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Moms Say the Most Dumb**** Things

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Jennifer Ginsberg: Moms say the darndest things. One of my favorite activities is taking Kiana, my 2-year-old daughter, to the park and listening to all the dumbs*** platitudes that are uttered from the mouths of otherwise normal women.

mom talking to her daughter

Just yesterday, Kiana was playing in the sandbox and approached another toddler and began to play with her sand toys. The girl eyed her suspiciously, just as you would if some stranger sat down next to you and started going through the contents of your purse. Immediately, her mother chided her: "Zoey, be nice. You have to share."

Zoey said, "I want to play alone," as she inched herself away from Kiana.

Her mother began to lecture her as if she was a naughty student. "Zoey, that's not nice. The little girl wants to be your friend."

Zoey was quick to respond: "I don't want to be her friend."

Her mother became flustered with embarrassment and turned to me. "I am so sorry!" she said. She then turned to Zoey and said sternly, "You have to be her friend if she wants to be your friend."

WTF? Where do moms come up with these things? In whose universe are you expected to cheerfully share your most prized possessions with some random bitch (even if that random bitch is my wispy-blond, Tinkerbell-look-alike, delicious daughter)? The next time you feel compelled to force your child to share something, try to imagine for a moment how you would feel if you had to share your favorite piece of jewelry with a complete stranger.

Why was Zoey's desire to play alone completely invalidated by her mother? Aren't there days when you just want to chill out and not be bothered by anyone? Days when the thought of making small talk with some stranger feels tedious and intolerable? Why couldn't her mother honor this impulse in her child, and help her find a way to set boundaries?

And why, why, why was Zoey told that she had to be friends with Kiana? Has our culture become so politically correct that we are obligated to become friends with every person that crosses our path? How would you feel if you were forced to socialize with a woman that you really wanted nothing to do with?

I believe that most moms have very good intentions when speaking to their children. We are all concerned about raising kids who are gracious, friendly, and kind. But there is a fine line between instilling compassion and discounting authentic feelings. We also need to be careful to teach our children realistic and useful life lessons, rather than meaningless platitudes that don't apply to the real world.

Zoey's mom missed an incredible opportunity to help her daughter set boundaries and kindly say "no" to someone. Teaching children to listen to their feelings and take care of themselves is far more useful than attempting to coerce them to interact in a manner that only serves to make you look good as a parent.

How about modeling behavior for your children? If you are warm and gracious when you meet new people, they will observe this and most likely try to emulate it. If you are charitable and able to share your possessions, these values will be imparted as well.

When you are ready to bestow your words of wisdom on your child, how about pausing for a moment and asking yourself, "What am I really trying to teach?" If the lesson doesn't quite make sense, or apply to your life as an adult, then I guarantee it is something that is better left unsaid.


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17 comments so far | Post a comment now
noreast mom June 18, 2009, 9:27 AM

Loved this article. So true. It reminds me of th premise to “He’s Not that Into You,” girls being taught that meanness is a sign of interest. As a therapist, I also talk to parents about using “Good Girl” or “Bad Boy” when speaking, which really teaches kids “My value is only defined by my actions or mistakes”. Still, its very hard to turn to a mom and say, “my child just doesnt feel like sharing right now,” as many moms would take offense, though they shouldn’t.

Jordan June 18, 2009, 9:42 AM

You make a great point about setting boundaries. Kids do need to know that it’s okay to say no to someone. I think it’s a safety issue too.

Rose June 18, 2009, 10:12 AM

Very interesting piece…indeed. I am a mother of two & though I would like to think this a great way to bring up young children; as free spirited, self-thinkers…however,there are a lot of adults out there in the “real world” who think other wise…they are quiet controlling and exspect your child or children to follow suite. Are you planning to home school? I am a realist & I have raised two children successfully as a single parent; who like you, wanted my two children to think for themselves… especially, when I wasn’t going to be there for them. The line is drawn very close, indeed. I believe children need lots of guidance to learn different ways to socialize freely and to learn different ways to handle different situations… like sharing their prized possesions, getting along with others they don’t know yet,and in making new friends. It is a very tricky matter. And, yes, some Mom say the dumbiest things to get their child or children to interact with ours just as a ploy, in many case…just to meet other moms. The motivate here might have just been wanting to engage with you in at the park in conversation; using her child as the ice-breaker for meeting someone new. Just maybe, some moms are so child bound, starved for adult contact or ompany their only outlets are the parks or other public places where they have a chance to get out to socialize themselves. There are a lot of single moms out there & a lot don’t have any other family members to share stuff with..it’s just their way for them to reach out to other adults,like yourself & make new aquiantances, and share new conversations…just a means to meet someone new. I, also understand being in the public’s view in my profession, that there are many people out there who just want to be left alone; alone to enjoy their quiet time or share those moments with their child without being bothered or forced into conversations they don’t really want to have with a stranger. You, are right, though…as an adult, we as people of this world should have the right to decide who we want to befriend or interact with at the parks or any other public places. I, however think that a child or children should be allowed to make their own choices too, to play freely as they want to at the park; within reason, of course. Without interferring Moms at the helm. Thanks for an interesting read…always, Rose

Anonymous June 18, 2009, 11:16 AM

Good article. It just shows how parenting has changed in the last 15 years. I’m glad my daughter is an adult and I don’t have to associate with these “new age” parents.

kris June 18, 2009, 11:31 AM

You know I have never run into this problem until.. my son joined kindergarden. We had an instance where he pulled a kid’s shirt because, the kid said he didn’t want to play with him. When I received the note from school I was flabergasted that my son was labeled a trouble maker for something so trivial. So we had a talk where I told him that if someone doesn’t want to play with you, you have to respect their wiches and leave them alone. Just like when he tells other kids he doesn’t want to play with them. One kid even asked why and my son honsetly told him because I don’t like you today. OMG kids can be brutal, he received a note for that because, the kid’s feelings were hurt. He was terrified he have his toys taken away when he got home with the note, but I reassured him that I respect the fact that he told the kid the truth. And stuck by it, nothing was wrong with speaking how he felt. I have always let him do this and its worked out great if he wasn’t in the mood to play with other kids or share his toys, he would let them know and so did I very tactfully though, not as bluntly like my son does.

Malice June 18, 2009, 12:05 PM

Toddler, children and adults are different. Sure as an adult you don’t have to talk to everyone and if some one grabs your purse- it’s pretty much stealing. These are children, I would tell my daughter the same thing as Zoey’s mom did. If we’re in a public place and a child goes up to my child I would expect her to say hi and smile. It would be very rude if my daughter told your daughter “I don’t want to play with you” and you that this blog would of been about rude kids in the park. Your daughter is two she’s still learning that she can’t touch everything. I’m teaching my three-year that it’s not ok to touch but if a baby or toddler wants to play, then play. As they get older then it changes.

Uly June 18, 2009, 12:32 PM

Why didn’t YOU step up and tell your daughter not to play with other kid’s toys when they’ve made it clear they don’t want to share?

Kate June 18, 2009, 12:49 PM

This is a great post. I agree with Jordan, and while I think kids should learn to decline politely to play with another kid when they don’t want to, they certainly shouldn’t be forced to play with strangers. I also would have tried to redirect my daughter away from the child who doesn’t want to share. Another good lesson is knowing what to do when friends don’t want to include you, and how to find another friend who does!

Rachelle June 18, 2009, 1:35 PM

My sentiments exactly Uly! Where was Kiana’s mom during this exchange? Sitting on her a$$, judging this other mother on how she’s raising her kid, while her own child is trying to play with toys that don’t belong to her. Since you weren’t doing anything to teach your child restraint, the other mother probably felt obligated to share her daughter’s toys with Kiana. Young children cannot live by example alone. They also need guidance. They need to be taught. It would be unacceptable for my son to walk up and take something from someone else, and vice versa. Sounds to me, like you need to go back to school lady!

Bess June 18, 2009, 3:02 PM

rather than teaching her own child about boundaries, Kiana’s mom seems to be busy observing and criticizing the other mom who’s only trying to teach her child to be polite. although setting boundaries and saying no is important, when do you teach them to be blunt and rude rather than polite and open? honesty does not have to mean rudeness. where do parents begin to set those boundaries and teach these values of when and where they are appropriate?

Anonymous June 18, 2009, 3:14 PM

teaching kindness and manners are lesson parents need to teach. Kids should be taught to share even though they “don’t feel like it” kids should be taught not to call someone “fat” even though they are. Teaching a child to be CLASSY is not a bad thing.

Rose June 18, 2009, 3:47 PM

Hello, to all Moms, and parents…this is a comment to one parant who commented about their child receiving some discipline letters in kindergarten. Kris; I hope you read this. I would like you to know it is not your child’s fault. After reading your comment,I realized I had to say something, I say this on a positive note for your child’s sake, I feel I need to share this tid-bit with you…you have a bigger problem on your hands than recieving these two letters from the teacher…You have a teacher who is in fact labeling your child, just as you stated. This is not a good thing. Some teachers tend to over react and I know this because I was in the school system up to my childrens graduating high school. Some teachers don’t mean to single your child out, but this is something you need to address & find out. Some, are busy with so many things going on in the classroom they don’t take the time to find out what is really happening to your child.You are the parent & you need to meet with this teacher & have an honest talk about behaviors in this classroom & how she handles them. You have every right as a parent to schedule a meeting with this teacher & talk about your concerns & view about this trival child’s act. If you don’t get the answers you want you have every right to have your child changed out of this classroom.It is important all children feel accepted by peers whether a child doesn’t want to play with another is not the point. These are very young impressionable children who just need a little guidance. The reason I say this is because now you have recieved the second letter stating another problem. This is not good for any child at this age level. He will start to see himself as the problem, that is not healthy. If your son decides he doesn’t want to play with another child it is the teacher’s place to find out why…there is a reason… there always is. My son was bullied in the third grade by several boys. He came home with bruises up one leg & down to his ankels. Why, because they got away with it. And, for lack of another reason, to impress each other. My son wasn’t saying anything when I questioned him about those bruises. The teacher said she didn’t see anything, so,it didn’t happen,and she didn’t want to press the issue. This was even after I showed her the black & blue bruise on his leg. She was nice enough, but two of the boys had mother’s who were teachers in the school. I didn’t get results from the teacher, so I took matters into my own hands & called a meeting with my son,the boys,and their parents. One parent showed up. The others didn’t care. Of course, I let the teacher attend too,if she choose to. I explained my stance with the boys,& asked the tough questions…I asked them if they did this act, they said yes, and I asked the boys why they choose to act out in this manner. My son was an easy target & they were amusing themselves by showing off…so,what was the problem they were having with my son…none…when they couldn’t explain themselves or their actions…I took charge of the situation.I set the terms I wanted them to follow & told them what the consequence would be if it happened again.It never did.I said they would stay away from one another if they didn’t like one an other… & I didn’t want to see this happen again to any of them. I told them I liked them all very much & cared about how they felt & this behavior was unacceptable I explained that this was why I was meeting with them. Seeing that the teacher couldn’t come up with a solution I did. Someone had to take charge of this mess..& as I told my son I didn’t mind being the bad guy no one liked. Turned out that two of those boys are still great friends with my son,to this day & the other, well…lets just say he lost his way..way back in kindergarten. I always maintained a good relationship with these boys…the one boy just turned out to be a really bad egg & choose to be. Nothing matter to him. Now, that is sad.

Katie June 18, 2009, 4:25 PM

Kids need to learn how to share. That is very important. But come on!!! I bring sand toys to the park every time and my kids end up sharing all of them because other kids just take them and some parents don’t care. Really! If you are going to the park throw a bucket and shovel in the trunk. It is not that hard!

Anonymous June 18, 2009, 11:12 PM

nicey nice, nicey nice. blech!

Cam June 22, 2009, 2:36 AM

This is a tricky situation, and I actually had to read this twice. I’ve had the same experience. Two things should happen. The Mom needs to tell her two year-old (yes it’s old enough) that those are someone else’s toys (if brought by the other child) and she needs to ask first. I’m always amazed at parents who let their kids just take a toy, or bike from a child. They do need to learn about ownership and not just take anything they want. The other child’s parent needs to ask their child if it’s OK if they want to share - they may not want to. It’s kind of a tough one - needing to find a common ground. I’ve seen some kids say “Yeah, he can have it” if they’re a bit older, and I’ve seen a power struggle where a kid doesn’t want to share, but the parent forces him. I think what is really bad, is when a parent doesn’t ask if they can borrow something and just assumes it’s communal property. So, any parent who has been to the park, with a bag of sand toys will eventually come to this situation and see it’s not all that easy!

Callista June 26, 2009, 10:20 AM

Great article. That’s taking the learning to share a bit to far. What I have a problem with though, is with my two girls (ages 2 and 3). When one wants to hug the other one and the other doesn’t, what do I do?

mary September 17, 2009, 2:54 PM

I thought the mother who wrote the article was presumptious and rude. Why didn’t she grab up her brat and let her know it’s not okay to invade a total stranger’s space, let alone rifle through their belongings. Maybe you should do some more self-reflecting before you write another pretentious bunch of crap.


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