Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nice versus Mean Kids

As I have spent numerous hours in various play settings with my almost 3 year old recently, I have wondered whether we can control our kids being "nice." As most of us can either remember growing up, or have experienced with our own kids more recently, kids can be at their meanest during play time.

I am left wondering, can we do anything as parents, or is this predetermined programing?

I ask if it is predetermined because my daughter's extremely social, wannabe everyone's best friend is not from anything we are aware of doing. She seemed this way from about 5 1/2 months on. Just as happy as can be, wanting to play with everyone (I didn't say she always wants to share her toys).

Some days I think we are blessed to have such a social, easy-going child who quickly develops new friends. Other days I cringe as I watch her get devastated time after time by kids who won't play with her for their own reasons ranging from my daughters too young for them, she's not a part of the little play ground clique of the day, or I surmise they simply think she is weird because she is so social.

This is definitely the stuff you don't think about before you become a parent. It's really hard. Figuring our when to intervene, when to let it play out. I know she needs to learn social rules, so I usually let it play out, but the look on her face crushes my heart every time I see it. It's enough to make you want to drop kick a mean child across a play ground.

Thankfully, a lot of parents try to stop antisocial behavior from their kids. Whether it makes any difference in the end is questionable. Maybe kids are just wired to be who they are socially. Maybe how they are at 2,3,4, or 5 will be nothing like who they will become (note: I am thinking of the dreaded high school popularity years).

But, for those of you who are new to the game, be prepared for the parents who could care less if their child is as mean as can be to your child. Interestingly, my anecdotal McDonald's Play Land experience proves that almost exclusively the kids who are allowed to be the meanest have the most affluent looking parents.

What does that say? Don't know. Would love to hear your comments on the subject.

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