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Bossy little girls and clingy little boys

The moral of today's post is that I hate having to parent someone else's kid when the parent is around.

And I don't mean that they've gone to the bathroom or asked me to keep an eye out while they chase down another. I mean...sitting...right...there. I'm here watching mine. You're here...totally not bothering to say anything to them so that a total stranger has to step in to correct their behavior? As the "other parent" in that scenario, it puts someone in the horrible position of not knowing whether to say something to your kid, you as a parent, give you more time to get it together, etc..

Twice in the last two days--once in our backyard and once at the library--I've had the children of total strangers hanging on me. Not just too close. I'm talking about physically using me for climbing, putting their hands on me, pulling my hand to come participate in an activity, scratching me, leaning on me. If I did the same to your kid, the police would be called. I don't even like my own kids in my personal space sometimes! Why are your kids violating my personal space? Please, tell them it's not ok to touch someone without that person's consent.

Both of the kids in question were boys. When I posed the question to a few dads, they answered in some of the same ways I had in my own mind. It's usually moms around so perhaps me being a dude is an open invitation to rough play? I could be more fun than they're used to. Perhaps they don't get attention at home. A couple of guys with experience being a preschooler gym offered some advice on how to stop the unwanted touching without getting overly involved with either the kid or their parent. I like their ideas and style. If you say something to the parent, they're going to take offense. If you say something to the kid, that also has potential to go wrong. Simple, straight to the point.

It's actually the encounter we had with a little girl slightly older than my son that had me scratching my head even more yesterday. One of our neighbors had a friend over who has a 5 year old daughter. And I know we're not supposed to use the word "bossy" anymore to describe little girls...but she was...overly assertive, impolite, aggressive, and obnoxious. Not that my son is a pushover. In fact, it was a little bit amusing to see two stubbornly authoritarian preschoolers go head-to-head. If parents hadn't been present, there probably would have been more pushing and fighting.

There were several levels where I found this little girl's behavior perplexing. Not the least of which was that she insisted my kids follow her to a forbidden location after I'd explained to her that my children have rules while in our yard about where they may go. She was upset that my son wasn't talking to her right away. She was upset he wouldn't play with her. And, worst of all, I was a little embarrassed she was turning to me for help. Not her peers. Not her own parent. So I tried to explain that my kids like to play different games than they do maybe. I tried to explain that they are younger than her. But she tried to control the group's activities in a manipulative way. She confronted adults. I'm proud of my son for not giving into her, well, bullying.

I'm not trying to condemn this little girl, obviously. She's 5 and most of these problems are happening well over her head--in her home, with her parenting, in society maybe even. It was just surprising to be in my own yard being questioned by a 5 year old little bossypants while her mother was sitting less than 10 feet away.

Kids should be independent and helicopter hovering can be overbearing. But still. Children need to be taught about boundaries, how to respect adults, and they need parents who give them some basic guidance about social etiquette. Or perhaps I'm asking too much of my fellow parents?

I told The Mama, after describing the full details, that my real concern was several years down the road for this little girl. Because even worse than being bossy is being a bully. That was my adult perception of her. My son doesn't know enough yet to view this social aggressiveness and controlling tendency as bullying. At 4-5, these kids all have their individual desires and are only learning cooperation, sharing, and turn-taking as it is. But, parents, please step in when you see your kids crossing these hard lines or risk someone else teaching your child the lesson for you.

I'm probably too forgiving and certainly other dads would have just spoken up no matter the fallout. I feel like I at least tried to use more indirect means to guide this poor girl. Keep in mind that while all this was happening, the younger 2 year old son was literally in my lap after I'd known him for all of 5 minutes. It's not just about good life lessons though. We're also talking about serious issues that kids need to know so they don't find danger. Not respecting adults isn't some weird philosophical thing. It could have very negative consequences should they say the wrong thing, leap into the wrong lap, etc.. I'm a big teddy bear, but not everybody would feel so kind.