Inappropriate 'encouragement' of young children - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 11-03-2007, 11:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is an issue that has come up continuously with ds1 since he was a young infant. He has always been quite reserved and thoughtful in general, and it really shows when someone wants him to participate in something. He is not 'easy-going' at all when he feels pressured. He will say 'no' and then be 'encouraged' to do it anyway (sit in the circle, clap his hands at the times specified, repeat something, perform in some way, play a game or a role in a game, etc...), as though the adult thinks his 'no' is just a ruse- that he really is just manipulating them to ask again, and more often and with more enthusiasm.

This really turns him off, and today at a birthday party, once he'd said, "I feel too shy right now" in response to "Come and sit in the circle," the adult continued to 'encourage' him to come, he sat quietly down, pulled a book up and turned his back on her and the group. I was sitting beside him and just repeated what he'd said to affirm that this is his final decision, and the party continued.

I have always respected his choice to participate or not and I have a hard time understanding why it is so common for adults to think that a child saying 'no' is simply their cue to pressure them into doing something they clearly do not feel comfortable doing. Once the child is a teenager, we call this 'peer pressure' and admonish children to stand their ground; but if we spent the first 13 years of their lives conditioning them to succumb to this pressure from adults, why on earth do we think they are even equipped to say no when it might actually be an attractive option being presented unlike when they were preschoolers and didn't want to pin anything on any paper animal? :

I absolutely HATED this when I was a child, being strong-willed all my life in this regard and having parents who have never respected that I make my decisions and that I have reasons for those decisions; I don't want or need anyone to "come-on" me into doing something I've decided not to do, and I don't agree with setting up that paradigm for young children either. It seems downright dangerous to me.

I understand that some children genuinely need encouragement (we have a son who does sometimes) because they haven't made a decision, but are unsure and want to be made aware of the parameters and results of the proposed activity before engaging- that makes sense- but when the child has made clear that he doesn't want to, shouldn't that be the end of it? There are also times when ds1 declines, but after observing the others doing something, he seems interested, at which point I just ask him if he'd like to join them- then it's yes or no again. That just seems like a much more gentle way of creating an 'in' again where he may feel that he's lost it by saying 'no' initially.

I'm sure there are myriad ways of dealing with this and children with so many variations of temperaments that describing every scenario would become tedious, but in general, I think it is beneficial to err on the side of respecting the child's response and then work from there, rather than assuming that it's okay to pressure them out of the decision they've made.

I'm trying to raise my children to act according to their individual convictions, to think through their decisions and to be firm when they want to be and to ask for help when they think they need it; this whole 'aww, come on, it'll be fun, come on' thing just rubs me (and them, clearly) the wrong way.

Rant over...

Does anyone else deal with this and have an opinion about it?

Well, I've been absent for 8 months, and during that time, it turns out that I have completely transformed. You are all precious. Thank you for being here and sharing your lives. You are truly a gift. namaste.gif Jan. 23, 2012

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#2 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 12:58 AM
 
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Your situation sounds like one I might be faced with once my ds - now 8 months - is a little bit older. He's pretty strong-willed, knows what he wants, and knows how to communicate that. One problem we've run into is that, while he loves to interact with people while being held by me, he doesn't want to be held by anyone else, including grandparents, whom he only sees 2-3 times a year anyway. Just the other day my father-in-law was visiting, asked to hold him, and then when after a minute ds started crying in fear grampy said "he's okay" and started to refuse my reaching for him back. I think behavior like this stems from people thinking that it's okay for children to fuss, in general, which comes from a worldview that, as far as I can tell, doesn't actually attribute "real" thoughts and feelings to children, but treats them like dolls or something.

I for one applaud you for sticking up for your child, and I would do the exact same thing in your situation. We need to be as sensitive as possible to our children while they're young - that's the bring out their own capacities for sensitivity and love. Keep it up!
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#3 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 01:04 AM
 
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People just do not, in general, respect children IMO. I have another one that is constantly "encouraged". People actually shame him ("I'm going to be so sad if you don't smile at me", etc) but he continues to blow them off. Then those people look at me like I'm crazy for not "making" my child hug them, or sing them a song or whatever. And he's very strong-willed, so even if I did try to "make" him, he likely wouldn't do it. It's amazing how quickly people turn from nice to bewildered to plain old nasty when they can't get their way.

I hear your frustration and I agree. The only response I've ever had any success with is actually touching the person who is trying to "encourage" and saying something like "he's more likely to come if you stop asking". (I'm not saying they like it, but it's worth a shot.)
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#4 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 01:45 AM
 
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Well it might be that people just don't respect children...they view them as pets that perform on demand.

But also, some of us have kids where "no" really doesn't mean "no" the first time...it's their stock answer to anything unfamiliar and will often quickly change their minds if asked again. I know that if i had taken the first no for their final word, my kids would still be in their pajamas with their hair unbrushed running around the car never eating anything without sugar LOL So many times, once they've had a few minutes to get used to the idea of something new, I ask again and their answer will be "yes" or more accurately "not no"....

I guess I just really dont' have a problem with other adults trying to persuade them to do something. But if my kid says no TWICE then I pretty much take it as their final word and will intervene and explain that to the other adult.

Anyway, some adults might just be reacting that way because that's how their kids are....

hth
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robyn
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#5 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 01:59 AM
 
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It really is a matter of different approaches working differently based on a child's personality. I was a kid who would immediately say 'no' to something I was asked b/c I hadn't had time to really think about it, and once I thought for a minute I wished I had said "yes" instead - so i appreciated when people would ask multiple times or encouraged me to join in b/c it gave me the second (or third) chance I needed.

I don't see it as a matter of disprespecting children's feelings - that would be if they told him "You're being difficult" or something like that clearly meant to intimidate or criticize.

I would assume positive intent that they are trying to be inclusive and give multiple chances for participation.

I think you did great reinforcing your son's boundaries for him - IMO, that is your role in response to 'encouragement' that you know your DS won't respond well to.
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#6 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 09:42 AM
 
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Even as an adult I appreciate a second chance invitation. I am pretty shy buyt when they say "no really come out with us" it reassures me that I really am welcomed and they really do want me there. That I don't have to be embarrassed or feel like I am intruding.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#7 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 03:22 PM
 
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OP, I really agree with what you said. And think you explained it really well. I also think other folks are making good points about kids being different and adults often having the right intention--possibly based on what they know about the children in thier lives. Nevertheless I have experinced similar situation to what you described and o feel it comes (sometimes) from the adult not genuinely listening to the child and respecting the child's boundays.
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#8 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 03:27 PM
 
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I understand. I was like this at times and my dd is very much like this. If she has decided that she's not participating right now, you'd best back off

-Angela
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#9 of 14 Old 11-04-2007, 04:08 PM
 
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OP: I completely sympathize...I was that child in many ways. I don't really think it's about disrespecting the child, to tell the truth. I really think a lot of people think they're doing the kid a favour. I was shy - I also intensely disliked being put on the spot, so whenever someone "encouraged" (pressured) me, I'd dig in my heels. But, I usually had the feeling that they were really trying to help...they believed that if they pushed me into doing whatever the other kids were doing, I'd have a great time, and would somehow stop being shy. I don't think people realize that some people's personalities just don't do well with that kind of thing.

It's definitely not about children, though - I've been on the receiving end of similar crap as a teenager and as an adult. People can't seem to understand that just because they think activity "X" is the most fun in the world, or they love clubbing or whatever, it doesn't mean that I do. I've often been in situations where it's nearly impossible to convince people that I really don't want to do whatever. It's not as bad as when I was a kid, but I think that's mostly because people are more willing to accept a curmudgeon at almost 40 than at almost 4...

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#10 of 14 Old 11-05-2007, 11:22 AM
 
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I think you are handling this situation great and teaching your DS about letting his choices be known. My ds is also like this and I have to work hard not to constantly encourage him because I want him to enjoy the situation and participate. Thanks for the reminder. When my ds is comfortable, he is a social butterfly and actively participates. But when he's not ready there is no convincing him. I think these are sensitve, thoughtful kids!
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#11 of 14 Old 11-05-2007, 03:58 PM
 
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What a great mama you are to keep sticking up for your children!

I realize it's true that some children (and adults) are reticent and like to be asked again after they've had an opportunity to see what's going on and decide if they want to participate. However, this child's mother was there with him, to help facilitate him joining in later if he decided he wanted to.

In that situation, if the child said "No," I think I'd just let him and his mom know he was welcome to join in later if he changed his mind. If I noticed the child watching us and looking interested, I'd probably smile and say, "Do you want to try it now?" But another "No" would just get an "Okay" from me, not an "Oh, come on!" or "Oh, you're making me so sad!"

I realize not all adults who keep forcing the issue, do it out of disrespect -- but in a way I think people do this because of the general disrespect our culture has for introverts, especially introverted children. Introversion is seen as a handicap that parents, teachers, everyone involved in the child's life, should be working to help the child "overcome."

I think many people have internalized this disrespect and nonacceptance of introversion without even realizing it. As a young person in a church youth group, I actually heard a speaker say, "Shyness is really just selfishness." What a slam on quiet, introverted people!

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#12 of 14 Old 11-05-2007, 05:25 PM
 
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I could have written this post. You've described my DS. Sometimes he wants to participate, but lots of times (especially with big, unfamiliar groups) he just doesn't. Not because he wants more coaxing, but because he just doesn't want to. (And I'm the same way. ) The first time we had a playgroup at our house, my DS went to his room (which didn't have many toys because I'd taken them all to the living room), and sat on his bed and "read" a book. He was 18 months old.

Anyway, just wanted to say that you're not alone, and good for you for standing up for your child. I hadn't really thought about the "peer pressure" comparison, but it makes perfect sense and will help me continue to stick up for my son too.
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#13 of 14 Old 11-06-2007, 04:33 AM
 
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ITA with your assessment. It reaks of "I'm the adult & this is what *I* want you to do, so do it, I will look dumb if you don't obey, so c'mon now!" I'd do just as you are, reaffirm that he said NO. He will appreciate it & people around him routinely will eventually realize to back off.

~Marie : Mom to DS(11), DS(10), DD(8), DD(4), DD(2), & Happily Married to DH 12 yrs.!
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#14 of 14 Old 11-06-2007, 12:00 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
What a great mama you are to keep sticking up for your children!

I realize it's true that some children (and adults) are reticent and like to be asked again after they've had an opportunity to see what's going on and decide if they want to participate. However, this child's mother was there with him, to help facilitate him joining in later if he decided he wanted to.

In that situation, if the child said "No," I think I'd just let him and his mom know he was welcome to join in later if he changed his mind. If I noticed the child watching us and looking interested, I'd probably smile and say, "Do you want to try it now?" But another "No" would just get an "Okay" from me, not an "Oh, come on!" or "Oh, you're making me so sad!"

I realize not all adults who keep forcing the issue, do it out of disrespect -- but in a way I think people do this because of the general disrespect our culture has for introverts, especially introverted children. Introversion is seen as a handicap that parents, teachers, everyone involved in the child's life, should be working to help the child "overcome."

I think many people have internalized this disrespect and nonacceptance of introversion without even realizing it. As a young person in a church youth group, I actually heard a speaker say, "Shyness is really just selfishness." What a slam on quiet, introverted people!
I think you are right. The focus on children is not quite right. As I have seen people do this to adults as much as children: "Everyone on the dance floor" "Oh come on, join us up here" etc...
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