Friday, June 29, 2012

Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor. Unless Someone Cuts In Line.

Yesterday I really just had too much to think about. Ann Curry leaving the Today Show, the Supreme Court decision on the healthcare mandate, the fires in Colorado, an appointment with the crazy pill doctor, and my son telling his camp supervisor that "my mommy said that if someone hits you that you can hit them back."

Thanks for that, Will - totally not what I said. Mostly.

Monday of this week I posted on Facebook about an altercation that Will had with another child at camp. The long and short of it was that Will kicked the other kid because he was ripping his necklace off, hurting his neck and halfway choking him. On the way home we were talking about what happened, and how it possibly could have been handled differently, and Will was very worried about being in trouble at home. I finally looked him in the eyes and told him that "Daddy and I will never punish you for defending yourself. Try to settle a problem with an adult or by walking away first, but if someone is hurting you, you are allowed to fight back."

Maybe this is not PC or whatever, but I am not going to teach my son that he has to let someone pummel him, or in this case, rip a necklace off his neck. Especially one that he got at buddy camp with his dad and had owned for less than 48 hours. I assured him that starting trouble or bullying would most certainly land him in very hot water and tried to be sure he understood the difference. And I do believe that his tendency towards, shall we say, ending a problem rather than starting one will serve him well as an adult man but teaching him the discretion it takes to understand what to do or not do in situations like this is trully challenging.

The next day after the necklace incident, he did great. The day after that, I got yet another note and was pulled into a mini-conference again. This time involved a pushing contest with another child who was, in Will's estimation, cutting in line. Again, in trouble at camp, and this time in trouble with us as the other child is five or six years old and Will is almost nine. I tried to explain to him that a line cut by a first grader was in no way reasonable grounds for pushing and shoving, even if the other child pushed him first.

However, the coup de grace was when the supervisor asked me about his "hit them back" statement. Ugghhh.

Some of parenting is easy. Don't steal. Be honest. Treat others as you would like to be treated. But it's the intangibles that are so difficult. Don't kick - unless someone is choking you, then it's okay. Don't hit - unless someone tries to touch your penis (yes, that happened earlier this school year). Tell the truth - unless it is an unnecesary statement that will hurt someone's feelings. For a hyper-literal child like Will this is like speaking a foreign language. Cecilia has that kind of innate people sense to understand these things but my son's thinking is so black and white that grey may not as well even exist. I really hope that continued teaching and explaining will help him learn the difference because I really don't want him to get his block knocked off and I really, really don't want him to think that physical solutions are the only ones.

How do you guys teach your kids the difference? Do you find the space between wrong and right to be clear? When is it standing up for yourself and when is it using poor judgment?

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Angela Drake said...

Wow, Rebecca, that's a toughie. I have two perfectly responsible and mannerly daughters and one son has thrown everything I thought I knew about children and parenting on its head. I think I'm a little too tough on him sometimes, but that is a whole different thread and deserves a blog post of my own, so let me give some thoughts I've been ruminating on for about a month or so.
My daughters are entering puberty, and I want them to make good choices as adults, and I cannot come up with every behavior that is appropriate for any given scenario. If you teach ONLY appropriate behaviors, they'll not be able process the correct behavior when something unforseen happens. That's why we teach them values and the attitude we should take toward other people.
My son was hitting his sisters one day in the car after school, I told him to stop hitting his sisters, so he took a pencil and starting jabbing them with the eraser side. Stop jabbing your sister! So he put it down, and started using his baseball cap to swat at them. Pull the car over!! "RUSSELL! The intent of me telling you these things is so you do not HARM sisters in any way! I don't care what clever and creative ways you pick to actually abide by what I've told you throughout this entire drive! If it causes your sisters discomfort, then DON'T do it!! Physically, emotionally, anything of those! You want your sisters to enjoy being around you--that's the way I want you to be. Enjoyable to be around!"
So, hmmm, if you were able to sum up what value you your child to live out, the behavior will hopefully evolve.
Now, here's the catch. That's how MY brain works...We'll see in time if that is how sweet Russell's brain works, or Will's too. Now that you see what some potential snags in the "you are able to defend yourself" statement are: what is defending myself, where does it cross the line when it comes to younger people, how will other people perceive what I am doing?
I would say, "You may defend yourself from bodily harm and abuse so long as it doesn't 1) cause the other person intentiona harm, 2) you didn't start the process rolling to begin with, and 3) you tried to get out of the situation by contacting an authority figure."
Then begin the conversation about how your own personal space is sacred to you, it belongs to you, and no one should be allowed to violate it. The same applies for you and other people. Don't violate their personal space, unless they have first broken that sancity.
I don't know...maybe too deep for a kid, but the intention is there to help them understand the underlying intentions for their actions...

bereccah5 said...

Angie - how did you ever get so smart? That is exactly the problem - the actual definition of the word versus the intention behind it. Thank you very much for such wise insight - makes perfect sense and I will be using it in very short order. Thank you. :-)

Mrs. Tuna said...

In many ways it feels like you;re chasing your tail. There is always a different situation for everything. Maybe you could tell him to ask himself what will mom and dad think if I do this?

bereccah5 said...

Good suggestion. His problem mostly is that when he gets upset, everything we've told him just goes right out the window. How do we help him remember this stuff during a stressful situation?