Parents delicate balance between their way and the right way

What you need to know:

  • Children whose hands tend to gravitate towards hitting others will always exist, and they are not outcasts

My six-year-old daughter came home from school the other day and when I received her with a big hug, she broke down in tears. I held her for a while before we started talking about what was going on.

She told me that a boy had hit her in the school bus. I collected some information about the incident, then probed about her reaction to the incident. She said that she asked the boy to say sorry but he and his friend laughed instead.

She said that she also reported it to the bus conductor who responded “nitamchapa” but did not do it.

Understandably of course, because parenting today is less like the good old days when it literally took a community to raise a child. Like any parent, I was concerned. So, I started investigation, immediately.

I found out that indeed, the incident had happened, and the bus conductor had said sorry to my daughter. But I also learnt that when alighting from the school bus, the boy reported to the person who was picking him that my daughter had hit him.

I asked my daughter if it was true. Her body language changed – she shrunk into a defensive mode and said no. I knew she thought she was in trouble.

To ease her, I summoned my most neutral tone and assured her that it was okay for her to tell me the truth and I was not going to be angry.

She stood her ground and I did not push. But here is the thing – I was secretly pleased to hear the claim, true or not, that the boy reported that my daughter had hit him too.

And before you call the police on me for perpetuating violence, let me explain.

A child being bullied is any parent’s worst nightmare.  And the problem with parenting is that you need to separate what you would do in your child’s situation from the right thing to do. Truth be told, in my case, I would fight back! In a more polite language, I would stand up for myself. 

Now, my way, clearly conflicts with what would be considered the right way, in many perspectives. From a religious perspective, the Bible says if someone slaps you on one side, you give them the other one for … is it more slapping? Well, in the case of my daughter being slapped by her peer, I would pass on this wisdom. But what next?

You see, children whose hands tend to gravitate towards hitting others will always exist, and they are not outcasts, and every now and then, they will hit another child.  And here is my question - what does the child who gets hit by another child do? Cry and report it to teachers and parents all the time? Some children are known to be unbeatable because they beat back – does that make them violent? These are the parenting conflicts I am talking about. 

I mean, where does the line get drawn between teaching children to stand up for themselves and perpetuating violence? A parent I know lamented one day about how her son kept running to her from playing football in the yard with his friends, crying that some friend had hit him, until one day she was fed up and shouted – go and fight back! And I have heard similar stories from many other parents. So, where does the line get drawn?

Parenting in my view comes with many conflicting situations. We are tasked to model positive behavior to our children, but how that should co-exist with our own ways, good or bad, is not clear. Parenting feels to me like fixing planes while flying them, mixing ‘our’ ways with the ‘right’ ways, hoping that our children will also mix what they learn from us with what they learn from the many sources of wisdom at their disposal, from church to school, and come up with some unique and optimal character that will help them thrive.

Bottom line is this - this fixing of flying planes is not, and cannot be done single- or double-handedly – we need all hands on the deck. The combined intelligence of teachers, pastors, grandparents, etc., in order to raise a confident and responsible generation. Thus, our role as parents is to expose children to various sources of wisdom to supplement our limited one.