Monday, April 17, 2006

Learning From Children

Gentle In Manner, Strong In Deed was my high school motto. In raising a boy-child, I think it's a particularily good one.

I keep returning to Winston’s treatment on the playground.

And how, invariably some child will walk all the way across the playground for the express purpose of doing something mean to him. Then, I found this article that says 2 and 3 years olds are the most malicious creatures on the planet. And that this is normal - especially when improperly socialised.

So, I've been thinking about when this anti-social behavior happens. It usually happens when he and I are particularly focused on some wonderful thing. I’m chasing him. Or we are playing in the sand. Or we’re just poking a puddle with a stick. It most often occurs when we are quiet, engaged and absorbed in something special between the two of us.

And I realise that the child wants our attention. The child believes he can get our attention by doing something mean. I've also noticed that the child is usually occupying himself, rather than playing with his parent.

But, more interesting, I believe Winston has learned this also. He has learned that weeping and anger is the response that they want. He has developed a coping mechanism. He doesn’t scream, cry or carry on. He doesn’t act like a victim. He doesn’t push back or hit. He often just looks hurt and sad. (He stopped looking surprised a few months ago.) And then he resumes whatever activity he was doing before he was interrupted.

After the child’s mother has come to remove her child from our space; said sorry (that stupid word); Winston calmly and loudly announces that whatever the child did to him “is naughty.” He doesn't say it in a judging manner....more as a way of recieving affirmation from me that the behaviour of the other child was wrong.

I’ve noticed that this makes both the child and parent more embarrassed than any amount of weeping could ever generate. Especially because - someone usually makes a comment about what a nice boy he is. And the other mothers act protective when the transgressing child comes near theirs.

More importantly, we've run into these same children again. And after Winston's quiet resistance - they usually keep a wide berth.

And I’ve learned, that in his gentle manner is a certain kind of strength.

1 comment:

Jax said...

A fascinating article there. And a good motto as well I think.