We helicopter over our kids wardrobes, nutrition, sleep schedule, hygiene, science fair projects and then pride ourselves on how best hands off we are on social problems.
I won’t ever forget the day my daughter told me that Bethany, a girl in her 4th grade class, was annoying her.
What is she doing to you? I questioned, instinctively protective.
Shes following me around on the park and sitting by me at lunch! She quipped, as if that would sum things straight up and get me directly onto her side of the matter.
You mean shes looking for friends with you? I asked incredulously.
I realized immediately that I had a problem in my hands. I was increasing my own worst nightmare. Smack dab in the midst of the brood of five kids, was a charismatic, sassy, leggy, blonde, dance-y, athletic girl oozing confidence And seemingly annoyance, directed toward a different small girl that wasnt lucky enough to be her. Inconveniently for the daughter, her own mum WAS Bethany in regular school. Freckled of face and frizzy of baldness, I was an Army brat, always the newest girl clamoring for a buddy, drawn to the pure confidence of women like my daughter. This dialog found me vacillating between heartache and fury, but one thing I knew for sure: Mama was about to put her money where her mouth was all these years.
The conflict of two very strong wills ensued at my house the morning after. It wasnt pretty, but I prevailed. My daughter attended a private Catholic grade school, where on any given day, she and a handful of her cohorts ruled the roost. 1 quick phone call to Bethanys mother that same evening confirmed my worst fears. My daughter and her posse were using everything short of a can of Cling Free to rid themselves of the annoying Bethany.
Im sure there are parents out there who will say I overreacted. However, I firmly believe weve must start to address our countrys bullying outbreak right at the center; by re-defining bullying at its very heart. To me, the rejection and complete absence of interest my daughter and her clique displayed toward Bethany was the beginning of a subtle sort of bullying. It’s accurate (confirmed to me by Bethanys mom and educators), that there wasn’t any overt unkindness or name-calling, etc., only rejection; a complete lack of interest in someone they wrongly concluded had nothing to offer them. After undergoing childhood myself and increasing five of my own, Ive been on each side of the bullying social dynamic, and I am convinced that is where it starts. A casual appraisal and quick dismissal of an outsider.
We would serve our children well, in my opinion, if we had a frank conversation with them about what motivates human beings to take and reject other people. It occurs at each age and stage of life, race, creed and religion. It has its roots in our own fears of rejection and lack of confidence. Everyone is jockeying for their own spot on the Social Food Chain. I feel as I’ve experienced demonstrable success along with my children by tabling this dynamic right out in the open. Parents need to call it by name, talk it out loud, shine a bright light in its ugly face. We need to acknowledge to our children that we also experience that, even as adults. Of course its tempting to curry favor and suck-up into the individual a rung of 2 above you on the Social Ladder, but each single human being deserves our attention and utmost respect. Regardless of that, we must constantly remind our children and ourselves that everyone is able to bring unexpected and unanticipated value to our lives. But we must let them.
Its simply not enough to instruct your children to Be Nice! Youve got to be more specific than that. Kids think if they arent being outright unkind, they’re being nice. We know better. Connect the ugly dots. Explain the social survival instinct thats often motivating and guiding their impulses. I promise you, they can handle it. They already see it on some level anyway. They simply need YOU to give it a voice and also re-direction.
In terms of my girl, I taught her that she was planning to invest a little time and energy getting to know Bethany. I assigned her to come home from school the following day and report three cool things she found out about Bethany, that she didnt previously know. My strong-willed child awakened in. She didn’t want to do that. I dug in deeper. I refused to drive her to school the morning after, until she consented. It appeared that, at least until today, I had the car keys along with the electricity. Her resistance gave us a while to have the very long overdueconversation. I walked her through my ATM Machine Analogy. I explained to her that she’d social lender to spare. She could easily make a withdrawal on behalf of the small girl, risking very little.
Lets invest! I encouraged and excited.
She got dressed reluctantly and I drove her to school. She had a good daywhat was made from it. However, she was still buggy with me when I picked her up, telling me that her friends mothers stick from these things and allow their daughters pick their own friends! (Such wise women.) And then she told me three cool things about Bethany that she didnt already know.
I checked back in with Bethanys mum by telephone two weeks afterwards. Its known follow through. (I dont really think a lot people do that. We helicopter over our kids wardrobes, nutrition, sleep schedule, hygiene, science fair projects and then pride ourselves on how best hands off we are on social problems. If I had a buck for each time I wished to state, Seriously? You micro-manage the literal crap from everything your child does out of his gluten ingestion to his soccer cleats, but THIS you remain from? No wonder theres no accountability along with a bullying culture!) Bethanys mother promised me that she was welcomed to the fold of friendship and has been doing well.
Bethanys household moved to a different country a couple of years later. My daughter cried when they parted ways. They still keep in touch through all their social media stations. She was and is a very cool girl, with a lot to offer her peers. Nevertheless, the actual value was to my daughter, of course. She gained a lot through that adventure. She is presently a 20-year-old college sophomore, with a broadly diverse group of friends. She is kind, inclusive and open to all kinds of individuals. When she had been malleable, impressionable and mine to guide:
She learned her initial instinct about folks isnt always properly motivated.
She learned you can be friends with the least likely individuals; the best friendships arent people who are your kind! In the world of friendship, comparison is a plus.
She learned that there are times, within a specified social framework, that you’re in a position to make a withdrawal on behalf of someone else. Be generous, spend! It pays dividends.
However, above all, she heard that, although I may not be overly-interested in exactly what she puts on her Science Fair project, couldnt care less when shes Lactose Intolerant or if her long blonde hair is snarled, shes going to damn well treat people directly.
Parentsyour kids are likely to eventually develop the good sense to wear a jacket and consume vegetables, invest your energy in the way they interact within society. If we insist on being the hovering Helicopter Parent Generation, lets at least hover over the ideal areas.
Train up a child in the way he should go,And if he is older he won’t depart out of it. ~Proverbs 22:6
About the Writer:Leslie Blanchard is a wife and mother of five, who tattles on her husband, her own mother and her children by chronicling the insane and mundane in all of their lives in a rather public way. Collectively, her family less or more rues the day that they bought her an iPad. Now that shes officially a blogger, Leslie lies at the bathtub, neglecting her significant duties and muses about marriage, motherhood, friendship and other things of life beyond the bubbles. Read more from Leslie on her blog A Ginger Snapped: Facing the Music of Marriage & Motherhood.
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