Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Speaking of Politically Incorrect…

My husband and I are not violent sorts nor do we watch much TV or socialize all that much. And though I’m fond of denouncing the spanking doomsayers, we aren’t even big on spanking here, in practice. So our kids have been pretty sheltered from all things violent. But watching the neighborhood kids, it occurred to us that we’ve neglected to teach our four-year-old, J, an important life lesson. He’s never had cause to defend himself and doesn’t really know how to do it. This is very worrisome to both my husband and me.

We don’t want to raise the bully, of course. But we certainly don’t want to raise the kid who gets bullied. We just want to raise the kid who stands up for the kid being bullied -- is that too much to ask? If you google this dilemma you’ll get about 30,000 responses and most of them explain how you can intervene appropriately and put a stop to the bullying. But what will happen when he’s alone somewhere as an older kid and is picked on? He’ll just take it until they choose to stop and then cry and go home? I won’t always be there for him to cry to and I need to give him the tools and the confidence to handle these situations. So how do you teach “confidence” and “have an air that says I don’t tolerate abuse”?

Philosophical though it’s not, we went with the ever unpopular “hit back” routine. It all started when the little one was throwing water in J’s eyes in the bathtub.

J: Waaah! He’s throwing water in my eyes!
Me: Just make him stop. Throw water back in his eyes and say, ‘you may not throw water in my eyes!’
J: (staring at me like I’m insane)

Me: You have to, if you do it once, he’ll stop.
Little One: Waaaaah! Noooooo! Don’t put wa doh in mine eyes!
J: I can’t. I don’t want to hurt him.
He never did what I suggested, but just the conversation did the trick. It seems once Little One knew that J didn’t have to put up with it, he stopped doing it. The issue hasn’t come up since. There’s an important life lesson in there somewhere, if I could just figure out how to carry it forward.

My husband is sure he’s so sweet because I let him watch too much Blue’s Clues and convinced me that we needed to rent Star Wars and Ninja Turtles to give him some “better” examples than silly Joe dancing around in a cartoon. We’re probably the only parents in America who go out of our way to find something violent for our kid to watch on TV. And then we drill him in much the same way that normal people might drill their kids on spelling words or multiplication tables.

Us: What do you do if someone elbows you in the ribs?
J: Elbow him back in the ribs.
Us: That’s right! As hard as you can! Good boy, let’s get an ice cream cone…
And so on.

At his first day of preschool there was a little girl who was a “screamer” (the teacher’s words, not mine) and apparently J felt “screamed at” by her and told me he couldn’t go back to school because, he said, The kids are mad at me. I reminded him that we don’t have to let people scream at us. The next day he came home and announced, I smacked D. I was mortified. I tried to explain to his teacher that I had definitely not told him to do that (I really hadn’t!) And she said she’d not seen anything anyway. But he and D were best friends the rest of the year. Who says violence never solves anything?

Copyright 2005. Staci Schoff. All Rights Reserved.

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