In Hong Kong, we have a group of 4 friends with children about the same age as the little guy. We are all from different parts of the world, and most of us are in relationships with someone from a different country as us. Every country has it’s expectations on what the “right way” is to raise a kid.
It has become increasingly apparent to me that the mother who I hang out the most with the little guy and her little guy (the same one who the little guy learned pushing from) is no longer in the same parenting style as me and my wife. This is super interesting to me because when the guys were little (babies), we had the same approach, and that is what brought us closer together. Same ideas about feeding, sleeping, about not just sitting at home with them, and so on.
But now, as time is passing and the little guys need more guidance and help to not be little monsters, but instead delightful little humans, it is becoming clearer that her approach and my approach are very different. And they are so different that I think that her child might be a bad influence on my child now. This is something I never thought I would say, partly because we were so similar before, but also because it is such a cliche to say it. They have so much fun when they are together, but it is pure chaos, and the little guy is running after him, doing “naughty” things with him that he would never do on his own or with his other friends – it’s like he is learning all the potential bad habits that a kid can have from one kid. They do have fun being wild like this, but is it ok?
What I mean is that I take a more pedagogical approach to raising my son. I believe it is my job to teach him and to make sure he sees that learning comes from everywhere and everything. For example, we see a dog and we talk about the dog, we talk about what color it is, if it is big or small, and so on. And, this approach also involves creating boundaries and discipline when necessary. I am a more proactive person, so rather than chasing after my son yelling “no”, I make sure that the word “no” comes with an action, like taking something away from him if he is throwing it where he shouldn’t. I have a nature + nurture approach, rather than blaming “that’s just how the little guy is” when I see something happen that is not ok.
This mother, as much as I like her as a person and as a friend, seems to not care that her little one is a wild child. He is not mean or malicious (yet), but he does not listen to her, he does not care about other kids, and he does what he wants, when he wants. In fairness to him, he does so because he can do so, and because that is the relationship he has with his mother. She runs after him saying “no” but it does not mean anything as he dashes off to an escalator or to go tumbling down the stairs. And maybe most frustrating about it is if her son does anything that is not OK, like tackle another kid, she might apologize to the parent and say “no” to her son, but she does not teach him what the right thing to do is. If you don’t teach him the right behavior, how will he know what to do? She does have him enrolled in some “school” programs (like pre-kindergarten) right now hoping he will learn some discipline there, but isn’t that the parent’s job, not the school’s job?
Meanwhile, I have the other friends who I originally thought might have different parenting styles than me, and it turns out on these bigger things like I mention above in how to handle a toddler, we are fairly close. So it is a funny turn from not having as much in common with this person to having more in common, as we seem to bring a similar philosophy into our approach to parenting styles.
All-in-all, it’s difficult for me to take a step away from my good friend and the little guy’s good friend. But it seems like what is better for the little guy right now to be around other children and parents who approach things in a similar way, so that he can also learn from the other children and parents. The right playmates are so important right now for a 16-month-old toddler, and while I do not want to take away one of his best friends, I do hope that one of the other little guys and him will get closer.