A beautiful friend of mine called me the other day, devastated. She had walked her daughter in to school that morning and they were strolling through the school grounds together when her daughter’s face lit up. She had seen a group of girls she knew so she waved excitedly and said hello to them.
They turned, looked at her with deadpan faces, then turned away again. Her daughter’s face dropped and she was crushed.
She shared with me the conversation she’d had with her daughter.
Mother: “Why are you saying hello to these girls if they’re not nice to you?”
Daughter: “oh, they’re nice to me sometimes…”
Mother: “well don’t be nice to them if they’re not nice to you. Ignore them.”
It’s a common reaction. We want to protect our children, we want them to be happy, we feel angry when someone hurts their feelings. But giving this advice actually disempowers our children.
Why? Because this is teaching our kids to be reactive to others.
And by being reactive, we are handing over our power to others. It is in effect telling our children to change who they are, based on how other people act towards them.
My friend’s child is an amazing girl. She is sweet, loving and kind. Her smile lights up a room. So why should she change or un-learn what comes naturally to her?
Instead of teaching our children to be reactive we need to teach them to be proactive. Allow them to be who they were born to be, and let them shine their light on others. By encouraging them in this way, we empower them. We make them feel good about who they are. A child that shines with confidence can help create a more positive playground experience for everyone.