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My 15-month-old son has a 20-month-old friend. The other child is allowed to play and watch movies in his bedroom. However, I feel my son is too young to spend much time out of the eyesight of an adult. The other child is aggressive, though not mean. He has thrown toys and taken toys from my child, and his parents responded with discipline. Neither of these things are a big deal – just part of the joys of playing with other children. But is 15 months is too young to be learning these lessons unsupervised? Am I sheltering him too much?
The lessons you mention are both important and unavoidable. And no, 15 months old is not too young to begin learning them. Every child is different, and the sooner we learn how to interact despite those differences, the better off we are. Many young boys are aggressive, and while your son needn’t develop that trait, dealing with an aggressive child will certainly prepare him for the rigors of day care, preschool, kindergarten, and whatever else awaits.
That said, your child is too young to play unsupervised, with or without another child present. At that age, children have all of the curiosity with none of the wisdom. As a rule of thumb, it’s unwise to leave a child unable to talk alone for too long. He’s too young to communicate, and if something bad happens, he’ll have trouble letting you know about it.
To smooth this issue over when visiting the friend’s house, set the kids up with a game in the room where you sit and chat with the boy’s parents. You can also invite the older boy to your own house and arrange for the children to play in the room of your choosing.
While the current situation may not seem ideal, it can help your son develop new skills – if you let it. Think about it – your son has a slightly older friend, and a place to play with him. This boy’s parents give him more freedom than your son has, but they are responsible, and willing to police his conduct. These are good things.
When playing with the older boy, your son will probably expand his horizons, learning more than just how to deal with a forceful playmate.
I have four children. I’m supervising the construction of a house, and my husband often travels as part of his work. I was thinking of hiring an au pair. Will it work for my family? Is it a good idea?
How it works for your family depends almost entirely on the person you hire, and your attitude about the situation. Whether it’s a good idea depends on the same thing.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring some on-site help to take care of the children. Many families do this, particularly families in which both parents work high-paying, time-consuming jobs. An au pair can ease the burden on the parents and provide more stability for the children.
If you decide to hire an au pair, consider using a professional service, rather than seeking your own candidate. Check references, meet the person, and see whether your children like her before making a decision. Make sure that Social Security is withheld from her pay. And be up front about your needs. It sounds as if you need someone for a few months, not a few years.
However, an au pair is not the answer for everyone. Some parents – particularly mothers – have trouble letting go. They find it difficult to delegate so much of the child-care responsibility to a third party. If you believe you would fall prey to that problem, don’t hire an au pair. And even if you do decide to bring someone into your home, acknowledge that it might not work out. As I said, it’s not for everyone.
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