Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let the Kids Figure It Out

As a homeschooler, I believe it is important to find opportunities for my child to be around other children on a regular basis. I know there are some homeschooling families who do not believe this is important, and actually believe the opposite to be true. They don't want their children to spend very much time with children outside of their own families.

As a Montessori homeschooler, I want as many opportunities as possible for my child to interact and practice being in social situations. His time in private and public Montessori schools gave him skills to navigate the community of a classroom. Being peaceful is part of the Montessori curriculum, and in order to do that we must practice.

We visited with friends for a little bit of social interaction a few weeks ago. The kids played peacefully inside and outside while the moms talked. Everything seemed just fine.

Time was up and we had to be somewhere. Once we arrived at our evening event I received a text message. The mother of one of the children was concerned. She stated that my child had said a spate of very negative, and some hurtful, things to the other children. Of course she wasn't there to hear these things, so her child had told her these things after we had gone.

Instead of immediately going into interrogation mode, I decided that once I had a chance to talk with my son I would ask about how things had gone that afternoon. What did you guys do? What did you think of so-and-so ( a kid he had only met once before) and so on. I tried to artfully address each accusation without coming right out and asking, "Did you say this?"

Once I got a pretty good feel for how the day went, I decided I wasn't so sure he had said any of those things. He seemed to have a good time. I dug a little deeper and asked a few more questions. He seemed to have a good time playing outside, but admitted he didn't care for the video games that were available. He liked seeing one kid again whom he had met only once before, and I could tell by his demeanor and tone that he would like to spend time with him again.

I wasn't quite sure what to do next.

My main concern was making sure that if he did say the things he was accused of that he realized how hurtful they were, and that it was not OK.

But part of me wondered why in the world I was even dealing with it. Not that I think my child should be allowed to behave badly, but because I didn't understand why the kids wouldn't have dealt with it on their own, at the time.

It turns out that he denies saying them, and so instead of dealing with him saying hurtful things, it has turned into something entirely different. He's been accused of things he didn't do.

I feel very frustrated by this. What are we doing to our children? It seems like parents are so involved in their children's lives that the children can't handle their own business. By jumping in, we are taking away their opportunities to practice working things out on their own when a problem arises.

When I was a kid, and when my older two were kids, this was not the case. I remember  having heated fights and arguments with my friends when I was a kid, and then we found a way to work it out. The stakes were too high not to work it out. If you didn't work it out, who in the world were you going to play with?

I watched from the window as my oldest son, who at the time was about 5 or 6 years old, stand up to some older kids who came into our yard and started bullying my daughter, who was about 4. He flat out told them they had to leave, and were not going to talk to his sister that way. I was standing by in case I needed to intervene, but I let him handle it on his own. Those kids left and didn't come back.

I grew up learning to deal with my own quarrels with other kids. On the playground, in the classroom, at church, or in our own backyard, the kid arguments and issues were theirs to deal with. My mom only interfered when it was clearly dangerous or she was fed up with the noise of an argument.

I tend to take that same attitude. I don't think this is my fight. If Sean had said those things the child has accused him of it would mean that we need to have a serious talk about how to speak to our friends.

He denied using the words he is accused of using. We've had a couple of conversations now about this, and I've asked him how he wants to handle being accused of something he didn't do. One thing is very clear, he plans to handle it on his own.

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