After Josie was diagnosed with lactose and fructose intolerance I began to wonder how years of consuming lactose-laden foods had affected her behavior, and if her behavior would change with her new diet. Of course, as I thought (fantasized?) about my girl transforming into a quiet easy going child, like other kids I’d heard about but never actually met, I didn’t like the idea one bit. I love that she’s gritty and tough and doesn’t let anyone (including her parents) push her around.
A few weeks into her new diet I’m chatting with the director of her preschool and she tells me about an incident at snack time. Josie’s sitting next to her best friend, we’ll call her Maya. Maya is eighteen months older than Josie, significantly bigger and, um, let’s call her a natural leader (aka: kind of a bully). Maya likes to be in charge and most of the time Josie is so swept up in Maya’s awesome-olderness that she’s happy to follow.
At snack time Maya takes one of Josie’s animal crackers. Now, you don’t mess with Josie’s food. Josie asks for it back. Maya ignores Josie. The teacher tells Maya to give it back. Maya ignores the teacher. Josie stands up and reaches over to her friend’s plate and tries to grab one of her cookies. Maya grabs Josie’s hand and they push and pull and push and pull. Josie’s fingers get squished and she lets go. Josie sits back down but she’s mad. Nothing has worked. The teacher hasn’t been able to fix it. That’s when Josie turns to Maya, pulls her elbow back, and punches Maya in the face.
I guess we don’t have to worry about Josie going all submissive and mellow on us.
When I heard the story I kind of felt like laughing and saying good for her. The director seemed to think it was funny. You have to know how pushy Maya is to really understand. In a way, it’s great to see someone try to keep this girl in check. Josie’s punch may have been one of the strongest messages Maya could have received – from anyone. But then, of course, rational mother steps in and says it’s never okay to hit… Ever. Or is it?
I’m thinking about all this, my brain still whirring, when my friend posts this on his Facebook page.
Parenting survey: your 4 year old daughter comes down from the top of the playground structure, crying her eyes out. She says, through her tears: “Daddy, a boy hit me in the face!!” You give her a hug and then say …. What would you say?
Oh my, the comments he got… Some parents encouraged their children to defend themselves, to hit back when provoked. Others were strongly against hitting under any conditions.
What would you say? Do you encourage your kids defend themselves?