Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The right sort of friends?!?!?!?

I have written about this before but it is a subject that keeps coming up in my life. I struggle almost daily with a parenting question that I just cannot seem to figure out the answer to. Is it my duty as a mother to protect my children from bullies and cruelty by sheltering them from the "wrong sort of kids" or is it better for me to try to teach them how to deal with people like that? My natural inclination is to try to remove such negativity from the lives of my still quite young and impressionable children. My mothering instincts tell me that it is best to avoid influences that are in contrast to the message of Christian love I am trying to instill in my children. Yet I feel guilty keeping my children in a protective bubble of safety and I worry I am not equipping them for the challenge of dealing with all kinds of different people. I also wonder if the message comes across to my children that we are better than these people and so will not associate with those who are "below" us. That is certainly not the message I want to send but I am sick of watching my kids be bullied and hurt by other children outside of our circle of church friends.
You see, my children have two sets of friends. The children in our home schooling support group, who all come from strong Catholic families like us, and the children who live around us in our neighborhood. Our home school group is wonderful. All the children play together, cooperate, help out, and treat each other with kindness. It is amazing to see 30-40 children all running around the park together playing capture the flag or hide 'n seek tag. No one feels left out, no one's feelings get hurt. The older children help the younger and everyone is included and having fun. In contrast, every time my children get together with the neighborhood children there seems to be strife, conflict, and anger. I hear fighting and teasing out the window every ten minutes. I have seen sticks fly, children ostracized, and feelings being purposefully hurt every afternoon this winter. If I did not know it could be different I might buy into the belief that children are just children and this is how they play. I have seen different though. I know better and my children know better.
So, for now, my solution is to try to keep the neighbor play to a minimum. This is, in and of itself, a huge challenge because we see the neighborhood kids everyday. But, the less contact my children have with them the better, as far as I am concerned. Occasionally I do allow it, but afterwards there are a lot of conversations about how we should treat other people and how we ourselves deserve to be treated. We discuss quite often the Christian cliche WWJD?.
I also try to have as much play time with our Catholic friends as we can. For they are the good influence that I want my children exposed too. This, too, can be difficult as we are all busy home schooling families who are pulled in many directions.
Thankfully, my children have each other. There are four of them and most of the time they play together well. I am grateful that even when there are no other children around to play with my children have been blessed with one of the greatest gifts ever, their siblings who are built in best friends and who will always love, accept and forgive them.
I would love to know how others handle this type of situation though, any suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. Kari: God bless you, we have six under the age of 8 and are starting to deal more with these same issues. Our 6 year old boy is dealing with a bully issue at school and finally my wife has realized that he needs to be able to deal with it as a boy should. So here is our deal. When this particular boy hits him again, first thing he is to do is tell this kid that he is to stop doing that immediately. If the kid does it again, my son has permission to hit this kid as hard as he can. We will see what happens. My point in saying this, is that we are struggling with some of these same issues and I am not sure if there is any perfect answer. Hang in there, use common sense and love and you will be fine. Peace,

    Daniel Kenney



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