Playing Nice–Parenting Savoir-Faire

Parenting is no easy task. As parents, we have the incredible responsibility to introduce the world to our children, and in turn, introduce them to the world. We feel compelled to teach them, nurture them, and encourage them. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are. We’ve all been exhausted, frustrated and impatient. Raising a kind, self-sufficient human is hard and stressful work.

In an age where people often complain that young people act entitled, parents have added pressures. Although our children may be the center of our universe, it’s important to tread carefully so that they don’t believe that they are the center of THE universe.

To mitigate that kind of thinking, there are a couple of things we need to consider. Firstly, I think it’s important to instill a sense of responsibility. I want to raise a child who takes responsibility for his actions. I don’t want to hear blame shifting or excuses. A child needs to own and learn from his or her mistakes.

Secondly, while I think that there are situations where we should let kids be kids, I also believe that it’s a parent’s responsibility to correct a child and teach them about what’s appropriate, and about owning consequences.

Case in point. I was at the park recently and watched a preventable situation unfold.

A child was throwing sand and laughing. Mom was laughing in response. Her child continued to throw sand again and again. Each time, with a mini audience cheering him on. My immediate concern was that someone, sand-thrower included, was going to get sand in their eye since there were other little ones nearby. Finally, he throws more sand, this time on Mom, laughs, and says, “It’s snow”. Mom smiles and says, “Yes, it is like snow”, while brushing off the sand. This went on for a while, with the child increasing his aggressiveness with sand.

Eventually, what I was afraid would happen, happened. Another child got sand in his eye. The mom (finally) steps in. She says, “No, no, don’t throw sand”. The child ignores her. She does nothing else. No consequence. Guess what? He goes back to throwing sand. I went ahead and removed my child from the area.

Everyone’s parenting style is different. Personally, if my child had thrown sand, I would have re-directed the behaviour immediately. I would have said something along the lines of “Please don’t throw sand. You might hurt someone. If you do it again, we’re going to have to leave”. And, if sand happened to fly through the air again, we would have left.

Of course, like most parents, I question if I’m doing a good job. In this instance however, hindsight is 20/20. My inner critic told me I was too polite and I regret not stepping in sooner. All I can do now is learn and move on. As for the other mom, I can only imagine how she must have felt, knowing that her child had injured another. I suspect she too wishes she had said something sooner.

Children will forever push the boundaries and it’s unfair to let a (potentially dangerous) behaviour progress to a critical level and then expect a child to stop once a parent finally realizes it’s gone too far. We’ve got to nip it in the bud! As far as I’m concerned, life is full of consequences. Better to learn the lessons early than risk a rude awakening later on.

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