Posted on | November 22, 2010 | 17 Comments

I don’t know much about… well, anything… but what I do know about children is that absolutely everything that happens under the age of five can apparently be characterized as that lovely word… “Phase.”

As in “Oh he’ll phase out of that” and “Oh, that’s just a phase.” It’s what people say when they don’t know what else to say. It’s what people told me when J stopped sleeping. It’s also what they told me when he decided my husband’s hands were hot irons and he could only be held by me. It also seems to work as an excuse for parents who don’t want to take responsibility for their children. With J in daycare, I hear these magic words a lot… in fact WAY more than I’d like.

They tend to follow conversations about something some child has done to another child. Like biting. Or kicking. Or shoving another kid into a wall. The daycare teacher will start by saying something like “Oh, well today wasn’t great…” and follow it up with a story about how young John or little Mary had to be reprimanded for brandishing a knife on a classmate or something else innocuous like that. Inevitably, what I hear in response from the parent goes something like this:

“Oh.” (laughter) “Yeah, they’re in that phase right now.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are phases. There are phases our kids go through where they are testing their limits and finding out the full extent of “no.” Like right now, J likes to wipe his hand across his tray the moment he gets his meals and scatters the food onto the floor. Or sometimes when I’m not wearing shoes and socks he’ll put his mouth down on my ankle and attempt to give meaning to the term “ankle biters.” But here’s the thing… he does that stuff to me. ME. He doesn’t hit his teachers or his classmates. He hits me. Because I am who he tests his limits on.  I am who he trusts to tell him “no” when something isn’t appropriate behavior.

If he starts hitting his classmates to the point where he’s knocking them over on the playground and bruising their faces… it is NOT a phase. I’m sorry. It’s just not. It’s the sign of someone who gets away with too much at home and who hasn’t learned what it means to have limits.

I probably shouldn’t even say this stuff because I’m not a licensed pediatrician or child psychiatrist or anything. I don’t know what phases a kid goes through or what happens during those phases. I really don’t. So if your kid is a perfect angel at home and then goes to school and throws punches, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t judge what I don’t know. I am just so tired of parents copping out. I know they’re kids. I know we love them more than our luggage. But if there are seven kids in the class and six of them made it to 15 months without slapping other children across the face, maybe it’s time to wonder why your child is struggling with that.

*sigh* I’m sorry. I really am. I’m just so tired of the same kid beating up on my son and the rest of the kids in the class. It’s always the same kid. He takes J’s pacifiers. He pushes him down on the playground.  He threw a rock at one of the other kids. He slaps J in the face first thing in the morning. And his mother insists it’s a phase. A phase that little Jimmy Jr. will grow out of. Forgive me if I’m not buying that. My kid is adorable, y’all. He’s super sweet and protective of the other kids in his class. He likes to dance and read books. He loves to eat and he shares very nicely. So please? Please make an effort to teach your kid NOT TO SLAP MY SUPER SWEET KID IN THE FACE.

It’s the same thing every morning. I drop J off at daycare and the kid makes a beeline for him. He stares J down, rips J’s pacifier out of his mouth and then slaps him in the face. And then my son, my darling wonderful son, sticks his bottom lip out and looks so very, very sad that it breaks my heart. And I’m over it. So I’m sorry for sweeping generalizations about the parenting skill set of parents with difficult children. I really am. But please stop saying it’s a phase. Because it’s starting to piss me off.


17 Responses to “Phase-ology”

  1. Eclipsed
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 12:11 am

    Young kids often don't have the vocabulary to communicate their feelings. They can't verbalize why they're upset so they hit. That being said, parents need to intervene and show that their are consequences. If a child's bad behavior is written off as a phase and never dealt with, the chances of it resolving on its own are slim. So whether it's a phase or not, a child should be corrected and shown how to properly interact with each other. Great post.

  2. andygirl
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 12:12 am

    well I'm not a mother. and I'm no expert despite those whole 2 classes of child psychology I took in high school. but I think you have a point. there are phases and then there are behavioral issues.

    good luck not kicking that kid. I would.

  3. Facie
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 1:28 am

    Chances are that kid is just as bad if not worse at home. I base this on talking to quite a few teachers at different daycares and elementary schools.

    Not that that matters to you or will make him treat your kid or any others any better. And there is probably little to nothing you can do to change that.

    That said, when I sub, I try to seek those kids out and treat them extra nicely as I assume they have a crappy home life. Sometimes it works.

  4. Jennifer
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 2:06 am

    Sometimes it is a phase and sometimes it is the child is not getting enough direction. I'm surprised the school isn't being more strict with him. I love my son's teacher. I've witnessed how she deals with misbehavior and she is amazing. The kids know she is serious, but they also get plenty of love afterward. Which is the same way we try to do things at home.

    All of that said some phases are really hard to break. Like biting. His class had one really bad biter, actually my daughter's did too. With Bud he immediately bit back. It took a super bad bite with Baby Girl before she bit back. But both times after my kids bit back the kids stopped. I know some people don't agree, but I don't really care what those people think. I want my kids to take up for themselves. I know yours is too little now, but when he gets a little bit bigger he will be able to stand up for himself and it will get better.

  5. Alena @ Charmingly Chandler
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 4:36 am

    I'm not going to sugar coat it…that pisses ME off and J isn't my son. Like I'm really really really mad.

    The teachers need to be stepping in, Sophia isn't in full time care, but in her hourly care program if she misbehaves x number of times she can't come back. The end. There would be no daily offenses. And if it were my child behaving that way, regardless of her age, I would be so apologetic and working with the teachers to resolve the problem and figure out what I need to do differently.

    This child is learning bad behavior and getting away with it. And it's not ok. Not at 15 months not at 15 years.

  6. Heather
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    You've touched on a huge pet peeve of mine, not only for little kids, but older kids, and even teenagers and young adults.

    I get that being a parent is tough. I get that sometimes you are just so exhausted from your own stuff that you don't have the ENERGY to sit down and actually parent your child. You just want everyone to go to bed, unwind for an hour or two, and attempt to recharge for another day. There is an urge to say "It's just a phase" and "That's just how my kid is" and hope it will just get better with time.

    But you know what? Being a parent is hard! I'd like to think that most of us knew what we were getting into to a degree. If you want your kid to be well-adjusted, polite, empathetic, and confident — it requires some work. And while yes, the teachers/day-care providers must provide the continuity and the support to reinforce these principles, it all starts (or ends) at home.

  7. KLZ
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    You know I love you. And it's got to be so hard for you to see this kid terrorizing everyone.

    But, to be a pain, what is the other parent supposed to say? "Yeah, my kid's pretty much a little shit and I'ma give it to him when we get home?" I mean…yes, they should be taking more action but there's no real good answer, you know?

    Big hug. I'm surprised the daycare hasn't taken more action on this themselves yet.

  8. Mama Fisch
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    Okay, plain and simple I would be pissed. I just would. You pay how much money to make sure your son is well taken care of by professionals? I would be tackling (maybe literally) this one head one with his DC provider. No way this would be okay. I think you need to address and get them to remedy it. And if they aren't willing to, then I would be talking to the mother about how this is NOT okay. Boo for mean babies!

  9. Ms. Diva
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

    Oh man! There was a time I would not have said anything (hated making a scene) but now I know if I don't say something, no one will. He maybe a little kid, but wrong is wrong. Screw phases. I don't allow my children to slap, so I am certainly not going to allow others to slap!! Sorry. I am making a scene.

  10. Carrie
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

    Wow. I would be very frustrated as well! I used to teach 1st grade and this would ALWAYS frustrate me beyond belief! I agree there are phases, but there's also parenting or the lack thereof and sadly, there is a lot of lack nowadays. I love my little girl and it's hard for me to think she would ever slap another kid or take away their toy, but you better believe if she ever tried that I'd be right there to set her straight! Children need someone to teach them how to behave, it's such a major role of parenting and I don't believe that's something that can be categorized into a "phase" because to me, a phase is something that works itself out and a child's behavior is something that is learned, therefore someone (the parent) has to teach good behavior and not just hope that the bad behavior "phase" will simply end. Sorry to vent in your comments, but I totally agree with you!

  11. Kim
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    I DON'T get the other mom saying it's a phase! WTF?? I would be horrified if I saw my kid do this once, let alone again and again! My oldest was big for her age and a bit rough, so I was always on the lookout for that kind of behavior and at the ready w/ an apology. I still am! My son is surly and *miserable* and it is BEYOND embarassing. When he refuses to just talk to people and grunts and throws himself on the ground I'm all 'I'm so sorry!' and I haul his butt away. So, this mom needs to man up. And you need to let the daycare know that YOU ARE DONE. As a former teacher and daycare worker, I'd bodily block the kid next time he heads for J and damn the rest of the them. Then talk to the director. Tell them it either stops/J is moved or you'll find a new daycare. Bully in the making, anyone?

  12. Diana @Hormonal Imbalances
    November 22nd, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

    I don't like this at all. Those teachers should be whisking that kid up and away, and also talking to his parents.

    There are phases, and then there's blatant bullying encouraged or ignored by adults. 🙁

  13. Elizabeth Phillips
    November 23rd, 2010 @ 1:23 am

    First let me say that bullying at any age isn't right.

    But let me also say that this post comes pretty close to bullying another parent because of their toddler's behavior.

    As the mom of a former biter, I understand that it is a problem. However, I would argue that agression towards peers really is a developmental phase while agression towards authority figures is NOT. I would also caution you to assume that the offenders parents' are doing nothing. In many cases, as this post points out why, they are embarrased, ashamed, and at their wits' end.
    When H was a biter, we literally tried everything. We took away Thomas (a fate worse than death), we spanked, we visited the Dr., changed his diet, took him off his allergy meds so he had to live with hives and eczema, we went to a behavioral therapist, I scheduled play dates three times a week for him so he could practice proper conflict resolution in a small setting, we prayed.
    Throughout this process we learned a couple things. 1. Be thankful. Your child isn't the one in need of reprimand and show compassion to the mom whose child does. One day that could be you. 2. If I, as an adult, have difficulty sharing and not getting my way, perhaps I should be patient with the child who is immature simply by age and has no grasp of language. 3.In the end, what stopped H's biting was prayer. I know it sounds hokey, but on a Wednesday we got "the call" from his school that if it happened one more time he would be expelled from school. So I emailed a bunch of people and broke the school day down into 15 minute slots so there would constantly be people praying for H and his teachers. Most of the preschool day, there were at least 3 people praying for him. I kid you not, he hasn't bitten since.
    I don't mean to bitch, but I think it is wrong to label a child a problem child because they have self-control issues. Would you like being labeled by your weaknesses and then someone posting about it on the internet?

  14. Law Momma
    November 23rd, 2010 @ 1:27 am

    Elizabeth: I certainly wasn't trying to call anyone out. I'm just stressed about how to help J get through this. I certainly don't blame the parents to the extent of saying there is something wrong with their parenting. I only have a problem with them failing to even remotely apologize on behalf of their kid. I hope that I never have to face this particular problem, but if I do, I hope that I have the grace to apologize. That's all.

  15. Jennifer
    November 23rd, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

    I just came back and read the comments. Do you know who the biter is? At our daycare if our child gets bit they do not tell us who did it, and if mine bites they do not tell me who he bit. They do this on purpose to keep the parents separate on the and to try to keep tempers in check.

  16. Law Momma
    November 23rd, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    Yeah, there is no biting that I know of. Biting, to me, is more of a phase. But that's just me. This is actually more hitting and pushing. And they didn't tell me… I witness it each morning. In fact, this morning, the same kid threw a dump truck at one of the little girls' faces. I feel bad for the teachers and for his parents… I'm sure it's difficult to deal with.

  17. Alena @ Charmingly Chandler
    November 25th, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    I have compassion for a parent who doesn't know what to do and are at their wits end with changing their childs bad behavior.

    But I think that a parent of the "victim" (for lack of a better term) should get some compassion. Their child is getting HURT and it's not ok to just glaze over and ignore it because the parent is having difficulty. I feel for the parents problem, but I can't imagine allowing my child to constantly get hurt and abused and staying silent just to keep the offending parents feelings from getting hurt.

    maybe I'm just moody lol.

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