Kids will be
kids held accountable for their actions.
A few weeks ago, we had an incident. One where, as I saw it, Mayhem opted for the mean girl route.
Mayhem felt she had been wronged in a game she was playing with several other kids, and rather than taking an approach of talking to the other kid (or any of the adults in charge), she lashed out a bit. She said to some of the other kids, “I don’t know how you can even be friends with (him/her)”, which set off some drama.
Luckily, the adults in charge quickly caught on to what was happening, diffused the situation, and made the kids come together to discuss what had happened. Mayhem walked away having apologized, and with a different approach she can use the next time she feels like something unfair is happening.
As for Keith and I, we watched it unfold from afar, not really knowing what had happened, but seeing that our kid was involved. The adult in charge came over to tell us what happened and how they handled it, and in that moment, I was so grateful to have my kid involved in something where she would be held accountable for her actions.
We went home and discussed the incident as a family, and reminded Mayhem of the book we were reading all about bullying. Irony, no? We explained that it’s OK for her to be upset when someone else isn’t playing fair, but reminded her that we don’t know why that person behaves the way they do. We told her that it’s absolutely OK for her to speak up anytime she believes that she or someone else is being mistreated. But HOW it’s handled is equally as important, and it’s not our job to ‘put them in their place’. Karma’s got that covered.
We asked Mayhem how she’d feel if she got the reputation for being a bully or a mean girl. She understood immediately. And to show her how we take responsibility for our actions, I let her read the text message I sent to the other mom, explaining that we had spoken to Mayhem about the incident and assuring her that it wouldn’t happen again. Because, we believe, parental accountability is equally as important.
And then I took to a Facebook group to commiserate. While I was looking for more ideas on what other tools we could put in Mayhem’s toolbox, when it comes to handling such situations, 90%+ of the responses were “Kids will be kids – that’s not a big deal.”
Lots of people reminded me that Mayhem misses out on these kind of daily interactions that ‘regular school’ provides. With lots of emphasis on the daily. People shared their own stories of their kids being mistreated or mistreating others, with a reminder that it’s all a part of growing up. There was also a whole lot of “this doesn’t even come close to the kind of mean stuff we deal with” with more “not a big deal at all” thrown in for good measure.
Agree on the growing up part, still disagree on the ‘not a big deal’ part.
Every time our kids hear us saying “kids will be kids”, it gives them an out. It lets them off the hook. And it does nothing to hold them accountable for their actions.
And how long does this go on? When are they not a kid anymore? When is the right time to start holding them accountable? If second grade is too young, how about fourth? Or sixth? Or ninth? Or twelfth?
I’m one hundred percent aware that kids will make mistakes. I get that they’re learning and growing and developing, and figuring things out. They’re emotional and don’t necessarily have the tools to deal with all those big feelings just yet. And yeah, some of those mistakes are going to result in hurting someone else’s feelings sometimes. It’s going to happen.
When kids mess up, we’ve got to help them to know why they messed up. Help them to understand the hurt they may have caused. And give them some strategies to use the next time. They may be kids, but they’re people too. Smart little humans who are absolutely capable of learning and empathy.
And the sooner they understand accountability, the better. Same goes for parents.
IMHO, of course.