A friend of mine recently posted something on Facebook that made me feel pretty anxious and reminded me that there are some rocky roads ahead. She has a nice, kind daughter, and the little girl has decided that she wants to be friends with the resident “mean girl.”
If you’re the one your kid likes best, I’m sure you get what I’m saying. If you don’t feel me yet, check out this scenario:
It’s nearing bedtime and you’ve spent the day doing all kinds of parenting tasks: preparing and serving meals, brushing teeth, putting on and taking off shoes, providing potty assistance, playing cars, playing superheroes, playing more cars and more superheroes, and so on. You are tired. You say, “Daddy needs to help you get into your pajamas now.” This is met with a flood of tears and screams of “You do it! I want Mommy to do it!!”
Not only is it exhausting, it’s also heartbreaking.
Is there a way to guide children toward being kinder to the parent who is not the “preferred” one? How can we do it without making it into an awkward situation every time?
This morning I broke down. I was feeling really lousy about something and I just couldn’t keep my emotions at bay. When my husband asked what I was thinking about as I stared off into space, I promptly began sobbing and the floodgates were open.
Then my son came back to the table, book in hand, asking me to read to him while he ate his breakfast. Avoiding eye contact with him, I quickly wiped my tears away and began reading with as controlled a voice as I could muster. Z was none the wiser.
I felt good, because I was able to keep our morning going smoothly and he didn’t have to deal with a sobbing mama and the potential awkwardness that might bring along with it.
Then I checked my Twitter feed and saw an article by Six Seconds, basically saying that we need to talk about feelings with our kids in order to develop their sense of empathy. While the focus of the article is mainly on simple activities you can do to help children be aware of their own emotions, the point was driven home: I have to be more open about how I’m feeling if I want Z to be able to recognize and empathize with others’ emotions.
As I did more research, I found some other great reasons to stop shielding my son from my negative feelings.
What is our responsibility as parents when we see another child asking our child for the toy he’s playing with? Do we attempt to force sharing? Do we let them work it out on their own? What will be best in the long run? Is there a right way to go on this?
I’ve seen plenty of defiantly-worded blog posts about why parents don’t make their kids share. While I can understand where they are coming from in a way, I am not fully convinced that we should not at least encourage our children to share. It seems like a fundamental life skill. I’m honestly still sort of on the fence about how hard we should push for sharing, so I think it’s worth exploring.
I’m currently exploring the issue of that thin line between fostering kind behavior and forcing it on our children. As I explained in my previous post about preschool apologies, I get frustrated by the inauthenticity that accompanies forced apologies. This is something that I experience in my daily life as the mom of a preschooler, but it’s also something I struggled with as second- and sixth-grade teacher.
In this post, I’ll be sharing my experiences with the issue in an elementary school setting, and then outlining some strategies for moving away from forcing insincere apologies and toward fostering heartfelt resolutions. If you’re more into the funny/exasperating tales of my little three-year-old tornado, not to worry—there’s plenty more where that came from, just not this week! Continue reading “Fostering vs. Forcing: Elementary Apologies”
“That’s not nice, and it hurts Malia’s feelings. Please apologize.”
Sound familiar? Yeah. This happens so, so often. It happens at home and it happens in the classroom.
In my experience, preschool-aged children tend to say they’re sorry with one foot out the door, tingling with the excitement to get back to whatever they were doing. They apologize as quickly as possible, with a look like, “Okay? Are you happy? Can I go PLAY?”
In elementary school, a lovely eye-roll or some other show of “sorry-not-sorry” might accompany the forced apology, and then the students return to the activity they were previously engaged in. There is no genuine resolution to the issue, no exploration of how the other child felt, and no follow-up.
In both cases, we usually just make the kids say they’re sorry and go about our business.
Because we’re busy.
Because being told your shirt is an ugly color is really not the end of the world.
Because neither the kids nor you wants a lengthy discussion, anyway.
Because we think it helps the accuser feel heard.
Because we are teaching them to be kind to each other.
Because that’s what we’re supposed to do.
But IS that what we’re supposed to do? Is this REALLY teaching kids how to be kind to each other?