Monday, September 14, 2009

Being Courteous Without Being A Wimp

One of the things that I emphasize a lot with Aaron is to be generous and share whatever he has. Of course, initially, he needed to be reminded repeatedly and didn't understand why he had to let somebody else get their hands on something he had his eye on but he's gotten the hang of it now. I usually 'prep' him before we meet anyone to remind him about sharing, taking turns and not snatching. It works on most days and he seems to share with both children older and younger than him, and shares his toys as well as other people's. Yet recently, I've been wondering if I condition him too much to "share" that he will just automatically give up the toy in hand whenever somebody else asks for it. After all, thats what happens when I say "Remember so share, Aaron".

The other thing that I've noticed myself doing in recent weeks is instructing him to apologize. Sometimes when he is clearly in the wrong, its a no brainer. And even he seems to understand why he needs to be the one to say sorry.

The incident that has me wondering about this whole business of apologizing is something that happened at a cramped indoor play area a few days ago. I didn't see what exactly happened but my friend told me that Aaron might have accidentally collided with another girl. This girl was crying, quite loudly, in her mother's arms. I quickly asked Aaron to go apologize. He needed some convincing and actually went elsewhere to get away from the situation but in the end, he listened to me and said "I'm sorry". I'm pretty sure he did not understand what he did wrong.

As I watched the whole thing play out, I thought to myself that as an adult, I would have automatically said sorry and moved on. The "sorry" would probably be more of an "excuse me" because nobody did anything wrong. What am I teaching Aaron here?

The crying girl looked about 6 years old. Thats 3 years older than Aaron and just because she seemed to be the one hurt, I had jumped on Aaron to apologize. I actually think she may have been a bit of a cry baby because she was crying a few minutes before that too.

Anyway, its not my intention here to dwell on what happened. Its just that the situation made me wonder if by always insisting that Aaron shares (and gives in) and that he always apologizes, I'm actually grooming him to be a Yes-man, pushover or one of those people that are always apologizing even if they haven't done anything wrong.

I want him to grow up to be a courteous and polite person but not a person who always feels inferior or feels that if anything is wrong, it was their fault. I want him to know how to stand his ground and not always give in.

Maybe I'm around too much and should leave him to interact independently so that he can exercise restraint and have some freedom to follow his own instinct. I guess thats another reason why he's getting a little brother.


Bilbo said...

"Being courteous without being a wimp." This is a great title for your post! In America's so-called "street culture" nowadays, courtesy is often mistaken for weakness, and even if someone knocks you down and leaves you bleeding on the sidewalk, it wouldn't ever occur to him to apologize - either because it would admit wrongdoing (and, perhaps, lead to a lawsuit) or because it would admit weakness. You're teaching Aaron the right thing, and he'll eventually learn the complicated social calculus of figuring out when to admit fault and when to play the middle ground between "I'm sorry" and "Excuse me."

John said...

Yeah, what Bilbo said.

wv: verimica--the new and improved counter-top material

Mike said...

Yeah, what John said!

fiona said...

i do think that the girl was crying in a little excess, needing her mummy's assurances more than looking for an apology. a girlish trait?

johnorford said...

i am chuckling at bilbo's "street culture". lol.

the way i see it, too many parents are simultaneously overly apologetic and skittish about their kids actions.

recently i saw a kid do nothing wrong, but the kid next to her starts bawling and immediately the parent sof the first kid jumps up and before long both kids are bawling. idiotic.