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Monday, January 23, 2012

Does your kid name-call?

Ugh - it finally happened.

I was playing cars with my son one evening last week and discussing how his day at preschool was. He is pretty open to different friends but I have really noticed his personality growing by leaps and bounds since he started at 'big boy school'.

For the most part the changes are all very positive. He's displaying way more imaginative play, his motor skills are improving as a result of having a larger outdoor area to run around in each day and he is getting much more independent. He has made some more friends which, to be fair, was easier due to following around one of his besties who has already attended this school for about a year.

He is becoming so much more opinionated and along with that he is able to articulate his feelings and thoughts quite well! Enter the 'bad words' phase of kidworld. We're not talking about swear words etc., those are easy to deal with. I'm referring to name calling like 'he's weird' or 'she's stupid'.

So back to the incident - I had asked him about which kids he was playing with at school that day and as I mentioned a few names he came back with comments like 'he's nice' or 'he's a good friend'. Until the fateful mention of one name which he replied to with 'he's weird and stupid'. WHAAAAA? My instant reaction was to try to calmly say that we don't use those words, we don't describe our acquaintances with those words and we never call other kids or adults those names. E kind of shrugged, agreed and then said that the boy in question was also 'nice'.

Later on I got to thinking - was my immediate reaction stronger than necessary?

Don't get me wrong, R and I are working hard to teach Ender that any form of bullying, be it physical or verbal, is completely unacceptable and I will die a thousand times over if (or more likely when) I find out that he has actually said something mean or disrespectful to a peer. It happened before once at his previous daycare but he was pretty much just repeating something he'd heard (not that that is an excuse).

But parents are treading a fine line between 'never say anything negative' and creating a kid who represses his opinions. I see a difference between (a) calling a peer a negative name to his face or to other kids behind his back, and (b) confiding to his mommy that he's not so fond of that peer. Let's face it - I don't like everyone I meet and they don't all like me. It's just how it is - doesn't mean there is anything wrong with someone, we just don't click. It would be totally naive to think this doesn't happen even more with children whose feelings and emotions are amplified.

Anyways - it looks like I've got some research to do on good methods to teach E (a 3 year old) the difference between having a valid opinion and preference on the types of kids he likes and wants to hang with versus telling someone you don't like their face or the way they walk. 'Say something nice or don't say anything at all' is something we've always taught E and it seems a good place to start re-enforcing his social skills.

It's a parents' prerogative to question their good-people-creating skills and I sat on the couch for a bit while Daddy played with E, wondering if I would be able to find a solution without over-reacting.

A little while later E walked up to me for a little huggle and said, 'Mommy, I sure wish you had a baby in your tummy. Do you have one? I sure wish you had a baby boy in there.' Me too, E, me too. And then it dawned on me - this kid will (hopefully) one day get the chance to be a terrific big brother because he has so many caring, nurturing qualities - even if he might call his sibling 'weird' sometimes.

Parents have a lot of work to do and some guidance is required but if we are consistent our little ones will grow up to be the wonderful people we hope for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All true, Tracy! We learned last year in Kinder about "put-downs" and "cold pricklies" so those are words we use in our house. (in case you're wondering, the opposite is "warm fuzzies" or complements). I tell my girls that they don't have to be best friends with everyone, but they need to be nice. And if someone is weird or stupid (although, for my 1st grader it's mean or irritating) I just tell her to ignore or don't hang out with that person.

Ask Ender what makes that kid weird or stupid and then defuse it that way. Maybe he thought the kid was stupid because they didn't know his numbers, so you tell him that everyone is learning and we all learn at different speeds and in different ways. Or if the kid really did to something stupid, use the opportunity to teach Ender about making better choices. And that the kid isn't stupid, just didn't make a good choice.

It's funny though, because it pains me to be nice to people I don't like. I just wait for the kids to go down to bed at night so I can download and vent to the hubby about all the stupid and weird people that irritated me that day. LOL! I don't think I got that lesson on cold pricklies in elementary school. So here's to making our kids nicer people than ourselves!

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