Aristotle hit a teacher recently. Correction – he swiped a teacher with his cap. I was mortified. I went on a rampage. When Aristotle was little, I gave him 3 cardinal rules:
- Don’t hurt others.
- Don’t hurt yourself.
- Don’t destroy property.
Everything else went on a case by case basis but there were no exceptions for the 3 cardinal rules. Aristotle has generally been pretty good about it so to hear that he swiped someone – a teacher, no less – was a real shock to me. While I could imagine how another child might provoke such a reaction, it was hard to imagine that he could disrespect a teacher like that.
We addressed the matter with severe disciplinary action and I consider the matter resolved. It isn’t right that he swiped the teacher, but I can imagine a child making a mistake like that. I’m not saying it’s excusable, I’m just saying it’s understandable. We have adults who fail to control their impulses at times (particularly during emotional turmoil), what more if you are a child and more vulnerable to being overtaken by your emotions?
I digress… This post isn’t about his transgression or even about control of emotions. It is about discipline and the difficulty in conveying the “right” message to our children. Obviously, it’s not right to hurt others and we want to impart that message to our children. We tell them that they should never, never, ever hurt others.
But what if your child encounters an adult with bad intentions? We read about kidnappings and all those terrible things that happen to children in the newspapers all the time. Surely such an encounter warrants any response from our child that will help them get away – including hurting, biting, hitting, kicking, scratching, etc. So here’s the exception to the rule – we don’t hurt others, but if that person is a bad person who is trying to kidnap you, it’s okay.
The problem with giving a child exceptions to the rule is that it starts to get confusing. Giving their limited experience and poor judgment, they are bound to make mistakes. And I would rather they err on the side of caution than make a mistake the other way around. You can easily say “sorry” but the consequences of kidnapping or other such occurences are more dire. The danger of such things happening is very real (at least it is where we live).
Sometimes I wonder if I am being overly protective. I remember playing in the streets of our neighbourhood as a child and I wish I could allow my children to do the same. How do you relax when you know that the very same fence that surrounds your house provided no protection against robbers who jumped over it so easily? How can you relax knowing that some children were kidnapped just a few shops away from the cafe you frequently visit? How can you relax knowing that there are people trying to lure children away from their parents in the neighbourhood that you stay in?
I used to complain that my parents were overprotective but I can understand why now. Any single one of these events only has to happen once and the repercussions will be felt for years to come and I know I would never forgive myself for it. Is the world more dangerous now than it was when I was a child or am I just more aware of it because of experience? What do you think? Is the world becoming more dangerous or have we become more aware of the dangers with age?
When I reflect on my own life experience, it was not without event. There was the time my brother, my cousin and I were playing at the playground by ourselves and a man tried to lure us into the public toilets. Through my child eyes, I didn’t realise the danger that presented itself to us back then, but I do now. I can see now that my parents were right to be afraid for me. I can understand why they were “overprotective” of me. Despite my own experiences, I cannot help but feel that the world now is more dangerous than the one I grew up in.
It is sad that in this day and age we need our children to grow up quickly so they can be on the alert for danger. We might live in a civilised society, but the danger of predators is as real as it was back in the stoneage. This new breed of predators don’t eat their prey, but their targets are still the same – the weak, the old, and the young. Even if you don’t lose your child to these predators, the emotional scarring from any harm that they do can be damaging enough.
So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? What are your thoughts as a parent of children growing up in this era?