Monday, July 2, 2007

Decision Training?

I was at my last ECFE class with my kids last Tuesday when a parent brought up a particular child in her neighborhood who is not as well-behaved as most of the other parents in the area would like. This parent went on to say that the mother of the child does little to discipline him.

I sat in silence during most of the group time, feeling uncomfortable as the other parents lobbed judgemental tisk-tisks and made suggestions like telling the mother that everyone in the neighborhood thinks she's a rotten parent (or something slightly more tactful) or simply removing her own child from the boy by retreating into her house every time this kid is outside.

While driving home from the class, it hit me what was bothering me about the conversation.

Everyone was focused on the rotten kid with the rotten parents who did nothing. They never once thought that their child will ever be seen as unruly or undisciplined. They thought things like simply banning the use or even touching of toys like squirt guns would ensure that their children will never act aggressively or bratty.

The thing is, your kids are going to meet rotten people all their lives. I know we all want to protect our kids but I am beginning to see that this sheltering could really be doing them a great disservice.

Why not give our own children the tools to make things better for themselves? The reality is, we won't be there to protect our kids at all times. Nor should we be. I'm willing to bet that our kids will be the ones that another parent is shaking his head at more than once. Kids will pick up on less-than-desirable things from a variety of sources --including their own parents.

Perhaps instead of isolating the rotten kids we should simply teach our own children the "right" way to behave and let them decide for themselves that they don't want to be with kids who act inappropriately. Once they are teenagers and met with kids who smoke or use illegal drugs or the host of other things no parent wants their kids to engage in, they will be secure in their abilities to stand up for their values and choose to not partake.

My kids are smart enough to learn these things but they won't learn if I don't give them the tools and opportunity to practice when the consequences of choosing to "hang" with the "rotten" kids are small.

I'm not saying to let the rotten kid beat up on our kids. I'll be the first to step in and tell the kid not to hit --even if his parent is nearby and within earshot. I have no problem parenting someone else's child if they either didn't see the incident or if they simply chose to ignore it. No one hurts my kid and gets off scott-free.

But if the kid is just saying naughty things or playing with toys we don't particularly care for, I think there is some value in letting our children hear and see those things while explaining that our families value different things. Our kids will likely make choices that we wish they wouldn't make at first, but with enough practice and enough reinforcement of our values, the message will still get through. And in time that the big decisions are easy to make, and choose the "right" choice.

At least I hope so.

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Sandy said...


I often have sat amongst parents that criticize others while gloating about their own little angels. Heck, I found myself doing it at times...until I found out that my kids were sometimes the trouble makers.

I have long that that we as parents are doing our kids a grave disservice by shielding them too much, so thanks for writing this post.

Harmonica Man said...

That's how we see it too. You instill good values and morals while they're growing up, teach them right from wrong and hope it all sticks when they're out there making their own decisions in the real world. That's about all you can really do once they're teens on up.

Bon777 said...

I think that a big part of the problem with North American culture it that people are often afraid to speak out and discipline other peoples children when it is needed. I still believe that parenting sometimes has to be a group effort. So kudos to you for having a back bone. I'm the same way when it comes to kids inappropriately acting out, be they mine or someone else’s.

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