I watched a friend's four year-old yesterday. James and Padawan are in the same primary class; James is about three months older. Here is the transcript of their conversation within six seconds of the time he walked in the door.
Padawan: Hey, James, you know what? I'm four.
James: I'm four too. And I'm taller. And I've got two pocketknifes. (There was some detailed description here of said weapons; James might be taller but he still talks like he has a mouthful of marbles.)
Padawan: Guess what? Jedi Knight and me just got our red pillowcases back.
James: I'm getting a dirtbike.
Padawan: We had the white pillowcases and then we had the Christmas ones, and our Christmas ones were covered with Teddy Bears.
I'm so grateful for four years old. It is probably the last time in Padawan's entire existence that he'll think teddy bears are cooler than pocket knives or dirt bikes.
Next question, perhaps less loaded than the one posed earlier this week--what do you think of other people disciplining your children? I don't necessarily mean if you are there, but if you are gone? I'll explain: I was fairly reluctant to agree to watch James yesterday. When he comes visiting teaching with his mother I end up biting my tongue through fourteen fights and he seems to get out every toy in the house, unable to stay interested in anything for more than a few minutes. He also jumbles up the toys, which drives me extremely crazy. (Actually, my kids too--this is a habit/obsession I've gifted them with.)
I understand that kids fight, but Padawan doesn't fight with all kids, mostly just James. James is the youngest of four (two of which are in their teens) and he seems unable to open his mouth without calling names. He doesn't really tease when he says them either. He'll also say things like, "I'm going to kill you," in a totally deadpan voice. Charming. His mother is not oblivious, but I cannot figure her out. Her intervention seems to almost exacerbate every problem because she talks loud, doesn't mask her extreme impatience well and does that you-apologize-right-now-or-else-its-the-end-of-the-world thing.
Yesterday started off fairly well; without visiting teaching in the mix I was able to keep a better eye out. The big boys decided to shut a door to keep the baby out and, sure enough, within just few minutes, Padawan came running out of the room, "James called me stupid and says I have to leave the room and he won't play with me anymore."
I walked right in, squatted down in front of James and said firmly, "You will not call names in this house. This is Padawan's room and if you want to play in here you will play together." He had this really smirky expression and just glared at me. I looked very directly back at him and said in a low voice, "James; I'm absolutely serious. If you continue to be mean then you will have a turn at time out." He was as good as gold after that--even about not getting out too many toys because I told him that he would not be allowed to get out a new mess without cleaning up the previous. Again, firm, serious, but still friendly.
So what do you think? Do you let other people's kids run amok at your house, fully expecting your own to do the same, or do you intervene? And while, to me, the "good" answer seems fairly obvious, my school-teaching experience tells me that there are plenty of parents who disagree with any other person expressing disapproval to their child, regardless of how well deserved.