Thursday, March 11, 2010

And the winner is...

As I start to hit my stride as a parent, I find myself pondering balance: When do you let your kids ‘win’ in certain situations and when do you step in and curb inappropriate behaviours?

If you’ve ever been in line for a bouncy castle you know what I mean. For reasons unknown, it seems that all human decency goes out the window when the bouncy castle appears. Kids jump the line, push others out of the way, and overstay their turn in the castle. What amazes me are the parents who say and do nothing. If you’re one of those parents, apparently you have no trouble letting your kid “win.” And I actually envy you a little. (Although I worry that karma may be coming for you in the teenage years.)

My friend Jill introduced me to the concept of letting your kids “win” when our children were toddlers. We were at a local parenting centre and my two-year-old daughter had patiently been waiting her turn for one of those plastic cars (the ones you get in and drive around with your feet, Fred Flintstone style). When the driver exited the vehicle, a bigger kid came out of nowhere and jumped into the car before my daughter could get in.

Not to be deterred, my daughter ran after the car and literally hauled this twice-her-size boy out of it before getting in and driving off. I stood on the sidelines about to jump in and tell her she couldn’t physically remove this other kid when Jill, who had seen everything, said, “Sometimes you have to let your kid win.” She was right, of course, and my little girl drove that car to her heart’s content that day.

You see, when it comes to a social situation, I’m usually more comfortable letting the other person “win.” I’m apt to let people in line, deflect a compliment, ask my kids to let their friends play with the toy in question – you get the picture. It’s the way I’ve been conditioned – I’m female, innately friendly, and Canadian. I’m no doormat, you understand, but like many of us women, I will defer to keep the peace.

I’ve also been known to excessively apologize for my kids. As they get older, I’m trying not to – but it’s hard to resist the urge. Last week my son kicked his best friend while they were engaged in a play wrestling match. As the other mother tended to her son’s injury, I found myself wanting to apologize for my son’s actions. My inner dialogue went something like this:

Me: Say sorry. The kid’s eye is swollen shut.

Other side of me: Screw that. This was a consensual wrestling match. All’s fair in playdate wrestling.

In the end, I apologized (and of course my son did too). Fortunately, the boy’s mother was extremely gracious. I did note, however, that I hadn’t managed to let it go and leave it between the kids.

I know we’re supposed to let kids work out their own issues – to let them win and lose. But I also know that I’m here to teach my kids how to get along with others – how to be in the world. And, I’m trying to get along in the playground too. With all of these are competing demands I find that I’m still searching for the balance myself. What about you?

1 comment:

  1. Letting them win. Hmm. I like this. I have, at times, stepped back and let my kids "win" but I just consider it sticking up for themselves. I defer a lot to keep the peace too but I know that when a kid stays to long in the bouncy house my six year old has the right to say, "Hey Jerk, get the hell out of there! It's my turn." Okay, so maybe something more like, "Hey, it's not fair. It's my turn" The latter is what I am saying in my mind to those other parents watching their kids walk over the others. I have a friend who says that the most dangerous spot in the world is the place between a mother and her child. I bet you take my meaning.:)