Scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, and I stumble upon a post a friend shared about the expectations of parents on how children should behave in certain situations. The post retold the story of a child taking some toys to a playground, and some other children who were total strangers to this child, wanting take the toys from the child to play with. The child was uncomfortable with this, and said no, as he had brought them along to share with a friend, not these complete strangers. His mother backed him up, and as a result other parents thought she did the wrong thing. Well, I think she did the right thing.
Upside down expectations. As an adult, we would find it the height of rudeness if a stranger came up to us demanding our possessions from us. We’d even call them thieves or criminals. But somehow, it’s okay for the EXACT same thing to happen to a child and they should just acquiesce to the request. No. They shouldn’t. What does it teach a child? That it’s OK for people to just take without permission ? That if you demand something that isn’t yours, you have the right to get it ? We are supposed to be raising children to operate in the real world, so why teach them expectations that are in conflict with reality ?
Look, I am all for sharing. I have taught my son that it is good to share. But I wouldn’t expect him to share his things with complete strangers who demanded it.
This got me thinking about a few other examples of these upside down expectations we have with kids ( well, not necessarily me personally, but most adults ). Last year, my son was having difficulty with another child at school. This kid is a bully. The kind that does his bullying out of sight of anyone else, and then acts as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He’s the one that grows up, murders his entire family, and the community is shocked because he was such a sweet boy. I worked him out the year before, at kindergarten. He is a sneaky little shit, but I am very observant, more so than most people, so I saw a few of his misadventures. No other adult present did though. At first, when I said something to those in charge at school, I am sure it was looked upon as though I was making it up. Because they saw this sweet, innocent image of this kid, it was hard to prove to them that he was anything but. He had them all fooled. Because this boy and my son were in the same class, and I had said to my son that it was OK not to like him and that he didn’t have to do anything with him, and then the teachers had the expectation that they must get along, they forced the 2 of them together to get along. Now, would we force an adult to be friends with someone they disliked ? No.
Now, I can hear you saying that people work together every day who don’t like each other. Yes, you are right. But we don’t expect them to be friends, to do everything together. We have the expectation that they be cooperative at work and do the job, but we don’t expect them to have BBQ’s at each others houses. But when it’s a couple of kids, we do. Why ?
Forcing people to acquiesce to everybody else’s whim, creates situations that cause even bigger problems down the track in life. A boss asks you to do a risky job, you do it unquestioningly, you get hurt, you pay the consequences. A paedophile priest expects something from a child, the child acquiesces, because they’ve been taught to.
It’s sort of like we want to teach our kids to be easily bullied. Behaviour, like demanding a toy off a stranger, is bullying. If we teach our child that they must just acquiesce to the demand, we are teaching them to be bullied, and that it’s OK to be bullied. We are also teaching the bully that their behaviour is OK too.
Just to finish up, the tail end of the story about my sons bully, the Mr Sweet and Innocent. The powers that be at school have finally cottoned on to what this kid really is. He is on a behaviour management plan, 1 of only 2 at the school. And they don’t force my son and him to be friends anymore.