The bus driver, a stranger, exasperated, red-faced, hit the brakes, came over to where my family sat, and proceeded to firmly but kindly reprimand my toddler.
This reprimanding came after a series of epic meltdowns that started earlier at a restaurant where we had gone to celebrate Father’s Day.
Big brother F aged 4, had been running up and down the place, playing, shouting and teasing Small brother F aged 1.5 years, much to the chagrin of some diners. Our attempts to get him to sit, and eat his dinner calmly, became futile.
We offered Paw Patrol, but it couldn’t contain his adrenaline. Suddenly, a nice family outing became an embarrassing scene, and for the sake of others enjoying their dinner, we finished ours, paid and left.
While outside the restaurant, I remarked to my husband, that our toddler was hyperactive. His Dad’s nonchalant response attributed the sugar high to a lollipop that the boy had after dinner.
The excitement turned into overdrive when we got into the bus home.
See, Big F has become very ‘independent’. He dictates on doing things himself, his way, which in many ways is a positive developmental milestone for a toddler.
On this occasion though, he wanted to get into the bus and choose his seat, on his own accord.
However, at some point, we had to move seats, to get closer to his younger brother, Small F, who was strapped in his stroller.
Unwittingly, this move triggered an avalanche of loud mouthed, quintessentially toddler wailing. It was as if the boy had temporarily lost his sanity to an alien possession.
For a fleeting moment there his Dad and I became speechless, helpless.
Suddenly the bus driver stopped driving, came over and told our toddler off.
Basically said everyone in the bus had had enough of the screaming and whining, and it was time for him to behave.
To be honest, even though positive parenting calls for toddlers to vent off their emotions, sometimes they really act like unruly, inconsiderate brats.
In the heat of Big F acting out, the words from the driver forced him to pacify, self-reflect and eventually revert to being a normal human being.
Usually, this unwelcome intervention from a stranger would prompt a knee-jerk, Mama Bear, defence from me, but this time I smiled smugly and let my son bear the brunt of his actions. Here is why:
I don’t allow my toddler and his baby brother to bully each other, the same way I won’t allow them to bully other children. In the same breath, I will be damned if other children bully my sons.
I want another mother/parent to come and tell me if my kids are bullying their child/children. I want other parents to look out for my kids, more so when they err.
We live in peculiar times when everyone is all about minding their own business, but in my opinion, this is misguided.
Children ought to grow up learning that they cannot go about stepping on other people’s toes, and not expect consequences.
In Swahili, we have a proverb that states, mti hukunjwa wakati ungali mchanga, which basically translates to bend the tree while it is still young.
The need to respect others starts early. It begins with children knowing that they cannot bully others, for a myriad of reasons including disturbing the peace and quiet of other people.
I am raising my children in a society that puts individualism before collectivism. ‘I am’ comes before ‘we are’. Minding one’s business is the norm, poking your nose where it doesn’t belong is considered uncivilised, unpolished, rude, and uncouth.
Yet, in that moment when the bus driver told off my son, I actually felt relieved that someone else other than my husband or I had stepped in to remind our son that the world is not a bubble.
Growing up in Kenya I knew that it took a village to raise a child. If I got into an altercation with a cousin or a neighbors child, the adult available would reprimand me first before my mother arrived.
I grew up knowing that actions, positive or negative, had consequences.
In retrospect, I see how my own upbringing, though flawed, has made me receptive to the idea of other people, other than my husband and me, can positively reinforce good behaviour in my sons.
Raising well-behaved children
Almost every parent in today’s world talks of raising well-adjusted kids, but many come up in arms when the said child does negative actions that arouse criticism or rough consequences.
In 2015, Brock Turner, a Stanford University student from the US was found guilty of raping an unconscious woman. The man, although caught in the appalling act, never once took responsibility for his actions.
His mother and father, came to his defence, citing that he was a well-adjusted son, a decorated swimmer and an Ivy League student.
His Father remarked that Brook didn’t deserve to be among other rapists in jail for “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
At no point did the convicted rapist nor his parents acknowledge how his selfish act had adversely affected the life of a young woman.
Sure he might have grown up well behaved, but his parent’s failed when they could not take criticism of their son’s actions.
I believe it is of utmost value that my kids grow up to become positive, functioning members of a larger community, and as such, comes the need for empathy, kindness, respect and familiarisation of ethics and social codes of conducts.
The incident with the bus driver, though uncomfortable for my toddler, husband and I, is just but an example of the challenges that my sons have to face in life.
A time may come when they are reprimanded or told NO by a teacher, boss, friend, lover or co-worker.
Teaching them to value positive reinforcements and discipline will not only anticipate challenges but also help them overcome the rough paths that they may face in future