Friday, October 06, 2006

A delicate balance

Last week, I walked into the babysitting center at my gym to find Peanut in tears. It took some coaxing to discover that she was upset because “a boy grabbed” her. I have no idea if it was a playful grab or something more aggressive, but Peanut is a sensitive soul, easily hurt and quick to back down in the face of more boisterous children.

I told her the next time it happened she should:
1. Tell one of the babysitters (I know, tattling is supposed to be bad, but I think something that upsetting to her warrants it), and/or,
2. Tell the other child, firmly, that you don’t like being , and to stop it.

When I told her she could (and should) tell someone being mean to her to stop it, she looked shocked. This was obviously news to her. We teach our children to be obedient, but sometimes we need them to speak up for themselves.

Ever since that day, I’ve been rolling this over in my head. In the grand scheme, this was a minor incident. But it raises questions. How do you teach your child to be assertive without being rude? To exhibit free will without being stubborn? To stand up for themselves without being a brat?

It’s a delicate balance.

Because not all kids are nice and not all touches are good. We won’t always be there to protect them, so they need to know how to protect themselves. Sometimes that involves simply saying no, firmly. Other times it might entail a lot more. I want my girls to trust their instincts, have the confidence to say no, the smarts to walk (or run) away, and the spirit to fight back if they have to. To fight for their life if they need to.

At the same time, I don’t want to terrify them, squashing all of that precious childlike innocence. They’ll be forced to learn that there’s bad in the world too young as it is.

I have no answers to these questions, and I know that’s just the nature of the beast. So for the moment I’ll just sit here, trying to balance, hoping for answers, and praying for the future.

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