My son did not want to go to school today, which is completely uncharacteristic of him. We talk about his day after he comes home, and nothing came up last night. Until this morning at breakfast. The whining prevailed, the sluggish demeanor that says "I am stalling so I won't have to go!" and I asked what was up. He finally told all over a bowl of Rice Krispies.
"At recess.....(long pause, mumbling)...some kids were tying to hit me with a basketball."
"Some seventh graders."
"Was it an accident? Did they do it on purpose? What did they do?"
"They... (mumble mumble).... I turned around and they tried to hit me on the head. Twice."
"How do you know it was an accident if you weren't looking?"
After he stalled some more, I informed him of his options: Tell them to stop, and/or tell a teacher if it wasn't an accident. I added, bluntly, that we were not paying thousands of dollars a year to send him to a private school if he didn't want to go.
I hate to be too "tough love" but sometimes I think it teaches my son better coping skills. Some candy coating is necessary; I mean, he is only 6. But, in my opinion, too much does not teach them how to deal with situations that come up on a daily basis.
Once we got to the bus stop, I explained to the mom (one of the parents I mentioned in the spanking post) what was going on. She said her son (we'll call him S) gets upset when the class has a substitute. He also freaks out when mom forgets to pack milk money, because it means he has to go up and ask an adult for help and get milk.
I'm thinking, "Wow. My kids are totally not like that." Yeah, like I blathered on about in my last post, every kid is different. Timid is something my children have never been. I wondered how S's mom helped him resolve his inner conflict? About getting up the nerve to ask for a milk because he forgot his money? How is he learning how to cope with his intense fear of social situations?
Then S's mom went on to say that R's mom (the other mom I mentioned in my spanking post) was having trouble with her daughter, too. Apparently difficult social situations at school that revolve around lunchtime and outdoor recess once a week are making things hard for R to deal with. So R's mom was diligently picking her up once a week - sanctioned by the school, of course - as an alternative.
I was kind of horrified inside. I already know the difficulty R's mother has in saying no, and just encouraging her daughter to face her problem. I said this to S's mom: "Well, we try to teach our kids to face their problems, rather than running away from them," which wasn't really in response to either of S's or R's moms' situations, but rather my own. I wasn't trying to say she was wrong, but absentmindedly just telling her what we did in those situations. I told my son that morning that chances are, those kids were playing and it was an accident, and it might never happen again. I did not want him to be afraid to go to school because of one isolated incident. And if it happened again, he definitely needed to say something.
It all reminds me of the 'helicopter mom' trend or the current problem among some parents who want their kids to be winners, even when they aren't. The "everyone's a winner!" philosophy has caused some to question how these parents are teaching their kids to deal with not being first, with competition and how to cope with loss.
It reminded me how one of my husband's students last year, a senior, would be whisked away from campus by his mother (waiting in the driveway of his dorm in the family minivan) every single day for some activity or other. It bothered me because her enabling was essentially robbing him of being an independent young man, who should be experiencing the full range of activities that defined him as a boarding school student. Not only that, but she never wanted the school to be too hard on her son and demand too much of him (which, thankfully, my husband and the administration just smiled and nodded to). Not only that, but his parents were paying over $30,000 a year for what - to pick him up and entertain him for a few hours? Plus gas for a 45-minute (one way) trip? What the heck?
My husband contends that, if sometimes our kids are unhappy, we must be doing our jobs. We are not striving to be our kids' friends, or extract them from every difficult social situation and come to their rescue all the time. I figure, sometimes we don't have a choice but to make our children do something they don't want to, and they need to learn, through us, how to cope with that. How to deal with not always feeling comfortable or getting their way on everything. Part of establishing my son's independence and growing up came with riding the bus by himself in the mornings and afternoons (he switches buses in the morning, which really worried me - but he did great!). I fear that constantly changing or bending the rules teaches them little of these skills, if only to perhaps enable them to grow accustomed to being catered to. Sometimes you do have to pick your battles, but some things are just non-negotiable.
I often think if we gave our kids half a chance to deal with things on their own, instead of metaphorically cutting and chewing their food for them to buffer them from disappointment, grief and loss, they would do just fine.
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