December 12, 2006

I could use a manual

I mean it, a manual would be good. Something I could consult in times of stress or difficulty. Or maybe I just take everything way too seriously. But, just the same, there I was last night, just me and the Girl Child and she told me about a problem she was having in school. I knew that there was a problem and I knew that getting her to tell me about it would be difficult, not because we don't talk but because asking a not quite six year old to figure out what was upsetting them was maybe a lot to ask.

I had received some clues. Recently she asked me for her own cell phone because "sometimes school isn't fun" and she wanted to be able to call home and tell people it wasn't fun. If that isn't a major clue that our happy-to-go-to-school child was not happy. . .

It boiled down to this -- her now former best friend doesn't like her anymore and says mean things to her when she is not otherwise ignoring her. For instance, when the former best friend questioned her about Christmas, and the Girl Child said she doesn't celebrate Christmas, the other girl called her a grinch.

I wish you could have seen the Girl Child as she struggled to explain all this to me last night -- sitting at the kitchen table; hair glistening wet from the bath; nibbling daintily on her snack; and an expression of hurt and confusion (confusion because she didn't understand what was going on). I knew that this was going to happen to her one day, that one day another girl would turn on her and attack her. She is basically a straightforward child and not used to this mode of relations. I didnít want to tell her that it was because girls often do mean things to each other while boys donít, at that age.

Instead, I struggled. What, I thought, was the right thing to say to her? How to guide her? My first reaction was that she had triggered all of my protective instincts and I wanted to defend my little cub. But, here's the thing -- it isn't about me, I decided. It was about her.

So, I told her, after reflection, that I had three suggestions. And after explaining to her what a suggestion was, since she asked, I gave them to her.

1. Speak to her. Tell her that you don't understand what's going on and ask her if she wants to talk about it, discuss it, and see if the problem can't be solved. Then, if it cannot, be solved, go to No. 2.

2. Never let the other side see you are upset. Pretend, on your part, that the other girl herself does not exist. If they are trying to be hurtful, then don't let them. In some ways, I told her, you can only be hurt if you give someone else permission.

3. Don't let insults or attacks go unaddressed. I told her, "Nobody plays for free". She says something to you that you perceive is an insult, you reply, "You. Are. An. Idiot. And I don't talk to idiots". Then walk away. I explained to her that just as she is supposed to stick up for her brothers, that she has to stick up for and protect herself. I told her that sometimes it was not a nice world and that if she wanted not to be picked on, she had to stand up for herself.

She said she understood it. I hope so. I do hope that she figures this out a bit.

I tried as best I could to distill all the wisdom I possess on these points down to small, easily understandable nuggets for her. I suspect we will have that conversation again. My wife thought I might have been a bit too heavy for a not quite six year old. I donít know. Do you think that I handled that correctly?

Posted by Random Penseur at December 12, 2006 10:20 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I think you handled it beautifully. Absolutely beautifully. I would have loved for someone to sit down and explain it to me at that age, instead of assuming I was too young to understand. Even if she doesn't understand all of it, you've set her on the right path - to solving it, to learning to come to you with her problems to discuss them and to growing up.

Nice job. :) I hope I end up being as good a parent as I perceive you to be from your blog.

Posted by: Hannah at December 12, 2006 12:20 PM

A little heavy, yeah, but I think it was important for you to tell her those things. You've given her a reason to trust you with her problems and a reason to stand up for herself.

Little girls can be so mean. I'm glad I'm not that age any more.

Posted by: caltechgirl at December 12, 2006 12:32 PM

I explained to her that just as she is supposed to stick up for her brothers, that she has to stick up for and protect herself.

This is the stuff of rock solid father/daughter relationships. And this is also the reason your daughter is going to grow up to conquer the world - on her own terms - before you can blink an eye.

Well done, my friend.


Posted by: Jennifer at December 12, 2006 12:51 PM

I think you did great.

I don't think you were too heavy at all---this stuff starts at the Girl Child's age and if you don't learn to stick up for yourself, it just gets worse. Trust me on this one--I know. I was heckled and picked on until I was a senior in high school. This was mainly because I was taught to turn the other cheek and just ignore them. Which is very Christian and all, but it sure did set me up to be an easy target.

The only thing that got my classmates to stop was me flying off the handle and slapping and kicking, and scoring the flesh of someone for an insult that was the proverbial straw on my back. I couldn't take it anymore and the bitch got what she deserved. There wasn't any punishment, either. Completely got away with it---mainly because the teachers refused to believe I'd do such a thing. I didn't have to deal with it after that.

Girls can be, and often are, the worst. But once they realize you're no pushover, they'll leave you be.

Posted by: Kathy at December 12, 2006 06:08 PM

I think Number 3 was the best. It worked beautifully for me when I'd get picked on. I found that if I could out talk the "picker", then things stopped quickly. That small big of advice that I got from my Dad helped me tremendously. Plus, it taught me to think on my feet.

I think you did a fantastic job, RP.

Posted by: Howard at December 13, 2006 12:17 PM

You know what I like best about your relationship with your children?

You don't talk down to them. Not that I think that Mama wanted you to -- I just think that children sense when you are "humoring" them and their "small" problems.

Because if it is your problem, it's never small.

Mama is just being protective. I know, because I play one on TV.

As for how you did? Brilliantly. This is why the Good Lord made children have two parents.

Lovies to you all,

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