I picked up Sam from school yesterday and we had our usual conversation in the car about how her day went. It was all pretty normal, until Sam said, “Mom, my classmate got sent to the time out chair today.” I thought she was just relaying an event at school, but as I probed deeper, I found out this little girl was sort of a bully to my sweet Sam. “She pushes and pulls me a little too roughly. And she says she won’t be my friend because she has enough friends,” were some of the things that came out of her mouth. “She also says bad words.”
I felt my temper flare up but somehow managed to bite my tongue and breathe. Those #BetterMe sessions were hard at work before I realized it.
I didn’t want Sam to shut down and I wanted to find out more . How she felt, what she did, if she was hurt (physically or emotionally)… Sam was very matter-of-fact about it, but I could tell she couldn’t wrap her head around her seatmate rejecting her friendship and treating her that way for no apparent reason.
That night as the girls went to bed I chatted about it with my cousin who also sends her daughter to the same school. Apparently my niece experienced a similar incident. When she stood her ground with this “heavy-handed” classmate who was trying to bully her into something they were instructed not to do, my niece got accused of being mean and uncaring. My cousin said her daughter felt bad after, but was reassured that she did the right thing.
These aren’t the first set of stories I’ve heard over the year about kids with “attitudes”, or kids acting like bullies to their classmates. And often what follows are statements like, “What do the parents teach them?” or “Why are they (the kids) allowed to get away with such behavior?”
Now I’ve been fondly “accused” by people close to me that I can be very protective of my children. So much so that I’d shield them from anything “bad” even before it comes remotely close. And because in reality I can’t do that, they come home with stories and thoughts similar to those I’ve just shared. So yes, I’ve been guilty of similar thoughts and statements — judgements if you will — too. And quite honestly if it hadn’t been for these last few #BetterMe sessions with Coach Pia, I’d have done things differently.
About a month ago we had a session at the all-new Flair Towers on How to Raise Children with Strong Character and Values. And the reason I bring it up is because it makes me wonder how you can guarantee spelling the difference between kids with a solid value compass and kids who “go astray”? While I hope and pray that I’m doing something right with the girls, it’s still a thought that plagues me everyday. After all I’m not the only influence they have in their lives anymore, and they can easily pick up and do things that are against what they’re taught.
Going back to the lessons of that #BetterMe session, one thing I felt that worked in my favor was this:
The slide says it all but it’s NOT. EASY. TO DO. I admit that my initial reaction when Sam told me would have been to shriek, “WHAT?!” And I probably would have launched into a litany of how that was wrong versus right and what she should do or how she should fight back. But I remembered this and instead, I asked questions. I reserved my judgements for myself and tried to help Sam process how she felt. There was no right or wrong, I let her say her piece and worked through what we could when I could inject my thoughts without the lecture.
The other part of the session that struck me (a month later no less!) as this was unfolding before my eyes and ears, was when Coach Pia said:
Unknowingly (and thankfully so, whew!), this is something I’ve been doing with the girls too. I avoid the phrase, “because I said so”, and I make it a point to explain the bigger reason behind the discipline. Safety, respect, honesty, trust, openness. I use them often and I try to say it in ways she’ll understand.
Somehow I think it stuck. Sam had no qualms about opening up to me and saying exactly how she felt (I hope it stays that way always!). I didn’t correct her strong words, because I knew she was saying it to me only and I acknowledged that. I also appreciated her telling me that she didn’t retaliate because she knew it was wrong. Despite looking like the weaker one of the two, somehow I hope I was able to reinforce that she actually was the stronger one. And I affirmed her decision to not repeat the bad words she’d heard.
And so I go back to the judging statements about what the parents teach or don’t teach, and allow or don’t allow. More and more, I’m beginning to think it’s not really that parents teach the wrong things or allow misbehavior to happen. No parent in their right mind would purposely do that. Rather, it might just be the amount of influence (or lack thereof) over their kids. And as a disclaimer, it’s also not about quantity over quality time (because I know of parents who work full-time and have kids with strong values and characters), but as Coach Pia says, it’s really about being present. It’s important to emphasize family time over friends time, especially as the kids get older. The presence of parents should be felt 5x more to those of their peers. Family influence will imbibe strong values, and will combat any other influence that peers will bring to the table. And if all else fails, you go back to the first insight on resisting lecturing, so you are open to them and they are open to you.
I’ve to say this post has been in my drafts for quite sometime. Life got in the way what can I say. I’m glad it did; because yesterday’s incident helped me crystalize the lessons even more. And while I know I’m the furthest thing from being the parent that knows it all, I’m all for learning and doing whatever it takes that will help make me a better one step at a time.
Thank you to Lysol for sponsoring this #BetterMe Session with The One Core. Visit their Facebook page: Lysol Philippines for the latest products that can help make your home and hands germ-free.