When I think about the way I am parenting my children and about the people I hope they become, some of the most important words that pop into my head are kind and compassionate. Of course I would be thrilled if my children blossomed into little geniuses who would one day discover a cure for cancer or something equally epic as well, but above all, I want them to be kind and to truly care about others. If they become those things, then I will feel like my years of parenting will be a success.
Up until recently, I had never experienced a situation where my children were intentionally unkind or hurtful to anyone else. Of course, there had been some rough play incidents or times when they refused to share, but nothing more than is typical for young children. Then a situation came up recently that I felt a bit unprepared for: My daughter intentionally excluded one of her friends while playing in a group and did so in a not-very-kind way.
But what stood out most about this particular situation was that I didn’t actually witness it.
I’m sure things like this happen for a lot of parents while their kids are off at school, but since my 3-year-old isn’t yet in preschool, I haven’t had this experience. This particular interaction occurred during a little holiday get together I hosted for my stay-at-home mama friends and their little ones. There were upwards of 20 people at my house (over half of which were children), so it was a bit of a controlled chaos situation. As a result of not being able to be everywhere at once, I missed this interaction that took place in my daughter’s bedroom. Thankfully, there was another mom present who was there to step in.
Later that afternoon, I received a text message from this friend who had very thoughtfully waited until the chaos of the day had subsided to talk to me about what happened. She was incredibly respectful, but let me know that my daughter had said and done some things that had really hurt her daughter’s feelings. She wasn’t trying to “tattle” on my child and she wasn’t being overly sensitive about her child’s feelings either, but she knew that as a mom and a friend, I would want to know about a potential teachable moment that I had missed. She was hesitant to approach me because she didn’t want me to be offended, but I was so thankful that she did because it takes a village, and I can’t be there for every moment. Yes, it was uncomfortable for both of us, but it was necessary.
After speaking with my friend, I was able to sit down with my daughter and ask her about what happened that morning. She confessed and we had a good discussion about the power our words have and how they can be really hurtful to others. I suggested that an apology might be in order for her friend, and she agreed. She wanted to make an “I’m sorry” card for her, and then I suggested a FaceTime phone call apology. After following through with both, I told her how proud I was of her for making it right. We talked about how we all do things that are unkind sometimes, but it’s important that we make the choice to rectify it. I think when all was said and done, we both felt good about the resolution, but we never would’ve gotten there had my friend not spoken up.
Later that evening, as I discussed the events of the day with my husband and hashed it all out, I realized that I never want to become one of those parents who blindly takes everything my child says as gospel. In my pre-motherhood career experience as a teacher, I definitely encountered plenty of parents who fell into the “my child is a saint” category of thinking. Any time a behavioral situation arose that required discussion, these parents ran to the immediate defense of their children as though my teaching team and I were trying to attack them or were at fault for failing to meet their needs properly. It made my job as an educator difficult, because in reality, all I was looking for was a bit of support in my attempt to help guide their children. I wasn’t trying to cast those children in a negative light. We all have our shortcomings, and it’s a lifelong journey to better ourselves in those areas — children are no different. My children are no different.
As much as I adore my children and think they are a wonderful gift in my life, I realize that they are imperfect little beings. I would much rather know about my child’s shortcomings than live in denial. I want my kids to know that I love them and that I am in their corner, but that it is also my job as a parent to teach them and guide them when they make poor choices. If I’m going to help my children grow into kind and compassionate individuals, then that starts with being honest about what they need to work on. As a parent, there will be times when I need a little bit of perspective when it comes to my kids, and other adults in our lives (friends, parents, teachers, etc.) can help me do that.
So if you see my children being mean to another child at the playground or they speak to you rudely — please let me know. My initial instinct might be a bit mama bear-esque, but when approached with true concern and respect, it will be appreciatively received.More On