Certain personalities – like the Type A wife and mom – think in black and white. This can be a great strength, but it can also be a weakness because as reasonable women know, life is sometimes gray. Here are some big exceptions to the rule our kids need to know.
It was a gut wrenching shock of a story. A 5-year-old raped daily by teenage neighbors while her babysitter sat around and watched TV or knitted a scarf. I cried tears of sorrow thinking of my own 5-year-old daughter in her room sound asleep and happy.
So the next day I decided we’d talk about the issue of abuse a bit further. We’ve read Amazing You and call body parts by their anatomically correct names and don’t shy away from these topics. But I wanted to get things clear before she starts Kindergarten in a few months.
As she was getting into her pajamas, I broached the subject.
“Honey, no one is allowed to touch your private parts. If someone tries to touch you – or tries to get you to touch them – you need to be very firm and tell them ‘No.‘”
My daughter said, “Yes, I’ll tell them NO and then come tell you. Or my teacher.”
Thinking all was going well I smiled and agreed. Then she dropped this bomb…
“But I’ll say it very nicely so they don’t get their feelings hurt.”
I sat back and Needed a Minute…
No, actually, you don’t have to be nice to a pervert abuser. No, you don’t need to worry about their feelings. I thought to myself, what in the world has happened in our Make Everyone Feel Happy and Fuzzy Society that makes us think we need to be nice to those acting evil, and shame those who are doing their best.
But she’s only 5 and wasn’t being philosophical so I just said, “Honey, if someone tries to touch your or force you to touch them, don’t worry about being nice. Just be forceful and get away fast.”
Exceptions to the Rule Our Kids Need to Know
Each family is different and what you consider a given rule may not be mine, but I think we’ll all agree… not everything is appropriate in all scenarios.
Rule #1: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Don’t Say Anything At All
Just no. Of course, we are to be kind, compassionate, and genuine people who love others. But let’s not teach our kids to be weak in the face of injustice or abuse and call it politeness. Let’s not teach our kids to stand by and watch others get hurt because it’s “none of their business” and they’re not supposed to say something that isn’t nice.
Being “nice” is not a virtue. We can raise cowards afraid to speak up for fear of rocking the boat. There are some things that should be said that are not nice. For kids, these include, but are not limited to:
“Stop talking to me like that, you are mean and I don’t want to hear it.”
“What you did was not right.”
“You are not my boss and I don’t have to listen to you.” (see next point)
“I don’t want to be friends with you, you are not a nice person.”
Rule #2: Respect Your Elders
While I agree with this concept and believe honor, respect, and authority are important concepts to instill in our children, the practical application can be easily distorted. Children can behave politely and respectfully (acting respectfully is not the same thing as respecting) because that is good manners. But that doesn’t mean you are my kid’s boss just because you’re an adult. I am their boss.
My child does not have to obey a random senior citizen just because she’s old. My child does not have to hug someone because they are told to. My child is not under the authority of anyone but myself and my husband (and other family members where we’ve clearly extended it). Be rude? No. Follow any old stranger’s advice? I hardly think so.
(Note: I’m not applying this to situations in which there’s implied authority such as a teacher, coach, or other long-term and familiar relationships with elders, nor am I advocating disrespect, simply that my child is not “disobedient” if they don’t do what a stranger tells them.)
Rule #3: You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To
A mediocre athlete won’t make it to the NBA. If you can’t pass science you won’t get into Med School. If you can’t sing on key you won’t win The Voice. That’s okay. That’s fine. This phrase would be better taught as, “Hard work will open many doors.”
Our kids shouldn’t be fed a line of bull to falsely inflate their self-esteem. We should look for their strengths and encourage those. We should help them discover their passions and talents, but we shouldn’t encourage pie in the sky dreams that result in disappointment.
Rule #4: Follow Your Heart
Our feelings are not our identities. Whims, emotions, and temporary desires are not tools used to make important life decisions. No, we don’t want our kids choosing jobs or spouses that make them miserable. No, we don’t want our kids to be plagued with depression or anxiety because they work 12 hours at a job they hate. But it’s important our kids know one good rule of thumb…
“Feelings make excellent servants, but terrible masters.”
Sometimes they’ll have to get up, get dressed, go to work, finish what they’ve started, love the one they’re with, fulfill their obligations, and be available to those who depend on them. Even if they don’t feel like it. Martyr themselves as a lifestyle? Of course not. Think outside their own temporary emotions and heart? Yes.
Rule #5: Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
Life has a way of teaching us patience, perseverance, and persistence. Of that there is no doubt. But let’s not interpret this phrase as…
“Sit back on your haunches and wait for what you want to materialize out of thin air.“
The cold hard fact of life is this: meeting your personal, professional, and spiritual goals takes a lot of effort and hard work. Certainly, there are exceptions when God intervenes divinely. That anonymous check sent in your time of need. The car a friend gave you when you couldn’t afford one. Your offer accepted on the perfect house at the perfect time.
But you may have to hustle for many years before good things come. You may have to devote years to study, action, and hard work. Misusing this phrase in our homes will just raise kids who expect handouts and bailouts. We should teach our children to wisely, prudently, and responsibly go after what they want.
… But back to the “being nice to the child abuser” story…
Later that night as I was laying in bed, I knew I needed another pow wow with my girl. The next evening I brought up the subject plainly. I told her, “You know what? If someone is trying to hurt you and won’t back off, what I want you to do is scream. Very loudly. Scream like a maniac and run.”
Head tilted, she looked at me confused and said, “But you don’t like it when I scream.”
Honey… there are exceptions to every rule.
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