So I have a good friend with whom I live in a fairly close-knit community of neighbors, and she has a three-year-old son. I'll call them Paula and Joey. When I say close-knit I mean we interact almost daily. It's a rural area, we are often out in our gardens which are near each other, we see each other socially, she drops in to borrow stuff or give me extra veggies or whatever.
The thing is, Joey is... strong-willed. It's actually a bit of a mystery to me, Paula's parenting, because she's always been *such* a no-nonsense kind of person, and she's shown herself pretty competent at certain aspects of child training--it's her son's reflex to clean up after himself for example--and yet she acts relatively unconcerned when Joey yells at her angrily and hits her because he didn't get his way. She says things like "We don't hit" (well, one of 'us' does! regularly!) where I would use the Voice of Doom: "You NEVER hit your MOTHER, go to your room RIGHT NOW", etc. (I keep thinking "Don't you know he'll be bigger than you someday?") Now, that's her parenting choice and I was raised that you don't give advice unless someone asks, especially about parenting, because my word, how personal is that. But I've worked with kids quite a bit and I think and analyze a lot about parenting and child training--now more than ever since I'm pregnant with my first child--and I am always noting things I would do differently, and I'm afraid it shows on my face.
Tonight DH and I ate with Paula and Joey, and though it wasn't one of the hitting times there was a great deal of "I want this!" "No" "BUT I WANT IT!" or "If you keep doing that I'll have to take that away," "NO!" "Okay, then stop doing it" <Joey keeps doing it and Paula turns a blind eye> and it made me feel squirmy. I just didn't know where to put my eyes. If you completely pretend it's not happening, is that *more* obvious than acknowledging it? I think that I can't in courtesy say anything, but does anyone have any idea if there are subtle hints I should drop, or if I really shouldn't, or just what attitude, look, reaction or lack of reaction on my part stands the best chance of being helpful or at least not offensive? Extra confusing in all this is a story from a mutual friend who keeps Joey in her home daycare: once when Joey was pulling a fit, our mutual friend's husband--in front of Paula--reprimanded him, scooped him up bodily and carried him to the car (where Paula had told him to go)... and Paula appeared grateful. She works full-time and is pregnant, and her husband is... a decent guy but just not the most helpful ever... and it may be that she just lacks the energy to stand up to Joey all the time and may sometimes be grateful to have someone do it for her. But still I'm super scared of stepping on her parental toes.
Incidentally I've kept him for a day here and there myself, and I can make him behave. You have to get the upper hand, in a friendly but firm way, from the start and keep it, holding the line hard as soon as he starts to push it. It does require a fair amount of energy. But I have never used the same techniques when she is present b/c obviously when she is present I am not in charge of him.
Also, because I am about to have a son myself and am looking to the future, a serious question. Mutual friend also told me (we do not usually gossip, this was one conversation and we kept it to a minimum but I think sometimes this kind of info is necessary) that she's had issues in her daycare with Joey hitting other kids. I wasn't surprised; I'd been worried before that, given that he hits his mom and that his approach to the world is that he's in charge and if someone questions that he's angry. So my question is: do any of the experienced moms out there have tips on how to teach my son to stand up to a bully, while also teaching him not to hit people himself? And how to deal with the situation when the bully's mom is one of your good friends? I don't want to assume what is going to happen, and I will be ecstatic if Joey learns to behave better... but I do want to be prepared. I mean, living the way we do, Joey is going to be a daily reality in my kid's life.