When my son, Max was little he did a pretty good job of ‘playing nice with the other children’. I felt very fortunate but then my dad said to me, “Just have another child and you’ll see how good the second one is or is not.” His point was that I wasn’t that responsible for whether or not my child was a good kid or a bad kid. He wanted me to understand that the qualities of some children were often inherited, rather than just learned.
I got his point on account of how ‘bad’ my younger brother was as opposed to me. I was fat and happy as a baby and my brother was lean and independent. He started to disappear on my mom when he was old enough to walk. This was my mom and dad’s experience with two different children. My mom understood the most!
Back to the playground… As Max moved through school, of course there were kids who made him unhappy. This was especially true in middle school when Max experienced two cases of bullying. As he got old enough to understand, I explained this to him, “The way children act on the playground or in school now, will basically be the same way they will behave as adults someday.” It’s true in lots of ways…
My point is that shy is shy. Outgoing is outgoing. Mean is usually mean, and so on. If they’re fun to be around today, you’ll probably like them years later… just the same. But most importantly, what you learn by observing your friends as you grow up, will serve you well when you are older. As an adult or a young adult today, imagine what the people you know or work with were like… on the playground as a child. Thinking about them on a playground is a clever way to understand what made them tick from the start, and what makes them tick today.
I’m helping Max to understand that you can’t really change people, no matter how much you’d like to change them. But you can change how you view and handle the challenges you face in some relationships. I’m teaching him compassion for the mean people, too, because I believe what most of them need is more love. So, if Max helps a friend in that way, wonderful, and if he refuses to let another person make him unhappy or angry… Well, that will be Great!
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