Tonight I had to watch my three year old get thrown to the ground by an older neighborhood girl. She did hit the girl first, but my poor little daughter looked so confused and hurt when she got up off the ground, that it really made me wonder what kind of conflict is good for kids and teaches them a lesson and what kind of conflict is damaging to self-esteem.
She does LOVE playing with the neighborhood kids but it worries me a little because she’s only three, one neighbor girl is four, and the other is six and there are a bunch of boys so things get pretty rough out there, both physically and emotionally.
Today was a perfect example. She was thrilled when everyone was outside and she hurried out there to play. Everything was rainbows and sunshine for about 15 minutes when suddenly the two older girls decided they didn’t want Munchkin Girl with them anymore. I saw them whispering and they ran away together. Munchkin Girl looked confused, then took off after them. In order to get their attention, she started hitting them and running away, kind of like she was trying to play tag. Unfortunately, this really irritated them. She walked up to one of the girls and hit her playfully and this girl seriously threw her to the ground. She put both legs and arms and all her strength into it. It literally looked like a football tackle. Of course the girl’s parents weren’t out there, so I tried to intervene but she just sassed me and told me that Munchkin Girl deserved it for hitting her.
I asked my daughter later why she was hitting the girls. She said, “I was trying to be funny, Mom.”
Yes, she needs to learn not to hit others, but will this sort of thing affect her self-esteem in the long run? People Magazine ran a story this month about a seventeen year old boy named Michael Ford-Berry who committed suicide because another teen was making fun of him for being a virgin. This boy was targeted and felt so humiliated that he eventually took his own life.
Luckily I’m far from the teen years, but I started thinking about what I can do to make sure that she doesn’t let this neighborhood conflict affect her. The good news is that A new study was released in Translational Psychiatry that shows research that positive parenting can truly affect children in the long run, as much as genes can. There is a gene that affects some children called the 5-HTTLPR and it leaves kids more susceptible to feeling depressed and anxious. This study looks at these children and whether positive parenting can help with these negative feelings. The study says:
“Parenting is one well-studied factor affecting youths’ level of positive affect. Children and adolescents who experience warm, sensitive, supportive and positive parenting have been shown to exhibit higher levels of positive affect, demonstrate better social-emotional functioning and are at a reduced risk for the development of psychopathology.”
We all learn lessons in life every day. On this day, Munchkin Girl got sick of all the drama and wandered off in search of the boys. Smart girl.
I learned that even though I can’t control the neighborhood kids, I can control my own behavior and I can try to provide a positive, healthy environment for my daughter and hopefully she’ll grow up confident and able to defend herself emotionally against anything that comes her way.
Note: I did publish a version of this story first at Quit Ganging Up on My Kid on Technorati.
Katie Mullen is the busy Mom to two toddlers, ages 3 and 1. She works full-time doing sales to support her husband through medical school and beyond. Katie’s husband is a surgeon in training, which means he is often gone and works grueling hours, leaving Katie to be a single Mom for much of the week. Despite this, Katie is a big believer in always looking for the positive in life and writes about how she does this in her blog, Mommy with Selective Memory Katie is a former athlete and is still active in running and training. Her husband is an orthopedic surgery resident and has a special interest in triathalons and is even doing clinical research on barefoot running. The happy but very busy family resides in the Mid-west where they enjoy being outdoors.