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Parental “intervention” – how much is too much?

Since Enzo is an only child, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to see him interacting with other children. I had the opportunity to do so during his Halloween celebration at school a couple of weeks ago.

I watched as my son was playing with a toy. When a smaller child went over to play with the same toy, Enzo snatched it out of his hands and said “MINE.”

I walked over and said “Enzo tienes que compartir, pueden jugar los dos.” (You have to share, you can both play with the toy.) He pouted, but then they played together, until one of them eventually moved on to the next toy.

I actually couldn’t believe that I had seen him snatch a toy away from another child. He isn’t usually like that— but then again, at home, there isn’t anyone around wanting to take his toys away.

As a parent, it is my job to teach him right and wrong. But here’s the thing: while I want to teach my son the basic social norms that will help him interact well with others, I understand that sometimes you just don’t want to share. I get that.  Every kid goes through that (right??) I remember not wanting to share my Barbie dolls when I was younger.

Of course, I can’t encourage him not to share, that would just be wrong. I don’t want him to be the “kid that doesn’t share” or “the mean kid.”

This past weekend, at a birthday party, I saw Enzo do the same thing, and to the same child: “Hey, that’s my toy.” This time, I didn’t intervene, I just watched. (Ok, full disclosure: I probably didn’t intervene because I was across the room when it happened.) The kid ended up playing with something else, and they did so side by side. I’m glad it didn’t end up in tears, and that they were able to resolve it on their own. And, while I’m here still thinking about it, I’m sure they forgot it ever happened.

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Those two moments got me thinking,  as a parent, when I supposed to intervene? Always? Never? Sometimes? Should I just see wait and see what happens, or intervene if someone cries?

Shouldn’t I let him build some negotiating and coping skills, and other skills that will be stifled by me intervening? I think in parenting, as with anything, extremes are not good, so as with disciplining I just have to find a good balance. I guess I’m just trying to figure out how much intervention is good and how much is too much.

Of course, Enzo is still too young to just let him figure everything out on his own, but that day will come. When it does, I want him to be prepared, and to be kind. I don’t want him to think he can get his way all the time, because the real world isn’t like that. Just like he won’t always get his favorite toy at the precise moment he wants it, he might not get the job he wants, or the salary he wants, or the girl he wants. He has to be prepared, that is part of life.

I think the best I can do as a mom is plant the seeds of kindness and respect, nurturing as necessary. My plan is to always teach him “Treat others as you want to be treated

NBC Latino contributor Diana Limongi

Diana Limongi-Gabriele works hard juggling a full-time job, motherhood, family, grad school and her blog, LadydeeLG, where she writes about issues she is passionate about including teaching her son Spanish, motherhood, parenting, Latino issues, good quality food and women’s issues. Diana is a regular contributor for Mamiverse. She has a MA in Migration Studies, and is pursuing an MPA in Nonprofit Management. Her most important job however, is being mommy to Enzo, a French/Hispanic/American (one day trilingual) 2-year-old boy. You can connect with her via Twitter, @dianalimongi or on Facebook.

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