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When to intervene

I was born and spent the first 6 1/2 years of my life in a very small town in Idaho.  It was safe.  It was quaint.  In the summer, my parents sent us out the door in the morning and my dad whistled for us on the front porch when it was time to come home for dinner.  We roamed.  We road bikes.  We played in “the dirt hills” nearby.  No cell phones.  No parents texting back and forth where the kids were off to next.  No parents meddling in what we were doing every second of every day.  In my mind, my parents had no idea where I was much of the time or what I was even really doing.  I don’t say that in a neglectful parenting kind of way.  It’s just the way things were where I grew up.  As a 5 year old in a small town, I had, what felt like, a lot of freedom.

I compare that childhood reality to the ones my kids live in and I’d say my husband and I have hit somewhere in the middle.  We live in safe neighborhood.  Our kids walk or ride their bikes to friends houses a few streets away.  They play outside in fields nearby, or ride bikes around the neighborhood.  I don’t always know exactly where they are at every given moment, but for the most part I do.  None of my kids have a cell phone yet (my oldest is almost 13).

I know there are some parents who know exactly where their kids are at every moment.  GPS tracking their every move.  Literally.

They say we live in a different world today.  In some ways I think that’s true.  In some ways, I think we make it scarier in our minds than it actually is.

That’s not my point for today, though.

Here’s what’s on my mind.

Just this week, we’ve had a few, incidences you could say.  One where one of my kids had something done to him.  One where a few of my kids were a part of something hurtful to another kid.

And the question keeps popping up in my mind (and one I really struggle with)–when as parents do we intervene?  When do we step in to the kid quarrels and disagreements and fights and leaving each other out?  And when do we step back and let them handle it themselves?

The first incidence this week, my kid was actually being physically attacked and I was there.  I saw it. I obviously intervened because he wasn’t defending himself.  We’ve talked a lot about it since.  I did not tell the boys mom for various reasons.  I did talk to my boy about how to handle it in the future (namely–you won’t get in trouble for defending yourself along with a few other things to think about).

The second incidence, I was contacted by a parent about some friends being left out.  I talked to my kids about it.  Seems to be a recurring conversation I have with my kids and kids in general.  It’s tricky, this whole leaving people out thing.

But I’m left with this frustration I guess you could call it.  My parenting style is definitely more on the “let the kids figure it out” end.  I don’t remember my parents ever ever ever intervening in an issue between me and my friends.  My mom never called another mom to work out my problems for me.  My dad never called another dad to inform them how his kids were being treated.  When another kid teased me or picked on me or one of my siblings, parents didn’t immediately start tossing around the word “bully” (as many seem to do these days).

As a result, I think I became a pretty good problem solver.  Because I had to.  It was up to me to work it out.  I’m not saying my parents didn’t help me figure things out or solve problems.  But I can’t, in a million years, imagine my mom calling another parent and saying “your kid left my kid out”.  She just wouldn’t.  And I definitely tend to lean more toward that style of parenting.

Were your parents the same?  Do you parent that way?  I’m curious.

My kids have a few rules I repeat over and over (and over).  A few of them:  One.  Be kind.  Always.  Two.  Be more aware of how you talk to people.  Three.  Don’t ever intentionally leave someone out and be inclusive whenever you can.  Four.  If you have a problem, yo, YOU solve it.  Then if you can’t, come to me or another adult and see if I/they can help.

Are my kids perfect abiders of these rules?  Not even close.  Are we as adults perfect with these things?  Not even close.

When my kids come running to me with an issue, my first question is “Did you try to resolve this on your own, or did you just immediately run to get someone in trouble?”  Have a conversation.  Try to work it out.  If you can’t resolve it, then come ask me and I’ll see if I can give you the tools or words to try and fix it.  But very rarely do I want to step in and resolve it for them (unless it’s physically violent–then I’ll lay some smack down).  Sometimes I find myself plugging my ears saying “la la la la la–I don’t want to hear it” when my kids want me to intervene in every sibling dispute.

I just don’t think stepping in all the time is doing them any favors.

But as my kids get older and their friend circle grows, I’m quickly realizing not everyone thinks the way I do (not sure why–sheesh).  And many parents are more than happy to step in and try to “fix” things.

My youngest child has a tendency to hit (or scratch or bite) when things don’t go his way.  Yesterday I asked “What should you do if someone isn’t doing what you want?  Should you hit them or throw things at them or freak out on them?” His response:  “You should have a conversation–but he didn’t WANT to have a conversation”.  Took a lot of restraint to not laugh out loud.  Kidding.  I didn’t restrain at all.  I laughed out loud.

My question for you and for discussion in general–where’s the line?  Where do we step in and where do we stand back?  When you do step in, what’s your approach?  When you don’t step in, do you talk to your kids after the fact?  When another parent contacts you, how do you handle that?  What do you say?  Does it irritate you, or are you glad they let you know?  Is there an age where you intervene or don’t intervene?

Are you quick to defend your own kid?  Are you quick to attack another’s kid?

I’d love to hear some respectful responses.  I’m a big fan of open dialogue and discussions, even if we don’t agree.  What’s your opinion on this issue and how, as a parent or someone who is around kids, do you handle this?

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  • Sarah

    Honestly, my first reaction to a parent calling me would be irritation. After being bugged though, I know I would try to understand where they are coming from, because really, I want kids to feel included. And it also depends on the level of friendship. If it’s a kid that my kid has been really good friends with, I understand the parent calling a lot more. And I can only see myself calling a parent if I was pretty close to the parent. It would take a lot for me to call someone. I also think it’s so interesting how different people can parent. I am guilty of assuming that people would agree with what I see is logical, but they are coming from a very different viewpoint. Honestly, if I look to past examples, when my kids have felt left out they find new friends.

    I have a friend who is really quick to own up to her kids being part of the problem, almost too quickly. I have to laugh because she basically blames her kids first. I remind her that it likely isn’t just her kid causing the problem. But its refreshing talking to her and makes me realize I need to be sure to have my kids accept responsibility.ReplyCancel

  • Brandy Barnett

    I have 6 kids ages 22 to 7. I have much the same parenting philosophy that you do. I have one child you is quite the extrovert and can be kind of obnoxious. He is one of the younger in the neighborhood and when the boys were leaving him out or being kind of mean, I probably know why. Yes they could have been nicer and more inclusive. I took the approach of him correcting himself and playing the long game at getting integrated into the group. It worked. You can’t make people include you. Maybe they’re not your people. My guess is that the kids is rude, obnoxious, immature, whatever….the type to have the mom call. haha…I just don’t think it helps.

    I did call a parent one time recently, though. There is a kid 2 years older in the neighborhood that REALLY doesn’t get along with my son. My son (8yo) was having trouble climbing up into his bed and we asked him about it and he said the kid kneed him int he butt really hard the day before and it still hurt. This was about the second incident and we told him to stay away from him and defend hinself if needed. I planned to say something to the kid, maybe, not the mom if I saw him. Not mean, just a warning. But I didn’t see him and a month later myson came home with a busted mouth. The other neighbr who had complained about this other kid to me before came over to check on my son and said how mean the other kid was and he should have helped my son , but my son won 3 fights that day with him but when he let the kid up he kicked him in the mouth. Seeing as how the other kid had started all of these fights by stepping on my son’s back…I thought his mom should probably know before he caused some expensive and serious damage. It seems he had lied about it and I knew he probably would, which is why we still almost didn’t call….but we figured if over a couple years she got more than one call….she might start to wonder if the version she was getting was accurate…and maybe not.

    I have also been raked over the coals by me neighbor for not intervening in stupid stuff. Because she intervenes in EVERYTHING. Calls her daughter’s bosses, etc. No, when my girls are teens they are expected to manage their own friends and their own jobs, etc. With my coaching….but I am not going to have a talk with their friends who come over uninvited like my neighbor wanted me to (had nothing to do with this lady or her child anyway.) If my daughter doesn’t want her friends just showing up, she will have to handle it.ReplyCancel

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