Have you had to step in when adults overwhelm your child? It may feel awkward or frustrating, but here’s why you need to intervene—and how.
Imagine a family party and everyone is playing with the younger member, a two-year-old child. Grandpa is bouncing her up in his arms in what started as a game but has now been too much for her. Unfortunately, grandpa is oblivious and thinks the little girl is still having a blast.
How do parents know when to intervene with family and friends—adults who may overwhelm kids but not know it?
It’s tricky dealing with family and friends with setting boundaries for many reasons:
- You may not be close to everyone. Sure, you can tell your mom to back off, but what about a distant aunt or your co-worker’s husband? You may not feel as frank with them as you would those closer to you.
- Some people can be easily offended. We all know people we skirt around or phrase our words carefully. One word or action can offend others, even if your intention isn’t to.
- You want people to still feel comfortable around you. People might start feeling like they’re walking on eggshells around you. You want to stand up for your kid without being that person who scares people into think you’ll blow up or make a big fuss.
- People disregard your requests. Some people, despite your constant interventions, continue to disregard what you say. They might think you’re making a big deal out of nothing, or they know what they’re doing. You might even feel like they’re parenting your kids.
Why you should intervene when adults overwhelm your child
- For many young kids, they can’t speak for themselves. Infants and toddlers can’t say they aren’t enjoying the hugs they’re forced to give. Or that they don’t want raspberries blown on their bellies.
- Adults may not always take older kids who can protest seriously. Even if your child can tell others to stop, adults can still assume that they know best. They might brush your kids off or continue to have a laugh at their expense.
- Your kids feel reassured of your support and trust. It’s tough facing adults, so when your child sees you stepping in on her behalf, she knows you’ve got her back. You’re reinforcing the trust she has placed in you.
- You know your child best. What may seem fun to others may feel overwhelming or embarrassing to your child. Some kids take to laughter and jest more easily than others. Some instead might feel anxious facing new environments and people. Others yet might withdraw when they’re the center of attention. What works for one kid may not work for another, and you’re the best judge of how much your kids can take.
Typical scenarios you might need to step in
So, when are some of the instances when adults can overwhelm your kids?
We’ve all seen our kids laugh during a tickle fest. kids still laugh even if they may not be enjoying themselves. That’s why you’ll see the laughs explode into tears because they’ve had too much.
I’m a huge fan of rough housing and playful parenting. Laughing releases the same frustrations and worries a child may have as crying can. Plus I would rather hear laughter than cries!
The trouble happens when adults don’t listen to the kids to see when they’ve had enough. Grandpa could be having the time of his life raising your child in his arms up in the air. But he could also be terrifying your child by carrying her up and down.
Teasing kids is treading on a fine line. On one hand, teasing can be simple banter between adults and kids or even among children. But usually, teasing is one-sided entertainment at the child’s expense. I once saw an adult poke fun at my son while he remained completely clueless. Before it could go any further, I told my son, “He’s teasing” and made sure the adult didn’t continue.
With smart phones and social media, our kids will only know a world filled with photo opps. And while many times kids let us take their photos, sometimes it’s the last thing they want to do. Well-meaning adults can force kids to stand in front of the camera, pressuring them to smile.
If your family is like mine, good manners mean hugging every adult, regardless of how the child feels. I’ve moved away from this tradition and instead invite my kids to give kisses and hugs if they want to. And you know what? It’s worked. They usually enjoy giving hugs on their own. And they’ll settle for giving high-fives for the times when they’re not in the mood.
Honoring your child’s emotional and physical boundaries reminds her that her body is hers. Rather than forcing a child to hug, encourage it, model it yourself, and give an option if they don’t feel like it. Kids who aren’t forced to hug aren’t being rude. Instead, they want to hug everyone without their parents forcing them to.
Tickling, rough housing, taking photos—these are normal interactions between adults and kids. How do you decide when to intervene? When it’s just too much for your kid?
It’s about respect. Is the adult respecting your child, or is the entertainment one-sided? Is the adult ignoring your child’s best interest?
It’s a tough balance between stepping on others’ toes and telling them ‘that’s enough.’ But if your child isn’t having a good time, feels frustrated or is the object of others’ laughter, then step in.
If not you, then who?
Read more topics here:
- 3 Reasons Your Kid Doesn’t Have to Hug Everyone
- Teach Your Child to Be Assertive
- How to Respond when Adults Tease Your Child
- Why Sharing Funny Stories about Your Kids Can End Up Being Hurtful
- “Respect the No”: 3 Reasons to Listen When Kids Say No
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