Kids making their way in society -- knowing when to help and when to step back - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 01-26-2013, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 12 yo dd has been homeschooled up to this point. Also, up until several months ago, she didn't roam the neighborhood on her own, apart from our immediate block. She'd been wanting to do more on her own for a long time, and it's been a struggle for dh and me because of all the gang activity in our neighborhood, and because of how we see prostitution and drug deals taking place here and there. But she really needed a broader canvass and didn't like always having dh or me with her -- not that she wants to do anything bad, she's actually a very cautious and conscientious girl: she just likes the feeling of being on her own.

 

So, several months ago, we started letting her go on her own for three mile walks with our big (mostly Labrador) dog, up to a nearby park and around the track and back. She takes these walks nearly every day, and hasn't run into any problems so far. She now also takes some walks without the dog to see her one good friend in the neighborhood, and sometimes they go hang out at the park on their own, and they hadn't encountered any problems until just recently.

 

About a week ago, I think it was last Saturday, dd came home and said some kids got really upset with her. She and her friend had been playing basketball at the park when a group of about ten kids came over and started playing on their court. Since the adjacent court was empty, dd told her friend, "Let's go to the other court because I don't like sharing," and the kids followed them over and asked if she had a problem. Dd said she didn't and just wanted to play on her own court. I wasn't there and dd wasn't able to remember the whole interaction word for word, but somehow it culminated in at least one of the kids claiming that dd had told them to "get their (ethnically descriptive word) asses off the court."

 

While I wasn't there and I'm not trying to be "that parent' who assumes their little darling can do no wrong, I DO know that dd didn't say that. She's not mean -- but she also doesn't worry much about all the different ways that a statement like "I don't like sharing" can be interpreted.

 

Dd and her friend decided to leave, and were walking off when a lady came up and said, "Don't you girls let them run you off!" And the lady hung around with them for a little bit and the other kids went off and she didn't see them anymore that day. She has since noticed at least a couple of them while walking at the park and they didn't approach her or really act like they recognized her, so it sounds like there may not be any fallout from this.

 

After the incident, I suggested that some people might feel hurt by her saying, "I don't like sharing." She was like "Well I DON'T like sharing!" And she felt like the other kids were kind of rude to just converge on the court that she and her friend were already playing on, when there was another completely empty court they could have taken. I suggested that maybe they were hoping to play all together and she said, "Well, I don't want to play with a huge group of kids I don't even know!" I should add that she hasn't had much basketball practice up to this point, but is trying to get better, and feels uncomfortable when surrounded by kids who play much better.

 

I feel like I'm often jumping in and critiquing her interactions with other kids, rather than just listening and supporting. Now that she's moving into the teen years, if I can't change this tendency of mine, she may very well not feel like opening up to me much longer. So I really want to be more careful about just jumping in wtth advice.

 

But I also worry about her, even though I know that, when I was a kid back in the 70's, my friends and I roamed a lot on our own, and certainly had our share of little altercations, and lived to tell the tale. However, we didn't live in an ethnically diverse neighborhood like the one we are raising our girls in, so the conflicts never turned into accusations that one party or the other was being racist. Not that we couldn't still be just as mean and hateful -- but when racism is brought into the discussion, it just seems more potentially explosive. But maybe I'm over-dramatizing, because if one adult accuses another of being racist, it's such a serious thing. Maybe with kids it's like a lot of other of childhood name-calling where the kids can hate each other one day and be best buds the next. Maybe it's not so serious when children do it.

 

On the one hand, I feel so great about my daughters growing up shoulder-to-shoulder with kids of all different ethnicities. But on the other hand, I worry about my daughter who is so assertive about saying exactly what she thinks, and who never pretends to feel one way if she feels another, because at least one kid in that group did accuse her of being racist.

 

Dd has also really been wanting to go to public school, and will be starting in our neighborhood public middle school this fall. 8th grade was my absolute worst year in school, but I know my dd is not me and she really doesn't want to wait 'til 9th or 10th grade. So it looks like she'll be out there in the thick of it. I console myself by remembering that at least she has the choice of coming back to homeschooling if at any point she wants to -- but I still worry and wonder about the best way to help her through this time. Thanks for listening, and any insights you may have are very welcome!


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#2 of 16 Old 01-27-2013, 08:30 PM
 
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It really seems as though nothing really happened. I might consider talking with your daughter about how it can often be wiser to say nothing if you can't say something nice (or, at least, tactful). Not that it will work - but it's worth a try.

 

My daughter is rather outspoken and makes it clear that she WILL tell you the truth, no matter how distasteful you might find it. She routinely tells people not to ask for her opinion unless they want the unvarnished truth. Admirable, to some extent. But it certainly did not win her any popularity contests. She is starting to learn some tact, however.

 

At the end of the day, though... she will have to learn to navigate these kinds of issues however is most comfortable for her.
 

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#3 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 03:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I agree that that particular situation doesn't seem to be a big deal. We did have a long conversation yesterday (well, several over the course of the day) because it was brought to my attention that some people at church felt dd had behaved rudely toward them. From what I can gather, it was at least three different people, the first incident about four months ago.

 

When I talked with dd, she couldn't even remember one incident, and in the other two cases, she didn't feel her behavior was rude. In the September case, she'd been helping at a youth fundraiser, a used book sale, and the people in charge had wanted her to come help all day on a Saturday, even though they knew I couldn't be there myself because I had to work. Overall, she had a lot of fun helping and what I heard about at the time was how extremely helpful she was and how glad they were to have her. But apparently, there was one incident where she and a lady (from the church who came to shop for books) had been chatting about the old TV series "Lost," which we'd just acquired and were watching for the first time, and the lady missed what dd said about just being in season 2 and told her something about the ending. and dd just got really upset and started yelling, "Why would you DO that!!?" and the lady felt horrible and kept apologizing, because she hadn't realized dd hadn't seen the end yet, but dd continued to be upset.

 

It was really unfortunate that dd got so upset, especially since she was in the role of volunteer and here was someone supporting their endeavor -- but of course I understood how upsetting it was for dd. Those things just do happen sometimes. When dd came home, she mentioned what the lady had told her and how mad she was about it, and the lady had even insisted on giving her a book to try to make up for it. But I didn't really think to question dd about exactly how she'd reacted to the situation, and nobody ever said anything to me at the time. It wasn't actually the lady herself who'd complained, but some of the other people who were around at the time.

 

The other incident dd remembers was just recently when she'd been invited to hang out at a friend's one afternoon. My friend, dd's friend's mom, told me that she and dd were having a conversation and dd suddenly held up her finger to tell her to stop talking, and she really lit into dd and let her know that we don't do that at our house. When I asked dd, she said they hadn't been in the middle of a conversation -- she'd been listening to a song on her headphones and singing along, and my friend had asked her something about the song, and dd was really into the song right then and held up her finger to let her know that she'd talk to her after the song was over. I explained to dd that not everyone understands about jamming to music, and since she has the song on a dvd and can listen to it anytime, it's really more polite to just pause the music and talk to other person.

 

Dd kind of feels ganged up on right now, but she did want to keep talking about things throughout the day. She feels like since she never meant to be rude to anyone, it's their problem if they interpreted it that way, but at the same time, she doesn't like having people  upset with her. I've encouraged her not to worry so much about these specific incidents, but just to try to be more aware about how certain words or gestures (the one complaint she couldn't remember was about a gesture she'd supposedly made) can come across to other people.

 

I agree with you that this is something she'll just have to learn to navigate. The tough part for dd is that she's not one of those people who likes being solitary or would be happy working completely alone. The reason she want's to go to school is to have regular daily interactions with lots of other kids. So she's social -- she's just not a pleaser, which is actually good in the sense that she's not at all responsive to pressures to do stuff that's against her conscience just to fit in.


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#4 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 05:09 AM
 
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She likely needs to learn that, sometimes, we can be rude unintentionally. And that behavior is still on us. Putting it o the other person for being insulted, upset or whatever? Isn't cool. Belie ve me - I have watched my daughter go through this. And it has not always been pretty.

 

Many of her teammates didn't take kindly to her expecting the same level of dedication/effort from them as she put out. From what I can tell, this has carried over to her team in college.

 

I still don't know the details, but she lost her entire group of close g/f's the second half of her Senior year in HS. Although she had other friends that embraced her, I know that it cast a pall over her last term. She'd never say it, but...

 

As for the two incidents you described? It is one thing not to be a follower/pleaser. It is quite another to be rude to an adult who (a) made an honest mistake (and yes, yelling at that woman WAS rude) or (b) giving the hand (better than saying the finger LOL) to an adult whose home you are visiting. Especially since she was listening on dvd. I'd be a bit ticked if one of my kids' friends did that in my home - even more so if I found out one of mine did it elsewhere. But that's just my opinion.
 

ETA: I was just rereading your thread on ethical eating, and got to the part where her 12yo friend made a comment that was labeled as rude - that your daughter was angry about. You might bring that situation up, and ask her why it was okay for HER to be angry because she felt he was rude, but it is okay for her to be rude and expect those she insults to own their own feelings because she didn't mean it (neither did her friend). It doesn't work both ways. And that might help her understand what some others might feel when she makes an unthinking comment. Just something to think about. The initial post may also be a situation worth discussing her. She doesn't get to be mad when people are rude to her, if she turns around and is rude to others.

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#5 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 06:34 AM
 
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mammal_mama, is it possible that the other basketball players were just out to give somebody a hard time, and that they were going to claim they had been offended regardless of what your daughter said or did? 
 

edited for clarity.

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#6 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 06:40 AM
 
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Is it possible that the other basketball players were just out to give somebody a hard time, and that they were going to claim they had been offended regardless of what your daughter said or did? 
 

 

Who is this addressed towards?

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#7 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 06:50 AM
 
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Part of effective communication is understanding how your speech and behavior is received by the other party.   Empathy is also part of effective communication.   I wouldn't push criticism of specific incidents per se, but rather have a discussion/role-playing/materials about how to step into another person's shoes when communicating. 

 

Having your daughter give some thought to how someone of a different racial background or a different age might interpret her behavior/words is valuable. For example, if she had paused and said to the other kids "I'm really just practicing here and trying to improve my game, so I'd like some space to do that" rather than "I don't like sharing", I'm betting she would have had better chance of getting the outcome that she wanted without the unpleasantness. 


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#8 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 06:57 AM
 
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Who is this addressed towards?


Oops, now I see why that was confusing.  It was addressed at the OP. 

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#9 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 07:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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mtiger, I agree with you that it might be helpful to have her think about times when she's been offended by something another person didn't mean to do or say. I think it will be best to wati 'til she brings it up again, which I have a feeling she will soon, because I could see she was very upset over the whole thing, and actually brought it up again and again after initially acting like she didn't want to hear any more. I think saying it's their problem is kind of a defense mechanism.

 

One thing I'm working on is not spending so much time telling her things over and over and trying to make sure she understands; I have a tendency, when someone reacts negatively to something I've said, to try to keep reexplaining myself which is, of course, annoying to many people and especially to dd -- and I've actually often noticed that, after seeming to totally reject some piece of advice I've given her, a short time later she'll be quietly doing whatever I suggested.


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#10 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 07:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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mammal_mama, is it possible that the other basketball players were just out to give somebody a hard time, and that they were going to claim they had been offended regardless of what your daughter said or did? 
 

edited for clarity.

 

rachelsmama, I kind of think you are right about this, and I didn't really think it was wrong for dd to tell her friend she didn't like to share and she wanted to move to another court. She hadn't said anything to these other kids, which was a large group of mostly boys; she and her friend had just moved and then the other kids followed them.

 

My concern, when dd initially brought this up, was more about my dd's safety, now that she is spending more time out in the neighborhood on her own, and now that she'll be starting public school in eight months' time. I worry about her being in some situations where some people seem to be looking for offense. Of course, in those cases, maybe it's actually better for a frank straightforward person than for someone who's always tripping over themselves in an effort to never offend anyone. Because if someone's determined to get offended with you, they'll look hard enough and they'll find something, and they're also likely to have more fun badgering the person who's all apologetic anyhow.


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#11 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 08:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Having your daughter give some thought to how someone of a different racial background or a different age might interpret her behavior/words is valuable.

 

This is true. On the one hand, I really, really want to avoid doing any stereotyping of any group, such as by saying, or even indirectly communicating, things like, "You have to be really careful how you act around them" or "They're always looking for any reason they can to accuse someone of being racist, so you just always have to be on your guard."

 

On the other hand, it really is important to learn empathy for those groups who've been suffering through many, many years of oppression. It's important to move the discussion from "them" to "us." To try to imagine how our own perspectives could be affected if we lived in a society in which many in power looked down on us because of our own origins.

 

In reference to the boy's comment in the ethical eating thread mentioned by mtiger, one point of empathy for dd might be her newly emerging belief that some people at church see us as, in her words, "a charity case." The main difference between this and ethnicity is that people can't see our economic situation just by looking at us, but it might still be a point through which dd can identify a bit more with someone who might be quicker to take offense at something she says, simply because this person feels very self-conscious about being of a different race than dd, just as dd currently feels very self-conscious about the economic differences she is observing between herself and some of her friends. The people in the more privileged position can sometimes be kind of oblivious to what might offend someone who's struggled in ways they've never imagined struggling.

 

These kinds of discussions are way more challenging for me than just talking about basic, natural things like sex. Because "man's inhumanity to man" (Robert Burns) isn't just a natural healthy fact of life. It's not something that ever "had" to happen -- or that ever "has" to happen. And yet we have to deal with it, and help our kids understand its ramifications as best we can, while helping them keep that fresh perspective that enables them to just get to know people as people without any baggage.


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#12 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 08:26 AM
 
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I think a good point to make to your DD is that intentions are not magic. It sounds like she was well intentioned in most/all of her interactions and not trying to offend or be rude, but sometimes the other person is going to be offended anyway. And yes, bringing up a situation where someone offended her and pointing out that it was unintentional on that person's part might help get this across. We are all human and are going to make mistakes, but saying "Well, they shouldn't have been offended since I didn't mean it like that!" is not helpful, learning what would be better to say or not say or whatever next time is a better approach. It can be tough to balance, not being a push-over and not being rude, but we all have to try.

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#13 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 08:46 AM
 
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rachelsmama, I kind of think you are right about this, and I didn't really think it was wrong for dd to tell her friend she didn't like to share and she wanted to move to another court. She hadn't said anything to these other kids, which was a large group of mostly boys; she and her friend had just moved and then the other kids followed them.

 

My concern, when dd initially brought this up, was more about my dd's safety, now that she is spending more time out in the neighborhood on her own, and now that she'll be starting public school in eight months' time. I worry about her being in some situations where some people seem to be looking for offense. Of course, in those cases, maybe it's actually better for a frank straightforward person than for someone who's always tripping over themselves in an effort to never offend anyone. Because if someone's determined to get offended with you, they'll look hard enough and they'll find something, and they're also likely to have more fun badgering the person who's all apologetic anyhow.

Did she read the situation that way?  If she did, it's worth validating her instincts.  It's easy to get so wrapped up in trying to please people, or at least not offend them, that we ignore our instincts, and that's a problem. 

 

I'm not a huge fan of school, but it sounds like it might give her an opportunity to practice dealing with some of the less pleasant social interactions in a relatively safe environment (less anonymity and a tiny bit more supervision than out in the world).

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#14 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Did she read the situation that way?  If she did, it's worth validating her instincts.  It's easy to get so wrapped up in trying to please people, or at least not offend them, that we ignore our instincts, and that's a problem. 

 

Yes, she did, and I think that in this case, she was right to think they were just being rude and trying to start a conflict. I think I was being rather naive to suggest that it's possible that they were just trying to play all together.

 

I tend to suggest other possible motives for people's actions to dd, because of her tendency to feel like people who behave differently than she would are just being rude.

 

For example, dd1 was very active and was walking by 9 1/2 months, and we didn't have a fenced in yard at that time, so we spent a lot of time outside with me just following her as she roamed around, guiding her away from other people's property, and toward those spaces where she was free to explore (such as our own yard, the sidewalk, or the patch of grass between sidewalk and street that belongs to the city). She got so much continual feedback from me about how we don't go in others' yards or onto their porches unless they're there and invite us, we ask permission before picking up someone else's toy or other item that we'd like to explore, and, with communal property, we wait our turn if someone else is using it (but also, if we see someone waiting to use it, we finish a little sooner than we might have if no one was waiting so that others can have a turn, too) -- that by the time she was two or soon after, I was able to pretty much just sit on the front porch and watch her playing out front or on the playground. She knew her boundaries and she knew how to use her words with other kids...

 

And, she felt rather offended when other kids didn't seem to have the same kind of respect for others' property and space as she'd been taught to have. Even more annoying for her was the fact that I showed a lot of tolerance toward those other kids -- and with some differences that seemed to be culturally-based (i.e., we have a lot of immigrants in our part of the city and some seem to simply not share the Western concept of ownership), I tried to help her see the issue from other cultures' perspectives. This was a bit too much to put on a young child. On the one hand (with regard to cultural differences), there are many things about non-Western cultures that I wish we could emulate more, including the idea of not being so hyped up about "MY stuff." On the other hand, I felt like I'd be doing dd a real disservice if I didn't teach her to respect our own culture's ideas regarding personal property and personal space and so on.

 

I did eventually see where I was going wrong, and that I needed to show as much respect for dd's property as I was expecting her to show for others and their property. I learned to tell kids who came up and wanted to use a toy sitting at my feet things like, "Let me check with my daughter -- it's hers." This shift also created an occasional rift because I've learned that while Westerners place a strong value on personal property, they also place a strong value on Making Kids Share. So I've had to do my own share of learning to navigate some social situations.

 

So, to pull this conversation back to the present, I shared all that to explain some of our history, and some of the reason for my tendency to try to help her see that not everyone who does things differently from her is being rude. However, in this case, it seems like those kids probably were just being rude. And I DO want dd to continue trusting her gut, especially now that she's doing so much more on her own. I don't want her to end up in a bad situation because she was trying so hard to assume the best about someone, and not to hurt anyone's feelings, that she ignored what her instincts were telling her.


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#15 of 16 Old 01-28-2013, 08:01 PM
 
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I think "I don't like to share" just comes across as rude whether the other people were looking for trouble or not. It doesn't matter if it's true or not—it's still rude. "I don't like to share" sounds greedy and parsimonious and snotty instead of generous and kind. I can certainly imagine anyone — kid or adult — being taken aback by that statement. Now if she turned it around and said what she does like instead of what she doesn't want to do then it doesn't sound as rude. "I like to practice just with you [to friend]. Let's move to the open court," sounds much more reasonable to my ears and not snotty like "I don't like to share". It is definitely a good thing for her to follow her gut instincts, but if she's rude like that she's much more likely to get into trouble with other kids than if she distances herself in a less volatile manner.

 

I have had to work a lot on rephrasing while still showing true feelings with my girls. It helps that there are two of them and they get a lot of practice with each other.

 

I don't think the other two incidents are that bad. I do think that there are better ways to handle each of them, but that's what being 12 is for — learning better ways to handle yourself. My dd1 could easily have overreacted, but she loves spoilers (truly, she's a read-the-end-first kinda gal) so that particular incident with talking about the end of the series wouldn't have bothered her. She overreacts at the drop of a hat, but not usually directed at other people and especially not a stranger. She's usually just in hysterics on her own — not lashing out against others unless it's her sister.


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#16 of 16 Old 01-29-2013, 03:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree that "I don't like to share" isn't the best choice of words, and I also like what you and Buzzbuzz each recommended as far as making a positive statement about what she wants to do. Thanks.


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