Posted by: coachingparents | March 29, 2009

A Tween’s Struggle to Remain Authentic, part 2

by Tara Paterson

So to continue last week’s post about young people remaining authentic to their true selves, what do kids face outside of school?

I have been amazed at how quick some parents are to accuse other people’s kids of being a part of something they didn’t actually witness for themselves and how at ease they are with taking on the attitude- “my child would never do that.”  I get it, I have felt that way before with regard to my child, but not at another child’s expense.

One of the incidents involving my son and his mouth took on an even bigger issue than even I realized.  To give a Reader’s Digest version of the incident, he was accused of saying some things I intuitively knew were not things my son would say.  I also recognized a few things I knew he would say.

I received a phone call from a mom in the neighborhood full of accusations and demeaning undertones directed toward my son.  By the time I got to the bottom of the whole situation and found out one of his friend’s said much of what was in question (per his friend’s confession), my son was once again in tears and hurt he had been accused of something he didn’t say.  Here was part of our conversation:

“This is where “guilt by association” gets you into trouble,” I said.

“But it’s not fair.  I didn’t say those things.”

“I understand, but they know who you are and you’re the name that was given.”

“Well that’s stupid.  That’s judging a book by its cover.”  And I have to agree.

Since this incident, not only has my older son been accused of being a troublemaker, but now my younger son was accused of being one, because he’s his younger brother. It took me a bit of time to get over the feelings this incident has stirred in me, because I know my children and I know what they are capable of. 

Have I seen changes in my son since he began middle school? You bet I have, but I have also seen a child pull away and come right back because he’s been given the space to be authentic to who he is. 

Have I questioned the parenting journey I have chosen; one of being intuitive and parenting through connection and love not coercion and fear?  You bet I have.  It’s hard to feel like you are alone when parenting outside of the box.  I recognize the old style of punishing children and restricting all of their choices based on the concept “that we know what’s best,” is no longer going to work.  Research now shows that parents need to honor and respect their children not strip them of their dignity.  What I realized about this incident is how dangerous the old ways of parenting can be to the very core of our children.  My choice is to parent intuitively; my girlfriend calls it radical parenting.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our children will do and say things we don’t approve of when they’re with their friends.  Whether they are trying to be cool, reciting a line from a movie, or trying to impress older kids, they are tempted at times to act differently than the way we taught them to behave.  I have been a witness to many instances where kids have said and done things their parents would never have believed their child would do, but don’t be fooled into thinking your child isn’t one of those kids, because as the old saying goes- kids will be kids!

Another warning to parents who turn a blind eye to what their kids are capable of.  If your child is caught doing something inappropriate by your family’s own values or standards, it’s probably because they aren’t making a real effort to “get away” with something; if you’re missing it, they are most likely good at sneaking around or keeping something from you. Be concerned.. 

© 2009 by Tara Paterson ACPI Certified Coach for Parents, All Right Reserved


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