Thursday, April 12, 2007

The two sides of Moe....

Moe can best be summed up as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She's can be the sweetest, politest little child or the devil incarnate. She's a very active, opinionated, strong-willed blue-eyed two year old. She's not afraid to ask for what she wants and doesn't take NO for an answer. If told NO and it's something she really wants she'll just get it herself. She learned at a young age how to drag chairs around to reach things up high. Her sisters come to her from help when they need to get something behind a door with a child-proof cover on it. That's not to say I let her get away with these things. If she grabs a pudding when I say no snacks, I take it away. If she climbs I make her put the chair back and she has a time-out. She also has very good manners, is not afraid to say sorry, likes to snuggle, shares and loves to laugh.

In some ways, she is wise beyond her two years. Maybe it's because she has two older sisters showing her the way. One thing I do know is she plays better with older children, that is children that are at least her age or above. We've been to numerous parties, gatherings and school functions lately. And always, a few parents remark on how well behaved she is. How great she plays with the older kids - she fits right in. They find her sweet, polite and adorable. Over the past few weekends, we went to several Easter Egg Hunts. Moe freely (and without prompting) gave away eggs to other kids who didn't have any/many.

In other ways, she can't play well with others. And by other, I mean children her own age - kids she should be playing with. She's aggressive - she pushes and pinches. She's a bully. She's made a few kids afraid to go near her.

And here is where I feel as I am between a rock and a hard place.

We belong to a few playgroups. One is basically a few moms who get together once a week (we'll call this group A). The kids play, the moms talk. We rotate bringing snacks, toys and an activity for the kids. Very laid back. The other is a international non-profit playgroup (this can be group B). There are rules and governing board (which I was on until I resigned last week). It's very structured. There are many different "groups" within the group you can attend.

Group A we've belonged to since Einey was 9 moths old and we were just meeting friends at a park. It's had some of the same members for the last 4 years - but never more than 10 moms. Many of these moms, like myself, have 3 children, some 4. We've all at some point been pregnant at the same time. We've been through it all.

Group B is larger but still has a "core" group of moms who see each other often. We've been apart of this since this group started (and longer since we were part of the group that formed this group). A lot of these moms have younger kids (and quite a few just single kids).

The above was just to give a little background - it has no influence on anyone, just to give an overview of the two groups. Both groups are formed by intelligent, wonderful women. Women I am glad to be friends with. And like our children, we are all different. It's part of what makes the groups great. We all have our own styles and thoughts.

At group A, Moe is great. She gets along with most kids (older, younger and the same age as her). Occasionally, she'll do a little pushing or try to take a toy away from someone. Occasionally she'll be the one pushed. Always, its a time-out or re-direction after the victim is finished crying and the "sorry's" said. The children smile and go one their way, continuing their playing. The mothers go back to talking. We've all had a child who has been the victim or the bully. At one point, when Einey was 3, there was a child who was a biter. And Einey seemed to always be the one bitten. We never held it against this child, we understood that that is a completely normal phase. In fact, this child is one of Einey's good friends still. It happens, its a normal phase and children eventually outgrow it.

At group B, Moe is a terror. She goes out of her way to push and pinch a few kids. Re-direction and time-outs don't stop. She gets down and does it again. "Sorry's" don't seem good enough. Someone gets frustrated and anger bubbles up. Again, she's two and it is a completely normal phase for her to be going through. While normal, it's not acceptable. And it also feels like some people just don't understand that two-year-olds push. It's part of their development, and while unacceptable, it's a phase that eventually gets outgrown. It just takes time and patience. I cannot just tell her she needs to stop and expect her never to do it again. While a nice thought, it's unrealistic. And at this point, I cannot control when/if she pushes. I can only take steps to discipline her and hope she outgrows it soon.

Because of this, I have resigned from my positions and backed off. And I feel bad. I hate that Moe is a bully. I feel bad for the kids she pushes around. I hate her being punished (although it has to be done). We were told we could still go to events, but it would be "two strikes and your out" - meaning two incidents and we'd have t o leave. This is completely fair and I understand. But at the same time, I can't do it. I know she'll continue this behavior. I know we'd be leaving many playgroups. And for that I just can't do. I do feel it's appropriate to punish her. But I can't bring myself to punish her sister(s). I know it would cause hurt feeling and resentment from them when we had to leave. I know they would be upset with leaving their friends, after all they look forward to it. So essentially, like a wounded child, I took my "toys and left the playground".

Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but it's something that has been on my mind for awhile. Are they over-scheduled or under-scheduled? I try to think of myself as a fairly relaxed parent. I let my daughters play with "male oriented" toys. I encourage dramatic play, make believe, art and sports. I let them play with swords (or rather light sabers) as long as they don't get out of control. Pool noodles are for, yup, bopping each other. They can run barefoot through the grass. They are allowed to jump in mud puddles. They believe in fairies and spend hours during the summer building fairy houses (and love to see that the fairies visit when they see the fairy dust (glitter) sprinkled around the house. Einey plays D&D. Video games are not forbidden. Books are highly encouraged and we make frequent trips to the library. We've taken lessons (swim, music, dance, creative music, soccer) and gone to story hour. We regularly visit zoos, parks, and science centers. I've even been known to let them have candy for breakfast. I let them watch TV. They are happy, so that should be all that counts, right?

So here's my question. How do you deal with an aggressive child? How do you deal with your child being a victim? What would you do? Any advice or comments would be welcome!


Fairly Odd Mother said...

Hmmmm. . .when does each group meet? If one is in the morning, and one in the afternoon, perhaps she is overtired, hungry, too full of energy with Group B? Or, is she acting out b/c she is playing the role of 'troublemaker' in Group B? There must be a reason she is good in one group, not so good in another group.

Rest assured, though, that she is 2! My 2 1/2 year old barely talks, so I know he gets really, really frustrated at times b/c he can't say what he needs/wants.

Is there a way you could 'shadow' her when you go to Group B? Stay with her the entire playdate and give her positive reinforcements when she acts good and try to nip bad behavior when it starts to creep out by moving her to another spot or redirecting her energy? This way your other girls wouldn't have to miss this playdate by having to stop going to the group entirely.

Good luck to you! I have had your issues at different times and it does seem to be something that changes with time.

MMHR said...

Sounds to me there is
more going on than "just moe". Kids are sensitive to our mood and a tense environment as well...that may be a factor. At group "A" Moe is free to be herself without judgement to her (or mom!) It's tough you felt you had to resign. Maybe you could gradually transition back. Host a few things, maybe Moe will feel more at ease on her turf where expectations are understood and she is loved regardless of behavior.
Parenting is tough enough without meeting the expectations of the rest of the world too. Do what makes you happy and what you think is best for your family.
There is no such thing as the perfect child or the perfect parent...and that's ok! Too bad it takes some of us a little longer to learn that.