One of the moms in our play date group does not believe in disciplining her children. Her 4 year old son has meltdowns, takes toys from other children, and BITES when he doesn’t get his way. When these things happen the mother will ask him to apologize and say something like “oh buddy that wasn’t nice, you hurt Mikey, can you say sorry for hurting your friend?” When her son refuses she simply tries to distract his victim with another toy or snacks. How would you handle this? I’ve suggested your books but she dismisses the idea saying “you can’t just punish a 3/4 year old”. Help!
Hello, and thank you for writing. As you know, a parent most definitely can discipline a 4 year old, and should do so regularly with calm confidence. If she doesn't get a grip now, while the offenses are relatively mild and her authority easier to assert, there will be a very bumpy road ahead.
How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change. Sadly, unless the mom asks for guidance in disciplining her errant son, there isn't much you can do to help either of them. Focus on what you can control, such as the frequency with which you are together, and the things you tell your child after he witnesses the behavior. If there are other moms in your play group that agree with your assessment, you might consider a sort of intervention in which you all gently tell her that unless and until she reins in her son by teaching him respect and obedience, there is no room in the group for a repeatedly aggressive child. Then give her a copy of the "The Well-Behaved Child" with a hug and hopes that she'll be back.
Wishing you happy play dates ahead!
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