B is for…


In the car on the way home from something, Amy was talking, and one thing she said was that X and Y had been mean to her. I forget her exact phrasing — “I don’t like X and Y; they’re mean,” or “X and Y were being mean to me,” or “I don’t like it when X and Y are mean to me,” or what. I wish I remembered — sometimes small differences in phrasing offer insight into the issue.

I tried to ask questions and listen, but I still think I jumped in too quickly with advice. I don’t remember if I said anything dismissive (like “Oh, X and Y are your friends,” or “You like X and Y most of the time”). I know I said something about it being okay to leave when someone’s being mean — you don’t have to stay there and let someone be mean to you. And if you can’t get up and leave (stuck in the same room or something), you can say “That’s mean, and I don’t like it,” and you can stop listening. (Ha! Easier said than done.) I said something about children sometimes being able to resolve such things on their own, and sometimes parents being able to help. Yeesh — how to help a kid learn when to ask for help, and how? You don’t want to foster tattling, but you don’t want your kid to feel she’s abandoned to the mercies of her peers.

It’s not like Amy’s all angelic and peace and cooperation and sharing. She’s extremely bossy when she’s playing with us, anyway — how and where to sit, what to say, what to touch and how, and so on. We’re working on that — trying to show her that we love her and love being with her even when we want to play with something our own way or don’t want to do some thing she’s asking us to do.

I don’t think I’ve seen her being bossy with other kids — she’ll complain if someone’s still playing with something she wants to play with, and she’ll complain if someone tries to take something she wants to play with, and sometimes she’ll complain if someone comes along and plays next to her, but I don’t think I’ve heard her tell other kids to do this or that. And when she does complain, usually it’s to me — the few times she’s said she doesn’t like someone have been telling me, and I don’t think she intends the other kid to hear it.

Perhaps her saying X and Y were being mean was akin to saying she just didn’t like what they were doing or saying at the time. She does that with us when we’re frustrated at her not cooperating with something — she’ll say she doesn’t like the way we’re behaving, or she’s not happy with us.

I know she’s just three, and a lot of this stuff is a given for the age. She and her friends will learn with practice how to be friends and play together. And yet it hurts my heart to hear her already talking about someone being mean to her, and I sure don’t want to hear from some other parent about how she’s been mean to their kid. And I want to be thoughtful and careful about how I parent in this age — I want her to feel secure and safe and understood with me (i.e. that I won’t be shocked or dismissive or jump too quickly into advice), and I want to help her learn friendship and social skills. I’m not so skilled in either area myself, which contributes to some anxiety.


3 thoughts on “B is for…

  1. I think bossy is completely normal at 3 (and 4). I know “you’re mean!” from my 4 year old means, “You didn’t let me do what I wanted to”. But, I am so with you on dreading a few years from now (please let it not start until a few years from now!) when “friends” really are mean. I don’t want my little boy to be picked on and teased and I even more so don’t want him to be the one doing the teasing. I don’t feel too skilled in the areas you mentioned myself… and I know all of those “helpful” grownup comments aren’t quite so helpful when you’re the kid that doesn’t fit in. 😦 Hoping both of us keep having wisdom watching our kids grow up and learn to live with others… parenting is tough sometimes, and I’m a bit afraid that it just gets more difficult the older they get!

  2. Oh what a darling. She’ll get the hang of the social thing eventually 🙂 I remember when I was small everybody was mean to me. I was later told by my mother that I was really bossy and everyone disliked me becasuse I wouldn’t let them play anything that wasn’t what I wanted, but I didn’t realise that that was being selfish at the time – I just didn’t understand how it all worked. I’m not saying your daughter does this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why she thought X and Y were being mean. It’s natural though, I as far as I have seen – all kids go through it at some point or another.

  3. I was the same way, AA. It was so hard for me to learn the lesson of being less bossy that I went to the other extreme and thought it wasn’t okay for me to want anything or ask for or pursue anything I wanted. Amy’s just as bullheaded as I am, and I hope we can find ways to teach this lesson without her going too far like I did.

    Melody, thanks for your relating, too!

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