If you've been following me for awhile you know that in my pre-mom life I was an elementary school teacher. I taught for twelve years and five of those years I worked with students who had severe behavior issues. I learned a lot about how to deal with kids in tough situations. How and when to address specific behaviors, and how to give appropriate and meaningful consequences for their behaviors. I feel blessed to have learned a lot about human behavior before I became a mom. I know the majority of parents have the best intentions when it comes to our kids. We want them to be good, kind human beings. Kids need to learn how important it is to treat others with kindness. I think it's the most crucial part of being a parent-teaching kindness, empathy and respect. We have to be in their
ear constantly and maybe even be a little naggy about it.
There are lots of techniques for dealing with specific behaviors. Ignoring behaviors can sometimes be helpful. Like if your kid is being harmless but annoying or whiny, it can sometimes be best to ignore or dismiss the behavior. But mamas, if our kids are being rude, dismissive or bullying, we can never ignore those behaviors. We have to address it immediately and always. And we may not always know it's happening, so it's super important to be aware and present around your little ones at all times. Between ages 2-5, kids are discovering who they are, learning to recognize other people's feelings, and starting to understand what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate. It's crucial that we really start to talk about other people's feelings at this age, because kids naturally are very concerned about their own feelings and what's happening in their little worlds. We have to teach them young that everyone else has feelings too, and it's not just their feelings that matter.
The past couple days we've encountered some bully-ish behavior at the park. Two different instances, both where the boys were definitely twice Rio's size and age. My friend's boy, who is the same age as Rio, started playing with a little boy's scooter and the boy hit him. Twice. Then used the scooter to push him away. The two year old wasn't physically hurt, but it definitely hurt his heart. I think the boy's parents were in a different part of the park watching another child play soccer. They were nowhere to be found. The boy's behavior was totally unnecessary, he easily could have just taken the scooter away from the 2 year old if he didn't want to share. He was much bigger and stronger, there was no need to hit or push. My friend handled it well, she told the boy not to hit her son, and he ran away. She also told her son that we can't take other people's things, but that boy shouldn't have hit him.
A little while later two other boys, about would say 4 or 5 years old, had a toy car that they were taunting our 2 year olds with. They would throw the car toward our boys so that one of our little guys would pick it up, then they would take it away and in a really mean voice say, "you can't have our car and you can't play with us." This happened several times. Both moms had other little ones and didn't see what was going on. One mom did come over eventually, maybe because she heard me asking her son to please be kind to our little boys. She tried to make things right, corrected her son and was very nice. The other mom just kind of stood there and didn't say a word.
A few days ago at the park, there were some big kids, maybe 6 years old, were riding their scooters around a walkway where several babies and toddlers were sitting and playing. It was pretty dangerous, not a safe place to be riding scooters full speed. It was as if they didn't even notice the younger kids, no regard for them whatsoever. The moms of the toddlers had to react and move their kids out of the way so they wouldn't get run over. At no point did the moms intervene and it was so shocking to me. I asked the boys a couple times to please slow down, and even then their moms didn't redirect them.
These stories may just sound like normal kid stuff, but they are bothersome to me. This post is not meant to sound like mom shaming. I really do think we are all trying our best. I just think we all need reminders that our kids need to be shown how to recognize and acknowledge the feelings of others. We get so caught up in life-work, school, sports, etc., but are we focusing enough on the really important stuff? Will our kids make good choices? Will they sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria?
I think it helps to start really early on talking to them about kindness and caring about others feelings. Rio just turned 2 and I feel like I've been talking about being kind and nice to others every chance I get. Recently Rio noticed a boy hitting another one at the park he said, "we don't hit people, make people happy." I was so surprised when he said that. He really understands all the things I've been trying to teach him! I don't ever want him to be a jerk and if I ever witness it, you better believe I won't let it slide. And if you ever see it and I don't, please tell me!! We need to all work together as mamas. Expect your child to show respect. To you and to others. The easy thing to do is ignore behaviors, but that doesn't help. Teach polite words early and correct your kids politely. Use words like please and thank you and teach them to call people by name. Kids pick up on everything we say to them. Even when they are babies. They hear you, they watch you. The littlest things you do and say matter. So let's work together for the greater good as parents. Love each other. Let's teach our kids to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.