You try to bring your children up according to your values, but other people’s ways are different. You may really disagree with the ways other people treat your child, especially if it’s very different to the way you do it. Other people outside the family give them messages we don’t want them to get. Well-intentioned people may say things to our child which make them feel sad or bad, and we don’t want that. We want our messages to be reinforced wherever they go.
They won’t be though. Even close members of the family like grandparents or aunts and uncles may treat our child in ways we disagree with. What do we do? Do we talk to the relatives, other parents, teachers? Do we ask them to do it our way? Well maybe in some cases, if we think they are listening. If we think the chance of success is greater than the chance of just creating bad feeling. And obviously there are some circumstances which are more worrying than others.
Parents have a finite supply of energy though, so it’s best to use it only where it’s likely to have some impact and not waste it. Energy invested in lost causes could be better employed where it really does have an impact, which is in the way you handle these situations in front of your child.
Don’t forget that you are their blueprint for what’s right and wrong as they are growing up, you are the ‘normal’, the ‘default setting’ for life. You know this because unfortunately even abused children think that their parents are the norm and everyone else is an aberration.
Children are also infinitely capable of accepting differences in the way people treat them, much more than we are. Children have to get used to other people and their different ways. After all, a child has to negotiate differences between two parents, let alone other people outside the family.
So when you see your child’s face drop when an adult tells them they are bad in some way, or they are upset when grandad’s way of instilling table manners is a little heavy-handed, how do you help them deal with it? Don’t make too much of it. Empathise, but with the assumption that they are robust enough to handle it. Have an attitude that it’s just a little strange what some people say, some people just have odd ways don’t they? And that’s all there is to it. Raised eyebrows, a conspiratory smile, a shrug of the shoulders, a wrinkling of the nose, a shake of the head, and maybe a comment that implies that you and your child both know this is not to be taken personally:
‘He has his funny little ways doesn’t he..?!’
‘She says some very odd things sometimes!’
‘Other people have funny ideas sometimes..!’
And maybe even: ‘Aren’t you lucky I don’t say things like that…’
Because of course the upside to your child experiencing other people being meaner to them than you is that your child learns by comparison just HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE. And that’s never a bad thing.
Happy Mothers Day!