on preschool & parenting other people's kids

Kembe has been watching his brother and sister go off to preschool for a month now. To be perfectly honest, those mornings have been tough on both of us. He always seems really low when they are gone. Karis naps half the time, and I think a quiet house where he is the only kid is not a familiar scene for him. When we pick the kids up, he seems so relieved. He has also seemed curious about the preschool thing, and recently started asking to go. Last week, he started crying every time they left. "Mwen vle ale preschool" was a frequent request.

Finally, we decided he was ready to go. He started on Monday and had a great day. His English is coming along so well, and it really helps that he is in India's class. He was so excited to have a little lunchbox of his own, and to walk out the door in the morning knowing he wasn't coming straight home. He talked for the rest of the day about how he went to preschool, too, and how much he liked playing basketball on the playground. Today, when I went to pick him up, he threw an out-and-out tantrum about leaving. He wanted to stay and play basketball with his new friends.

Speaking of, this afternoon the kids had basketball practice again. Some of you asked if we were going back after the incident last week. I didn't even think of not going back. I did feel a little apprehension about seeing the other mom, and wondered how I could try to move past the awkwardness of last week. She and her son weren't there. The other little boy (whose mom I didn't talk to) was not there either. I confess that I felt a little relieved, but also bummed if that mom felt she had to remove her kid from the class because of the conversation we had.

A few people chided me for talking to the mom about her son's behavior. I must say, I am in the "it takes a village" camp. I think kids benefit from guidance from their community at large. I generally don't go around scolding other kids, but if I see a child doing something egregious, I will tell the parent. If the parent is not around, I might even talk to the child directly. I would really hope that another parent would do the same for me if my kid did something I missed. It seems strange to me that an adult would observe a child behaving badly and then do nothing . . . but that's just me.

Where do you land on this one? If you saw a neighbor or a kid at the park doing something offensive, would you alert the parent, or talk to the child if they weren't around? Or do you take the stance that it isn't your place to parent someone else's child?


  1. I, too, would have spoken to the mother about her child's actions. In fact, I have spoken to other mother's more than once in regards to staring at my son. My children were both inter-racial adoptions and my son is blind. There have been times that children have stared at my son as his eye is noticeably (sp?) different, and I have asked a mother to please have her child stop staring. I have encountered moms who abide by my request with a huff or moms who do so apologetically.

  2. Anonymous4:08 AM

    Yes, I would have said something, too. Perhaps not quite as gracefully as you did, but around here with the neighborhood kids we talk to the kids about how they're doing as well as mild discipline. (nothing too harsh, just "we don't talk like that around here, if you can't behave we'll have to send you home).

    Definitely need a village...

  3. One of my favorite me experiences happened on the soccer field playground. Two ten-year-olds were sitting around dropping the f-bomb loudly with no parents in sight. I snuck up behind them, shoved my head in between theirs, and said in their ears, "there are small children here. Please go take your naughty words somewhere else." The look on their faces was priceless! They left and I laughed at myself the rest of the day. I haven't heard them do it since.

  4. I probably wouldn't have said anything, but only because I'm a scaredy cat and I am too fearful haha - not because I dont think you should have . . .

  5. Not confront the perpetrator when your child is the victim of racism? Puh-lease, that's just asking for the world and the injustice in it to stay the same.

    And I am perhaps one of the least confrontational people in this hemisphere.

  6. I think you did the right thing. If you see a kid doing something bad/wrong, unless it is life threatening , you should talk to his parents. No parent can watch their kid 100% of the time. But people also need to handle it properly, and discuss it like you did, not fly off the handle and put the parent on the defensive.

  7. I wouldn't have said anything at the moment. Some children who are placed in uncomfortable situations that are unfamiliar to them are entitled to react as, well, children. However, I would have watched like a hawk to see if the behavior continued or, if like most children, once they get used to a situation, would have become friends.

    I would not have assumed "racism" at first. There were no names called, just surprise and uncertainty by a child. But I would have been aware and watchful for anything that would hint of the behavior continuing, then I would act.

  8. that being said....it is easier to be objective when it isn't my child in that situation.

    I am a momma bear, ferociously protective, so who's to say what I would have done.

  9. I'm in your camp, the "it takes a village" camp. And I'm not shy about raising other people's kids. LOL Raising a child with a disability, who is very vulnerable to harassment, or just plain being left out of an activity among kids, I confess to sometimes being hyper-vigilant.

  10. I usually try to redirect my kids when someone is being not nice, but I am sure I would've said something to the parents too.

    My nephews are Ethiopian and my kids are very comfortable with huggins and kissing brown kids. I was thinking about your post from the other day and I am not sure what my kids understand. All of the brown kids they know are adopted by white families and they will most likely have very few "children of color" in their school. I have a lot to think about. We don't talk about race, except to say that God created everyone in His image. Hmmm... lots to think about.

  11. I am all about talking to other people's children or their parents! I would fully expect someone to talk to me or mine if they acted inappropriately. I think you made the brave, correct choice!
    Hooray for three kiddos in pre-school!

  12. Anonymous6:40 AM

    i just cried little happy tears for Kembe (and you!) What a journey! I have loved reading your blog, following your and your families stories. I have had the honor of being at the heartline orphanage many times over the years and was thrilled when I found your blog - another person who "gets it" and then blogs about it so eloquently!

    I am a nanny, don't have kids of my own, but am still so protective of them - I would have and have talked to other parents/nannies numerous times about things their children had done/said. Because I would want to know if "my" little girls were doing the same behavior.

    Also, I grew up in the "village" kind of atmosphere - I'm actually visiting home this weekend....and my mom and I were just talking about this today - my moms best friend/our neighbor used to reprimand me often (when i deserved it - i was a bit of a rambuncious (sp?) kid:) and I LOVE her SOO much for that. I have always thought of her as a second mother.

    So I agree with you 100%! I think that it would have been a disservice to your children, their children and yourself if you had not. The world needs more mothers like you and your readers!!!

  13. Yay - Kembe in preschool!

    Kerrie's comment is priceless! Laughing out loud funny.

    I'm definitely with you, but I do go too far. I taught (mostly middle school) for years, so I feel compelled to correct behavior. Once I was driving through a mall parking lot in a strange city and a teenager just dropped trash. I pulled up alongside him and said, "Pick that up. Throw it in the trash can." And he did, because clearly I was crazy. And I have the hardest time not walking up to people chewing gum and saying, "Spit that out!"

  14. I agree 100% with what you did. I think that's what is wrong with society today... adults look the other way and ignore. Could write a book about it... drives me crazy! Good job you for saying something. It certainly takes guts!!! :)
    Love your blog and your honesty. You're a great mom! Keep up the good work!!!

  15. Anonymous7:19 AM

    It definitely takes a village, and I appreciate when others "help" me out. I pray that I will be objective about my children if/when someone approaches me about their behavior. I mean I am always on my kids' side, BUT I pray I can assess each situation with an openmind. While my children are precious to me, they are human and fallen and need correcting (as do I). And I've seen too many parents blindly assume that their child is right and "would never have done ..." Really? Wake up, they are kids.
    So, to answer your question...I might have hesitated in talking to the other parent (at that moment), to be sure I wasn't responding out of emotion or being defensive for my baby. But I might have also exploded in their face.

    With all that said, I would love for you to provide some suggestions for discussions with my children about race. We are white, my kids nanny is black, and I've honestly never thought anything about talking with my kids about it. It's not an issue, so I'm confused, b/c it seems like talking about race makes it an issue. Please hear this as a request for you to teach me, and not a crack. I rally appreciate your opennness and honesty and would appreciate your insight. Thanks and God bless!

  16. I am a "talk to the kids" type of person and I tend to stick my head in and say things like, "WE are all different and we all play together. You wouldn't like it if someone didn't play with you because you are wearing a green shirt, right? That would be silly. Cool, now let's play. What's your name? This is ________." Of'course that wouldn't have worked with your situation because the kids were in a group. I would've also talked to the coach because it is his/her responsibility to protect and facilitate the kids when they are in his/her care.
    I'm working on talking to other parents because I am the most non-confrontational person....to a fault...but I know that it is of the utmost importance to defend my children, so I will face my fears and do it!!!!
    I can't believe those parents weren't there. If they quit because you talked to them, that is pathetic!!! Talk about perpetuating the problem...yuck!!

  17. Oh yeah. If I see any child doing or saying something that I believe can do hurt/harm, I usually look around first to see if a parent is going to step up. Not one around? Then I "correct" as gently as I can. I suppose I should want to do it as much for the offendee's sake as the offended, but usually, I just can't take a kid being hurt.

  18. I am a "talk to the parents" kind of gal. When they aren't around, I try to redirect the behavior or say, "That isn't a good choice." or "Would your parents be happy knowing you are doing X? I think you need to go find your Mom/Dad/Nanny." Had to tell a Mom a couple of months ago that her child (4+) bit another child at the indoor play park. She was mortified but thankful because she hadn't seen it.

    I was raised in a family where all adults corrected bad behavior, regardless of location of the parents. This has gotten me into trouble with my friends because my first reaction used to be to correct the kid rather than let the parent have a chance to correct them first. So, I try to locate parents now and let them have the first chance. I have a tough time when I know that the parents have seen the bad behavior and do nothing (currently happens each week in my daughter's gymnastics class). I have been trying to use positive talk to all of the kids making good choices, "Wow Sally, you did such a good job listening and following directions today!" because her mom has no clue that when her daughter runs amok during class, it is disruptive to everyone else.

  19. I'm with the majority.The Village majority.

    we were in a local shop about 6 months ago, when my oldest (5 yrs) did something really inappropriate and out of character. The dad of the boy involved followed Hayden over to me (I had my back to the boys at the moment) and told me what had just happened. I had to keep my embarrasment in check, but I was really thankful the Dad came to me. If I'd had no idea, I would have had no opportunity to teach my son what was appropriate behavior in that scene. (I was horrified, and practically RAN from the shop, dragging my kid, but still).

  20. Anonymous8:57 AM

    As a teacher I find I have to restrain myself from randomly correcting strange kids at Walmart. Force of habit. You did the right thing. I still remember a time when my son was small and I did not intervene or speak up and I still regret it.

  21. I grew up in a "village" of sorts. I grew up in the country, on a long street with just a few houses. There was a mixture of families with kids, older persons and people without kids. And it was a known fact to all the kiddos that if we stepped a toe out of line, that ANY of the adults would and could be responsible to correct us and report back to our parents. Our parents relied on each other (and the other neighboors) to help each other out with us.

    With my son, I kind of expect that if someone else sees him cut out of line that they (at least) tell me about it. I'm a single mom. While I am the final authority, I do appreciate the help.

  22. yeah. i'd speak to the child if the parent isn't around, for sure. and if the parent is around, i still will talk to the child (and the parent, if it's a big deal) if he/she is interacting with one of my children in a way that i'm not cool with. children should be able to take instruction from other adults, as long as it's done with gentleness and love.
    i think it does take a village, and although it can make us feel uncomfortable sometimes, i think it teaches our children to respect their elders, a slowly vanishing attribute in the coming generations...

  23. Anonymous10:11 AM

    I think there is a fine line...we play at the park regularly and there are a group of nannies who come with children. They (the nannies) sit at the picnic table together and pay little attention to the children, I too am guilty of enjoying the sunshine and free time, but there is little supervision. I had to speak up this week and step in on a group of unruly little girls (5 yr. olds)who were bullying a group of little boys (4 yr olds.)...kinda crazy. I don't normally do that sort of thing, but this weird protection thing comes over me and I can't help myself. I just told them we all need to use kind words and that they needed to move on along and let the boys push their trucks in the sand in peace. My kids are only 2 and 4 so I'm sure it will get more interesting as they grow older and experience new things and environments.

  24. Anonymous10:16 AM

    Oh yeah I stop the kid and talk to them. See my blog entry about this very thing. Chime in if you feel so compelled...

  25. Anonymous12:23 PM

    I have always worked with kids, so I do tend to help them with their behavior when a parent isn't around, or if their behavior is affecting someone negatively and their parent isn't doing anything about it. I would have done the same thing in your situation. I think if my kid didn't notice what had happened, I would have let it go in the moment, but if they did, I might have stepped in with something like what Calmil2 said -- introductions between kids goes a long way. I do hope the two families come back, but it's their loss if they don't, you can't win 'em all I guess...

    and Rachel, if you're still here... my son came to the conclusion that all brown kids were adopted, and I didn't figure this out until a caribbean woman asked me to hold her baby while she got her things situated, and my son ran over saying... no, shouting... "IS THAT THE BABY WE'RE ADOPTING?????" ...more than a little embarrassing. we had been planning to adopt for a while, looking at websites, blogs, etc, and all the kids he saw were black. We had a neighbor friend who was black, adopted from the US (to Vancouver, Canada) and that was all he knew of adoption. Once I realized this little gap in his understanding, I pointed out to him two of his friends mothers who had been adopted as babies (white women) and explained that most black children to get to grow up in their original families, but not all, and that there are children of all races all over the world who need families.

  26. Anonymous1:19 PM

    I am a speaker-upper but then I am also the girl who would go home and roll through the emotions similar to those you outlined on losing a FB friend...about the 2 complete strangers...and be completely freaked out about seeing those women the next week...and be so relieved when they weren't there...which is why I read your blog everyday...oh, and THANK YOU...for inspiring me to talk about race with my 5 year old son...you are a smart momma...

  27. I join the ranks of the other school teachers--we are the village that has been trusted to pitch in with society's kids, so it's hard to shut that off as soon as we walk off a school campus. Plus, I personally cannot resist the looks on kids faces when I just lean in and innocently say, "Whacha doin'?" with a smile. Generally, they respond well (and much like Nola said it's clearly because they think you are crazy!) and say something to the effect of, "We were just about to (insert change of behavior here)." Plus, as a parent, I love when people my kids don't know reinforce our values of treating people with kindness, playing fairly, etc. It goes a long ways in helping them realize that we aren't just making this stuff up to make their lives hard!

  28. I help raise other peoples children for a living so I have absolutely no problem gently correcting children that do not "belong" to me.

    BTW - I had a great conversation with the girls I take care of the other day. They were discussing kids in their class and how one girl "talks like a black kid." I asked her what exactly "a black kid" speaks like and why it was a seemingly "bad" thing. The girls seemed confused and we discussed how it doesn't matter what you sound like or what color your skin was. :) We then talked about the beautiful features of our friends of different cultures. Thanks for making me a more aware nanny!! :)

  29. Kristin3:56 PM

    The sad thing is at the park, so many nannies (or moms even) are busy talking to their friends they don't see the terrible things their kids are doing. So in that case, I tell the kid they weren't being kind and they need to apologize or whatever. But otherwise, I usually take the passive aggressive approach (not good) with other moms and don't directly tell them if I disagree. Instead I try to hint around at how I handle supposed situations. Very few moms are open to direct suggestions (I happen to be a direct person but I find most people aren't and thus, don't want advice). Plus, I happen to have one of the hardest children on the planet to raise and SO many of my own "I'll never do that" or "I'll handle my child this way" has caused me to put my foot in my mouth that I realize I can't make suggestions to other moms unless they are really good friends or family whose kids I know. I've learned that "one size does not fit all" when it comes to kids personalities and parenting.

  30. Anonymous4:06 PM

    You did the right thing - I have a feeling that your coming forward to those two moms created some sort of dialog in their minds about the whole topic of racism and while you may not have changed their belief systems, I will bet that they are second guessing their child's behavior. Well done.

  31. i am the kind of girl who always thinks of the great one liners....2 hours later. i get so flustered when upset that i would probably just walk up and cry. but, i have discovered that when things involve my kids...i am different. my head clears and my voice gets louder.:)

  32. I'm a fan of viewing the parenting world as a village definitely. I do - appropriately and tastefully - correct other children or approach parents when something is off in a situation and I am HAPPY when someone else does the same in return. Being "hands-off" in general hasn't gotten us very far...if we see a problem...let's TAKE A CHANCE, CORRECT IT, AND LEARN FROM IT!!

  33. The older I get, the bossier I get (and I'm a high school teacher), so I tend to get rather confrontational with bratty kids, smart-assed teens, and clueless tennis matrons (with their dull polo-shirted, top-sider wearing husbands). I believe the truth will set you free (especially MY truth--heh heh).
    Seriously, there is enough feigning fawning crap in this world to sink it. You did the right thing. You are my shero.

  34. First, I think you are an amazing mom. I just want you to know that.

    And secondly, I think you did the right thing. I abhor confrontation, but I don't avoid it. Especially when it involves my children. I have surprised myself at the park before because I turn into a SuperHero Confrontation Mama if someone does something to my children. I usually wait for a parent (or in this yuppy town...a nanny) to do something, but if they don't (and they usually don't)... I am quick to talk to a kid. Especially if they are physically hurting another one. And double especially (I made that up)...if they are hurting my kids.

    Sad to think that those parents would not have come back because of your conversation...but not surprising. Hopefully, they learned something and are just too embarrassed to come back. Although, now they have taught their kids about not only being racist, but being a coward too. What a world.

  35. Anonymous4:18 PM

    My rule of thumb is to let the parent handle it if they are present and have seen the incident. If the parent isn't to be found, I have no problem stepping in. I am way more lenient and nicer than I would be with my own kids, but I will do something if the behavior I'm seeing is clearly out of bounds. I would want someone to do the same to my kids if I wasn't there to correct them.

    By the way, thank you for the post about talking to our kids about race. I had a gut-check talk with my kids after that. I was pleased to hear that they are getting the message that everyone is unique, we all look different from each other, and God loves us all no matter how we look or talk. We also got to talk about having courage and stepping in if we see someone being treated unfairly.

    As for kids noticing race, mine proved it just this past weekend. Two of them were buying dolls with their allowance money. I thought they were buying the same exact dolls so I asked how they were going to tell them apart (to avoid fights down the road). My little one had picked out the "dark-skinned" baby so they could tell them apart. She picked it because it looked the most like her. So, it's not bad, they do notice and we just have to teach them to love and respect everyone.

  36. Being a teacher makes me feel very at ease speaking with other people's children. I just put on my teacher hat and away I go! I find that when I don't say anything I have regrets, and that's never fun. We live in a diverse neghborhood economically and racially & I've never had a problem speaking up when kids need reminders... or help, praise or encouragement, for that matter.


talk to me.

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