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Can’t We Just End Mean?

by Christine@TheAums on May 9, 2012 · 12 comments

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I hate how sometimes negative experiences have to happen for teachable moments to occur.

My four-year-old daughter, Ny, is starting to explore friendships and playing with other girls, some older and some her age. She’s already mastered playing with younger girls through her two-year-old sister, and let me say how blessed I feel to have given her a sister and, hopefully, friend for life.

The other day, Ny and her sister were playing on the sidelines of their brothers’ soccer practice when two girls, about her age, came along with dolls and a tupperware “to catch ladybugs.” I could tell my daughter wanted to join them and I noticed that she played with her ball closer and closer until she was standing right next to them as they crouched in the grass hunting bugs. I was proud of her for making some moves and turned my attention to my sons on the field.

Soon Ny returned with a sad face and whispered in my ear. The fact that she whispered told me right away that something had happened. She said, “Mama, one of those girls told me she hates when children stare at her. And the other girl told me she hates dumb children.”

And so it begins.

While I wanted to have a chat with those little girls as if they were my own, I probably wouldn’t have. Besides, I noticed they had moved much farther down the field away from us. Instead, I took a deep breath and looked my girl in the eyes. “Let’s talk about it a little later when we’re home. For now, enjoy playing with your sister and kicking the ball in the warm sunshine.”

I am very much a believer in addressing issues outside of the moment whenever possible.

Ny moved on but she never quite shook her long face. Later at home, the chaos of making dinner took over my brain, soon followed by the chaos of the bedtime routine and I never did make the time to talk. All evening, my daughter had not been very nice to her little sister. In fact, their interactions involved spitting and hitting with a stick…definitely not the usual around here. Could it have something to do with earlier? I’ll never know.

That night, I lay in bed getting my thoughts in order to bring up the following day and before I fell asleep, I wrote this:

Mean girls.

Inevitable, right?

But why?

Why does this have to be a rite of passage?

Where are their elders to guide them in kindness?

You will be in their position one day,

You will feel the need to say something.

Let it be kind.

Hi.

Would you like to play with us?

Hi.

You can play with us if you like.

Hi.

What’s your name?

Hi.

One word.

One kind word.

Can’t we just end mean?

I found my moment more than 24 hours later. Ny’s three siblings fell asleep before she did which left us alone to cuddle and whisper. I started talking to her about growing into a big girl and what that means. How sometimes I will talk to her about big girl things because I’m a big girl, too. “You can always talk to me about big girl things,” I told her.

She responded, “And boys can have long hair, too. Right, mama?”

Kid thoughts are so unpredictable. Maybe I was wasting my breath, but I pressed on.

I told her that as she keeps growing she will meet more girls in her life. Sometimes, some will say mean words. She should always know in her heart that those words don’t mean anything and she can move on and away.

Then I added, “Someday you might be playing with one other girl and you might be having a lot of fun together. Another girl might show up and even though she might want to play with you, she might feel scared or shy to ask.

“Your job is to say hi. That’s it, baby. Be friendly and say hi.”

She nodded her head and told me she loved me. Then she squeezed my hand, rolled over, and fell asleep.

Oh, those teachable moments. I wish it was possible for us parents to know if the way we handled things was right. What I do know and feel in my heart is this:

In our home, my kids will constantly be taught, shown, smothered, and homeschooled in kindness.

I know on the scale of worst-case scenarios, this was minor, but if mean-ish words can start this early, think of what they become years from now. This is why I take my role as a parent raising kind human beings so seriously. You bet I worry about bullying, and not just my kids being bullied either. Should any of my children be involved in another child’s hurt feelings, you can be rest assured that I will address it.

Have you had a teachable moment recently?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

grandma May 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Yes I agree lets get rid of the word “mean”. I love how you handled it with
such love…….you have become a wise mother…..Felize Dia De Las Madres (Mexico)

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Christine@TheAums May 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Thanks, Ma :)

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Elizabeth May 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm

You handled it very well. How heartbreaking for your daughter and for you. I keep reading/hearing stories like this lately and they’re such a punch in the gut. I don’t remember much anymore what it was like to be a young child, but I never will forget what it felt like to hear unkind words directed at me as one.

I don’t know how I’m going to handle it when it happens to one of my boys (and I know it will) but I know how I’ll handle it if one of my boys is ever the mean one… and it won’t be pretty for them.
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Christine@TheAums May 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thanks, Elizabeth. Unkind words suck all around. Food for thought, though: I just posted something on my Facebook page about how opposites are necessary. Maybe in order to be nice you have to know what it feels like to be mean. After experimenting with mean in the fourth grade I learned that that is not what I wanted to be. But yeah, it’s hard to forget unkind words.

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Elizabeth May 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm

What a wise place to come from. Thinking about what you said, I realized that now, as an adult, when people say or do rude things to me, I’m over it pretty much right away. However, if I happen to do the same? It sticks with me for days. I can’t shake the feeling of crappiness that it brings about in me.

Using this train of thought, earlier, when Connor scared Brandon by pushing something out from under him, I asked him if he liked scaring Brandon like that, if it made him feel good. Frankly, I was figuring he’d say yes because he’s 3 and kind of in a little punk/brute mode that I’m desperately trying to break, but he surprised me and said “no”. So we’ll see if this tactic works for him, since the whole “do you want someone to do that to you” one hasn’t really been penetrating. Thank you for bringing it up!

And I hope you are enjoying your 2-hour play…. ;-)
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Christine@TheAums May 13, 2012 at 5:16 am

I guess it’s a little like the ancient Taoist version of reverse psychology. I survived the play (with the help of my iPhone in the back row!) Hope your Mother’s Day wishes come true!

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Runnermom-jen May 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

Ugh, that just makes my heart hurt. Mean girls suck.
Great teaching, mama.

xo
Runnermom-jen recently posted..The LegacyMy Profile

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Christine@TheAums May 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Yeah, Jen, that is where I wrote this from…a hurt heart.

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Mama J@Mama, Hear Me Roar May 11, 2012 at 11:58 am

I love how you handled the situation. Wise and so tender! There are so many things we could teach in homeschool, but kindness is definitely on my top 10 list.
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Christine@TheAums May 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Thank you so much. I like thinking that my homeschooled children start out their school careers in KINDERgarten…pronounced with a long ‘i’! ;)

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Stasha May 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I fear those days, those moments. I will never quite understand why kids are rude to other kids. WHere does it come from? Since we are all born a clean slate?
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Christine@TheAums May 13, 2012 at 5:27 am

It’s not fun and the only positive spin I can put on it is turning it into a teachable moment, but enough already, right?!

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