Seldom is there a fiercer anger than when a mama bear’s cub gets injured. Should a fellow kindergartener toss out a few typical teases, she’ll be forever labeled as a Mean Girl by the other mama bears, for certain. A boy who shoves another boy is a terrible bully. A child who hits must be hit at home. A kid who bites has “something wrong” with them. What is normal childhood behaviour, and what is truly of concern?
I’m no expert, for certain, but I know that as adults, we tend to interpret situations we see our kids in through our own eyes. With that vision comes our years of experience, any baggage we have from when we were younger, and an understanding that social imbalances suck for everyone, of course. But the thing is, much of what we react over is normal kid stuff. Kids push. They tease. They’re mean. This is normal, and this is exactly why we parents, caregivers, and role models exist. We work to teach them that these aren’t okay behaviours, but we forget that despite them not being acceptable, they’re totally normal. The whole point of being a kid is that you don’t know what being a grown up is all about. Most grown ups don’t even seem to have a good grasp on it, so why do we expect so much from young kids?
I was speaking to some parents about an injury my son got at school this week. He and a kid (who, by the way, stands at least a foot taller than my son) in his kindergarten class had not been having a fun day together. There were a few verbal spats during the day, culminating in the other kid shoving my son, pretty hard. Hard enough that Mason’s forehead caught the corner of a door and the resulting black-and-blue goose-egg draws some pretty good stares.
Was it ok for the other (older, much bigger) kid to do that? Nope. Was I raging mad ready to tear a strip of him or his parents? Also nope.
My friends suggested I speak to his mother, who I see regularly dropping her son at school. They suggested I complain to the school, and have the kids monitored more appropriately in the school yard.
Yeah, no. The kid hurt my son, but it’s okay. It’s normal.
Kids are still developing coping skills for, well, everything. My son still melts down when I tell him he can’t have ice cream before bed, or when I suggest that maybe he should pee one more time before sleep so he doesn’t pee the bed again. He can’t cope with frustration yet, he’s only four. So sometimes feelings build up and explode out the only way he knows how: physically and verbally. And we walk him through the feelings, teach him how to appropriately cope, and we move on. I expect that others are the same, and I don’t go off the deep end when my kids are hurt by other kids. I walk them through that, too, and explain how we’re all just figuring out how to be people together on the earth.
I think that as parents, we’re hyper aware of bullying lately because it’s a great buzzword. If someone doesn’t agree, they’re a bully! If a kid steps out of line, they’re a bully! But our definitions are all mixed up and in our efforts to be more aware, we’re focusing on the wrong things. I wrote about that in another post you might want to read, too.
Look, we all want to protect our kids. But this crazy helicoptering, overprotective, bubble-wrapping, crazed-bear-parenting isn’t helping. We’re raising kids who can't even run in school yards without fears of accidents, kids who don’t know how to socialize properly, kids who don’t trust their own instincts, kids who have no moral compasses. Instead of teaching the skills they need, we’re eliminating the challenges, but the thing is, we can’t do that forever.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t stand for bullying, emotional, or physical abuses from other kids. But my son is in kindergarten and I don’t think any of his classmate are sociopathic monsters. I think they’re little kids still learning how to be.
One day kids aren’t kids anymore, and what then?