Parenting styles

It is bright and early in the morning (some things just don’t change on vacation) and A, who has rediscovered the joys of a highchair, is contained and playing cards. Yep, she is laying out Go Fish cards in a pattern that looks remarkable similar to M’s poker and blackjack table, looking at them, shaking her head, muttering “Not good, not good” and then starting over again. Apparently my daughter has learned to be a card shark on vacation.

Otherwise, the vacation is almost going as expected, except the younger children (we are here with a family with children months off of mine) are acting like four year olds and the four year olds are acting like two year olds with mouths. Big mouths. Big mouths with no self control. C has resorted to crossing his arms, giving me and angry face, and telling me that he is not going to be my friend anymore if I don’t do what he wants. Needless to say, he has become VERY familiar with his bedroom walls during the numerous back to back timeouts he seems to accumulate in one day.

What I have found interesting this vacation is the path of parenting styles. While Rebecca and I started out at pretty much the same point four years ago (I think, please correct me if I am wrong!), I seem to intervene in C’s activities much more than she intervenes in Julia’s. Which she commented on last night and got me thinking. AM I overparenting? Am I doing C a disservice by stepping in when he starts yanking toys out of a friends hand or should I be letting him and his friend work it out by themselves? Julia is a perfectly lovely child, so clearly letting her and her friends go off and play by themselves works. It just never occurred to me to let C and his friends play for extended periods of time out of my sight.

Just recently I have finally let C and A stay in the playroom together while I switch laundry, start dinner, or make beds. And, in general, no blood is shed. But a fair amount of screaming and crying takes place, and eventually I am required to step in and break up the face pressed against face screamfests that result. While I am willing to let C and A figure out how to work such things out on their own, to a point, when C is playing with friends I am less willing to allow my child to steal toys, be mean, and generally behave in a way I deem to be inappropriate. But perhaps I need to be less involved and let him figure such stuff out on his own. I’m just not confident that he would do the right thing yet. Especially based on his behavior this week.

So I guess my question to all of you is, how do you handle 4-year old playdates? Do you leave them to their own devices and intervene only when asked or do you monitor behavior and redirect before it escalates to a major squabble?

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