The Art Of Teaching Children To Stand Up For Themselves

The other night, Phoebie, my almost-six-year-old had dance class, so I brought her to the dance studio. The previous class was not over yet, so Phoebie and her friends started playing at the waiting area. Seeing that Phoebie was okay, I brought my two year old son to the corner of the waiting area so that we would be out of the way.

It hadn’t been long when Phoebie came to me. “Mummy,” she began, “My friends called me a baby.”

“Oh? Why did they call you a baby?” I asked, not wanting to jump to conclusions.

“We were playing and they tried to carry me, but they couldn’t. Then they called me a baby,” she explained.

“Ah, I see. Are you okay with them calling you a baby?” I asked.

“No,” Phoebie said, sounding a little upset, “I don’t like it.”

“Okay,” I told her, “Well, what you can do is to tell them that you don’t like them calling you a baby. But do it nicely, okay?”

“Alright,” she answered, half reluctant.

I watched as she walked back to where her friends were. “Guys,” she started, “I don’t like it when you call me a baby, so please stop it.”

There was a short pause in the air after Phoebie said that. I was guessing that her friends were caught off guard and had not expected her to say that. Yet, a few moments later, they were all playing together again, all laughing and waiting excitedly for dance class to begin.

It may not have been a big thing, and I could have asked Phoebie to brush the “baby” calling aside. However, I wanted Phoebie to learn that if she was not happy about being called a baby, she would have to learn to speak up for herself and tell her friends how she felt. 

At the same time, I wanted Phoebie that she didn’t have to sound nasty when she told her friends how she felt. She just had to make sure her friends realise she didn’t like what they called her. In the not-so-complicated kids’ world, it worked. I hope that Phoebie will always remember how to stand up for herself, and to remember that she doens’t always have to sound angry when she does it.

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