A few days ago I talked to the parents (it turned out that they live with their aunt and uncle) of some boys who were being rude and disrespectful to E for the second time this summer. The aunt leans down and says to E in a real syrupy voice, "You know, that's just what boys do when they like you."
I said, "No. My daughter will NOT be learning that it is ok for boys
to be disrespectful. If they like her, they should be extra respectful
and extra polite."
She says, "Well, she'll just need to learn to have thicker skin if she's going to hang around boys."
My response, "Or you could teach your kids to be more polite."
And people wonder, gee, why on earth do teenager girls stay with
boyfriends who are mean to them? Why on earth would a woman stay with a
husband who hits her? Because they've been told since they were
little girls that it's OK FOR BOYS WHO LIKE THEM to be rude and
disrespectful and put them down and call them names! It's not rocket
science, people! And it's not a huge leap to go from thinking it's ok to be verbally treated like trash, to justifying being physically treated like trash.
What I didn't even get a chance to talk to this woman about is that the
first incident this summer was boys physically blocking E's path and
not letting her get home. But she didn't know where any of them lived,
so I couldn't do anything (except to give her full permission to deck
them in the face or between the legs if they tried that again and let
her practice on my hand).
If a grown woman was walking down the street and a group of men was
harassing her that way, she could call the cops. But with kids it's
ok, because "they must LIKE her." That mentality is so frustrating!
It is also ironic that the woman said that E just needed thicker
skin to play with boys, because two of her favorite play mates all
summer have been boys. Even THOSE TWO BOYS won't play with these other
boys, because of the way they act. The two boys who E has been
playing with have been kind and polite, and they have spent hours together catching bugs and riding scooters.
My kids fight as siblings will do, verbally and physically, and
I totally understand that there are going to be some bumps in the road
as kids learn these things with other kids as well. I expect to have to go talk to other
parents now and then, and I expect that other parents might have to
talk to me occasionally. I just also expect them to use it as an
opportunity to dialogue with their kids about what is appropriate and
what's not. I expect them to encourage an apology.
Another weird thing is that first the uncle came to the door,
and he sincerely apologized for the way the boys acted. Then he went inside to get
them and the aunt came to the door and said all that, without really having heard what happened. So these kids
have an uncle who could be teaching them to be respectful, and an aunt
who is undermining that.
Despite the frustrating outcome of talking to them, it's good that E is seeing how to confront someone who has wronged her. We were able to talk about setting boundaries with people who have proven themselves to be unsafe. We talked about how people make mistakes and no one is perfect, but what shows their character is how they react when they are told they have hurt someone. I asked her later how she felt about me going to talk to them, and she said, "I feel safer because you did that."