Ask Another Expert!
A few weeks ago I was out with our youngest and was approached by someone who was questioning if our son hit the boy she was caring for. She actually questioned my 3 year old and not me. I was taken back. I did not know how to respond. I made sure our son was okay and reassured the caregiver that I would look into it.
After speaking with our 3-year-old, it was pretty obvious to me that he did not hit the other child. Now having said that, I understand he may not want to admit that to me. I spoke with the teacher and she did not witness any hitting; however, our son has an amazing imagination. Around this time he was enjoying acting like a “Ninja” (Thank-you to Disney’s Justin Time) or “Superhero”. He would swing his arms but did not make contact. This led us to a conversation about safe places to act like a ninja or superhero (watch out if you come to our house, a ninja may be present!).
I then got to thinking, what is the proper etiquette in situations like this? So I contacted an Etiquette Consultant, Maria Doll from Leadership Matters.
Maria Doll kindly agreed to do a guest blog post for Parenting Foundations.
What to do when your child gets accused of wrongdoing…
You’re at playgroup with your son/daughter and having a wonderful time visiting with other parents while enjoying the budding friendships between the preschoolers. Then all of a sudden…POP! The happy bubble gets burst by a dismayed grandparent who accuses your child of hitting their grandchild. Immediately, you question your child and they adamantly deny doing such a thing. What to do next???
Before letting tempers get out of hand, take a step back and realize that children even as young as 3 or 4 yrs old will tell fibs or even outright lies. Sometimes the fib is just part of their imaginative play and is quite innocent. For example, my son loved Spiderman. One day, he happened to mention over lunch time how after being bitten by a spider he had the power to levitate to the next floor of our house. He said this in all seriousness!
Apart from the fantasies, sometimes children will lie to please us. For example, they will tell us that they ate everything on their plate. But we can see that it’s not true.
As they mature, young children will begin to make the distinction between truth and fiction. They will try lying to get themselves out of experiencing unpleasant consequences. It’s wise not to overreact as we don’t want them to become adept at being dishonest.
A parent or even grandparent who says their child would never lie isn’t living in reality. In the case of the playgroup incident, the grandparent was not sure who to believe. If there were no witnesses to corroborate, the grandparent shouldn’t be accusing you or your child. A better approach would be to say something like, “My grandchild told me that your son hit him. Now, I’m not accusing your son. I’m just trying to find out what happened.” This helps to keep emotions under control and doesn’t make it personal. Hopefully, both of you can figure out what happened and clear the air, as necessary. Is one guilty or do both share some of the blame?
Perhaps the grandchild is trying to get some needed attention from his grandparent. So he made up a whopper to get just that. Often, parents/caregivers are completely wrapped up in their smart phones that their children are ignored at playgroups as well as playgrounds. This may have been the case.
For the good of the group, you should avoid getting into a debate especially if the grandparent becomes belligerent. Say something like, “Well, I don’t know what to say. I’ll speak to my son again about proper behavior at playgroup.” Leave it that and walk away. If you respond in any manner that sounds accusatory of the other woman’s grandchild, it’s a No Win situation. Maybe she’s right and your child did take a bit of a swat at the boy. Later on, when everything calms down, try gently questioning your child to get their perspective on what happened.
These are trying moments as parents and none of us like to see our children being accused of wrongdoing particularly if they are innocent. However, see these moments as teachable times to form the important virtue of honesty. Reward honesty whenever you see it in your children.
Thank you, Maria Doll for your wonderful insight!
Phew! I did use the proper etiquette. After looking into the incident a bit further I spoke with the caregiver again and explained what I had discovered. I also kindly asked that she speak with me directly in the future as my son was quite upset and scared. She was so apologetic and we have moved forward. Next step is to get these 2 boys together at their own playdate!