Latest update: March 6th, 2012
Right before the holidays you printed a letter about children who disrupt the adults and the davening in shul (Chronicles 09-30-2011). The subject reminded me of parents and children who can be a source of irritation as guests in one’s home, where they show a flagrant disregard for their hosts.
My husband and I rarely spend Shabbos or Yom Tov without company. We delight in having others join us. However, there is this one couple who have begun to unnerve me, and that’s saying a lot since I am known to be a very patient, tolerant and giving person.
Let me explain. The mother displays total nonchalance when her son sticks his fingers into all the foods on the table. This toddler also gets a thrill out of tossing our children’s toys around until the place looks like a hurricane visited. For good measure, he is fond of pushing our furniture about as though they were miniatures of a toy set.
We actually consider ourselves fortunate when it’s only a mess these people leave behind. We were once left with a gaping hole in a treasured piece of furniture in our living room.
The apologies forthcoming are weak to none. It’s almost as if they are saying, “We put up with this all the time in our home, so be grateful you get it for only this short period of time.” They (the parents) don’t seem too bothered by all of this, as though it were simply a natural part of their day.
My husband says we have no choice but to grin and bear it, and truthfully I have a hard time not letting them have a piece of my mind. I do realize they must have their hands full. Our children are angels in comparison, but I worry at times that some of this kid’s antics will rub off on them.
Please don’t tell me not to invite them; our guests are told the first time they visit or come to dinner that they have an open invitation and only need to let us know they will be coming.
I’m just puzzled as to how parents can sit back and allow their youngster the run of someone else’s place. Is there a tactful way to tell these people to rein their kid in and to let them know that we’d rather not have permanent reminders of their visit?
When this couple calls to say they’ll be over for dinner, I don’t exactly jump for joy. Would you?
My feathers are ruffled
Can’t really say I blame you for feeling the way you do. It’s always frustrating to see a child undisciplined, especially on your turf and at your expense.
These parents must certainly have their hands full. But one must wonder what came first, the chicken or the egg — meaning to say, is the child unruly simply because the parents are lax and have been letting him get away with too much for too long now, or is he a wild child by nature?
Let’s face it: all kids are not created equal. There are children who are born mild-mannered, and there are little terrors who can’t sit still, to put it mildly.
From your letter, it would seem that this couple has only this one child. That could be one reason he is being spoiled. Still, it must be said that parents who do not stop their children from poking their fingers into other people’s food are ill-mannered and unskilled at parenting.
Regardless of how defiant a child may be, it is the duty of the accompanying adult to make sure that he or she does not destroy other people’s property. What’s more, these parents should see to it that their son places all the toys back where they were originally found.
And whether it means sweeping the floor or wiping a high-chair tray clean, parents should step in to fill in for their child who may be too young or incapable of handling the chore. If a piece of furniture sustains damage through their child, the parents should offer to pay for its repair.
If the child cannot be reasoned with to behave, the parents should stay home and seriously consider taking parenting classes and/or having their child visit a health-professional to recommend a form of therapy suited to this child’s special needs. If they must come for dinner, they should take their leave soon after the meal is done.
The next time this family shows up, try using your own child as a model to learn from. For instance, as the children get ready to join the adults at the table, you can take your toddler by the hand and say sweetly, “Yossi knows we don’t touch any food at the table with our fingers…”
At playtime: “In this house we put all the toys back (in the toy chest/on the shelves/in the crates) when we are done playing.” You can then reward the cleaner-uppers with a treat, such as an ice pop or lollipop. (Avoid another mess by offering the treat as they are walking out the door.)
Not every parent appreciates another’s tough-love approach towards his or her child, but I’d take a chance on it. The worst thing that can happen is that they take offense and hesitate to come again, or it will dawn on the little troublemaker that you are not as soft on him as is his own mom and dad. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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