Yes, Your Kid Does It Too [Guest Post]

This guest post is by our friend,© 2009 by Tara Paterson, All Rights Reserved

I am often amazed at how quick some parents are to accuse other people’s kids of being a part of something they didn’t actually witness for themselves and how at ease they are with taking on the attitude of “my child would never do that.”

My kids were home from school for a snow day and many of them congregated on the hill behind our house to sled.  About midday, my phone rang several times with a number I didn’t recognize so I didn’t bother to answer it.  When the same number came up on the caller I.D. for a fourth time I decided someone was anxious to get a hold of us so I answered it.

The person on the other end asked if I was the mother of #$%& and I said yes.  She proceeded to tell me how my son was over at the sledding hill in the common area and was using horrible language; how the things coming out of his mouth shouldn’t be coming out of the mouth of an 11 or 12 year old; and how it was horrifying because her 9 year old daughter heard things she has never heard before.

She had little trouble repeating exactly what was allegedly said like ‘motherf’ers’; a line from a movie he just saw; and “he asked my daughter if she knew what a virgin was!” This went on for a couple more minutes while she attacked my son, eventually making reference to him not being her son and wanted to know what I was going to do about it.

At this point, I will admit my blood pressure was beginning to rise as I considered my son saying these things.  So, when she finished I simply said “I will take care of it.”  She somewhat stuttered at my calm demeanor and wanted to ask me what I was going to do about it, but I didn’t give her the option.  I hung up the phone and went searching for my son.  I was noticeably upset and near tears.  Several thoughts swirled through my mind as I thought about how we don’t say things like that in our house; we are careful about what they are exposed to; and I am the author of a parenting book coming out in a few months, how could this have happened.  I also knew that one of the things she referenced him saying was from a movie he had just recently watched so I was confident that much of the story was true.

He had a friend with him whom I immediately sent home and went to my room to ponder what to do next.  I called my husband and sat down to cry.  It was the first time I felt completely powerless to do anything.  I don’t believe in coercion as a means to parent children so the idea of taking things away (although I said I was going to and took his phone) doesn’t work.  I was disappointed, hurt and embarrassed; my ego was getting the best of me.  I recalled some of my parent coach studies which shed light on how we care too much about what other people think, how we take their opinion to heart when they reference our method of parenting, and how we immediately believe adults over our own children.  It gave me enough inner strength to calmly address my son.

By now he was in tears and eager to tell me what happened.  At first I wasn’t overly convinced he was being truthful, because I knew he repeated the line from the movie, but when he told me the whole story I intuitively knew he wasn’t lying.  His friend who had been with him copped to having said most of the stuff in question including the question about what a virgin is.  My son admitted he repeated the line from the movie, but in the context of the movie not in an inappropriate manner and not to the other kids.  He went on to tell me that the stuff coming out of this woman’s daughter’s mouth was far worse than anything they said which was later confirmed by my younger son.

He was especially upset that he had been accused of saying things he didn’t say and this is where I was able to turn the situation into a learning experience.

This is where “guilt by association” gets you into trouble,” I said.

But it’s not fair.  I didn’t say those things.”

I understand, but they know who you are and you’re the name they know.”

Well that’s stupid.  That’s judging a book by its cover.”  And I have to agree.

I explained that there wasn’t anything I could say to this mother at this point that wouldn’t result in finger pointing.   In my mind there are two approaches you can take with your kids.  You can teach them to be accountable for their actions and talk with them openly and honestly about whatever the situation is or point the finger at others without having all of the facts.  Unfortunately, a lot of parents choose the latter.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our children will do and say things we don’t approve of when they’re with their friends.  Whether they are trying to be cool, reciting a line from a movie, or trying to impress older kids, they are prone to acting differently than the way we taught them to behave.  I have been a witness to many instances where kids have said and done things their parents would never have believed their child would do, but don’t be fooled into thinking your child isn’t one of those kids, because as the old saying goes- kids will be kids!

Another warning to parents who turn a blind eye to what their kids are capable of.  If your child is caught doing something inappropriate by your family’s own values or standards, it’s probably because they aren’t making a real effort to “get away” with something; if your missing it, they are most likely good at sneaking around or keeping something from you. Be concerned..

© 2009 by Tara Paterson, All Rights Reserved

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