Wednesday, September 26, 2012

10 Parenting Principles I Wish I'd Known: Episode Eight

I absolutely DESPISE when strangers interfere with my kids. I mean, how dare they?! I do not want a stranger (or even some family and friends) giving unsolicited advice, trying to discipline my kids, etc.

But this week I become that crazy mom that interferes with a stranger's kids.
And I am NOT ashamed.

8) Learn When to Interfere with Other People's Kids

I was driving on a busy road that has a speed limit of 45 mph, but most vehicles go 50-55. I crested a blind hill that then quickly goes down to sharp turns. At the top of the hill on one side is an embankment, where I found 3 kids taking turns rolling down the hillside toward the road, which is maybe 5 feet from the bottom of the hill. SERIOUSLY?!

So these kids were rolling down a steep embankment and quite literally coming face to face with traffic. The kids were between the ages of 8-10, so definitely old enough to know better. And one of the kids kept darting in and out of traffic to cross the road. This 10 yr old girl would roll down the hill, land next to the road, then race across the road in front of the oncoming traffic. She was TIMING this so that she could run in front of traffic and barely avoid being hit.

Did I mention it was DUSK?!

At first I thought "not my problem," but it is my problem when I see children behaving recklessly without supervision, especially if their actions can cause serious injury to themselves or others.

So I headed back up the hill a few minutes later and turned on to the street beside the embankment. I drove about 50 feet and parked my car with the emergency flashers on and headed toward the end of the street so I could turn and reach the embankment.

As soon as I rounded that corner, those kids were SHOCKED.

I yelled, not an "angry" yell, but more of an authoritative yell that was necessary to be heard over the traffic whizzing past us. So I yelled.

"CHILDREN! I want each of you to come here to me NOW. Get your bikes, get your belongings, and come here NOW. I am going to escort you home and speak to your parents. Do you not realize how DANGEROUS this is?!"

I was greeted with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Which is ironic considering that the one little girl had been leaping like a deer across the road when I rounded the corner.

"I am NOT joking, I said to MOVE IT. Right now. YOU! (pointing to girl on the other side of the road) Stay put, I will let you know when it is safe to cross."

I watched the traffic and directed her when to cross the street safely and the children gathered their bikes and belongings. As they approached me, I realized that another person was approaching from the street where I had parked my car. Turns out that it was the mother of 2 of the kids, although not the girl that had been leaping across the road.

The mother and I talked briefly. Her 2 children were supposed to be at the other girl's house. Both houses were quite a ways down the street I had parked on, so none of the parents had realized that the kids had taken off and were playing in traffic. The mother had went to go after her kids and discovered they were not at the neighbor's, so she started searching for them down the street, thinking they were riding their bikes around the neighborhood.

After a brief discussion, I decided to let her escort the girl home and talk with her parents as she was taking her own children home. She thanked me for stopping and getting the kids to stop.

Yep, she THANKED me for interfering with her kids. Although not in so many words. But still, it was nice to not be confronted with an angry parent who was offended that I was overstepping my bounds.

As much as I discussed growing a thick skin when it comes to other people interfering with my parenting, I still recognize that there are times that people, even strangers, NEED to intervene. My rule of thumb is if it is dangerous or hurtful to others, it is time to step in. I add the "hurtful to others" specification because sometimes a situation might not be dangerous, but it still requires some action of people are being hurt, whether physically or emotionally. If I see a child being mean to others, not sharing something that is meant to be shared (a slide on the playground or something), or even ignoring a child that wants to participate, I will make sure to step in.

I'm so glad that I was able to step in for these children. As awkward as it was to step and "parent" a stranger's kids for a few moments, it is better than the alternative.

What if I had ignored the situation and one of those children had been hit by a car? Or a car swerved to avoid them and ran off the road, causing injuries or death?

I would have read that in the paper or watched it on the news and realized that *I* could have stopped it if I had only taken action when I discovered the situation.

So always listen to your gut. Step in when something is dangerous, even if you are concerned about others thinking you are rude, overstepping, etc. Because at the end of the day, there is a BIG difference between stepping in to prevent or stop a bad situation and stepping in to voice your opinions on parenting styles.

I stepped in to stop this bad situation and prevent a tragedy, but I would not overstep and lecture the parents on what they "should" have been doing or how to handle the situation with their kids. So there really isn't a balancing act here, just listening to your gut and stepping in as necessary.

Have you ever stepped in with someone else's kids? Tell me the story!

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