When I was in Primary School, my best friend told me about how her mother was her teacher at her old school. I used to think it would be great to have my own mother as my teacher until she shared her experiences. One of the reasons why she didn’t enjoy being in the same class as her mother was because she was always being told off by her mother. It wasn’t because she misbehaved. It was because her mother didn’t want to appear to be playing favourites with her own child. But instead of being fair, she went overboard and punished her own daughter for the misdeeds of other children.
Similarly, when it came to school tests, my friend’s mother would always mark my friend’s test paper down a few points – not because she deserved to lose the points but so she didn’t appear to be favouring her own child. This happened even if my friend had all the questions right.
How does this story relate to this post? Well, I’m about to get to that part…
Some time back, I posed a question on whether a parent should discipline another parent’s child. At the time, I was quite undecided about the answer. I’ve noticed that when it comes to Gavin, I’m pretty strict with him on sharing and doing the right things. If another child wants to play with a toy, I usually request that Gavin allow the other child to go first. Sometimes I’ve even made Gavin give up the toy in favour of the other child even if Gavin had the toy first.
In some ways, my reaction is similar to my friend’s mother’s reaction to my friend. Not wanting to reprimand another parent’s child for snatching a toy away from my son, I insist that Gavin should allow that child to have the toy first. If Gavin had snatched the toy away from another child, I would have immediately insisted that he return the toy to the other child.
In such matters, I have been unfair to Gavin. When Gavin does wrong, he gets told off. When another child does wrong, that child gets let off. Where, then, is the consistency of the message to Gavin? I have learned that I need to apply more balance and fairness when Gavin is interacting with other children. Although the instinct is to favour the other child, regardless of whether that child is right or wrong, I’ve realised that by doing so, I am sending mixed messages to my own child.