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You Will Not Be That Kid

My son is the cutest thing out there and he knows it. He’s a blonde, green eyed charmer who knows how to use it to his advantage. He‘s also a very sweet boy, who when he stops trying to be the class clown, is very sensitive and caring.   Now I know this all sounds like a proud momma bragging – but there is a point. He’s also a very moody, sneaky, eight year old boy who has little patience, even less impulse control and a lack of understanding of consequences. Is he like any other typical eight year old boy?  I don’t know the answer to that, but he is who he is.

We have had two incidents recently that have required me to put on my super absorbent big girl parent pants and re-enforce some clear rules and expectations of who my son will be and how he is expected to behave.

Every school has some kids that don’t necessarily fit in.  Other kids don’t necessarily take to them easily and they are awkward in social situations. As parents, we know firsthand how kids don’t have filters when it comes to letting us know how they feel.  Unless we teach them, they don’t understand the concept of empathy and being kind just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s our job as their parents to teach them how to behave.

My son was a part of a group playing with Star Wars and Transformer figures at the after school program he attends during the school year. When I arrived to pick him up, I noticed a boy sitting alone at a table clearly upset. The boy told me that the group of boys wouldn’t include him. I get that we can’t force our kids to be friends with everyone – that’s not fair to them, but we can teach them empathy and kindness.

On our way home I mentioned the incident to my son who quickly explained that he doesn’t have to be friends with everyone at school. I agreed with him, but asked him to think about how he would feel if he was that boy, and everyone around him refused to include him. I asked him to think about what feelings he would have. Would he be upset? Would he feel alone?  Would it make him cry?  What if that kid was me or another family member? Would he want someone he loves to be treated that way?  He started to tear up when he really started considering the situation.

Just this week, my precocious son and a few of his buddies said some inappropriate things to a few of the younger girls at camp. The camp counselors intervened and the boys got in trouble. My son came home denying he had anything to do with it. He swore he didn’t say it and his friend was the perpetrator and lied to get him in trouble.  He has never been disciplined for this sort of thing before, so we decided to focus on his side of the story and teach him to make better choices.  We asked him why he would want to be friends with someone that lies and gets him in trouble. To think about whether or not that is the right kind of person to befriend and hang out with?  And of course that what he said was completely inappropriate and unacceptable – period.

In closing both discussions, my husband and I made it crystal clear that he will not be that kid. The one who thinks it’s funny to pick on kids if everyone else is doing it. The one that goes along with the crowd. The one who gets in trouble for doing things that are just plain stupidWe expect more from him and will not accept anything less than empathy, kindness and some common sense.  Do I expect his behavior to change overnight? Of course not – eight year olds are not even near fully developed mentally. But I believe that if you keep repeating, reminding and living your expectations, your kids will learn who they are destined to become, eventually. 

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