husband learned that our son has been given a time-out by the host parents because he threw a basketball at another child’s head (not the birthday child).
Our son’s behaviour was wrong. We don’t allow aggression or throwing things at others either. I’m glad the other child was not hurt, as that would be another story all together. When asked, our son’s explanation was the play had gotten rowdier throughout the party and he was retaliating for previous pushes, kicks and mean talking.
Doesn’t make my kids behavior right, absolutely not. But if his story is true, why was only one child punished?
Things to think about:
a) What’s the role of another parent in your child’s discipline in your absence? Is there even a role??
b) Is the punishment fair?? Look around the playcentre, there’s not only one kid misbehaving.
This stinks of Lance Armstrong. Was my kid doing something he knew was wrong and inappropriate? Absolutely. Was everyone else??? Probably. Why is he the only child called out? Why was he made to feel like he was the worst child there??
My child left the birthday party so deflated. Instead of bouncing home with stories of the fun he had, it was diminished by the fact that he was the only one punished. And then emotionally struggling, convinced he is “badder” than everyone else and lamenting about how that’s “not fair”.
Usually, I’d use this as a lesson for him. But this time, I agree with him.
What I would like to do is reconsider what we all think is acceptable – is it okay to discipline and punish a child that is not yours? Especially a child you don’t know??
Sugar induced birthday parties are almost like an excuse to misbehave. I’ve hosted my fair share of them for all 3 of my kids and it's not a breeze.
At Andrew’s own recent birthday party, we had a dozen 5 and 6 year olds here to have a Beyblade Tournament. The possibility for antics was endless, especially since the “battles” have a winner and loser and unregulated emotions run high in the 5 and 6 year old crowd.
In order to manage those emotions, we set up ground rules at the very beginning. We explained before the beyblade battles that anyone who was a poor loser, not a polite winner or wasn’t nice to their opponent would have to go to the “Penalty Box” which was a spot on the staircase. Not in seclusion, but it meant they would sit out of the play for a bit. The “penalty box” was a hockey reference they all understood. As a result, not one child ever had to go to the Penalty Box, likely, because expectations were set up in advance.
Kids, especially young ones, actually like rules and boundaries even if they push them. Often at birthday parties all the rules and their self-regulating tactics go out the window, I've witnessed even the most well-behaved child turn into, well, not a well behaved child. Don’t run and scream in the house? Well, at the indoor playcentre we encourage you to do that! Sweets are treats usually? Let’s load you up on as much as you can take at a birthday party. Hosts need to be prepared for the uncivilized behavior that will happen at birthday parties.
A friend, whose husband is an elementary school principal and bares witness to loads of behaviour at school, made a great suggestion that I will do in the future – they always pick their sons up 15 minutes early from birthday parties. Why? Based on the theory that the sugar and excitement causes explosive behaviour, they remove their kids before they can instigate it or be influenced by it. An extra set of parental hands is often helpful in the last moments of a party too.
When I posted on Twitter about the internal debate this was causing at home, I had a lot of responses about how this would not sit well with them or did I approach the other parents? Overwhelming was the dialogue that this was unfair and I should speak directly to the other family to express my concern.
The thing is, I don’t want this to turn into a bigger deal than it is. Who knows, this kid could wind up turning into a great friend in years to come? I don’t want to stir the pot in the neighbourhood and the parents did what they thought was right.
In the end, what would I have preferred? Instead of taking my kid out, spend two minutes talking to us, his parents, about the incident at the end of the party. Or, call me and I’ll pick him up early. Fill me in, give me the details and rat my kid out. Then let us discipline him the way we want, in a way that he learns not to do it again. Let us do the following through with logical consquences.