Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Assertion Is Different From Obnoxiousness

When my son comes home from school, our very first conversation after the hugging and kissing always involves a detailed response to 'How was your day'. Some days he's in the mood to really talk, while some days I'm not so lucky and I have to pry harder.  The other day his response started with "Well, I have something bad to say, Mommy". Naturally, I started to worry.  He proceeded to tell me that as he was playing with one of his friends, this friend of his got a little rough and ended up really punching him on the torso.  Sure they were playful punches but my son said it really hurt.  He didn't fight back.  Naturally a long lecture ensued from this, both from me, and then his Dad that evening. We sounded like a broken record but at least we felt confident when we sent him to school the following morning.  He got his reminders from both of us and we all agreed on how he needs to conduct himself.  His Dad said, "Never let anyone hurt you", while I let him walk away with "Stand up for yourself, for what's in your heart". (Background:  We've established that Noah knows deep down what is right, that if he truly listens to his heart, what's inside, he will know what needs to be done, which direction to take).  

I cannot begin to tell you how stressed and disappointed I was when, upon entering the house yesterday after school, Noah reported that he played the same game with the same 'friend' and he ended up getting punched on the cheek this time.  I lost it.  Completely.  This time the anger was worse because I knew I was certainly more angry and disappointed with my son than with the other boy.  Noah even tried to argue and said, "I kicked him back, but he was too fast".  Suffice to say that my poor son got bombarded with every response imaginable, from the "Of course he's too fast!  He's almost a year older than you!", to "Did you not hear anything from me and your Dad yesterday and this morning???!!!"  

Obviously, he missed the point.  So this time I made my point as simply as I could.  I told him not to even engage the other boy, to simply say NO to the game and insist on playing a different game.  I warned him repeatedly that most likely, the other boy won't like it and would insist on what he wants.  So I kept repeating to Noah to stand his ground, fight for what is right for him, and that there are other kids to play and be friends with.  If the boy ends up leaving him to play with someone else, let it be.  It's okay.  It's going to be fine.  

It's a tough balancing act.  I know that 'boys will be boys' but I also know that rough can be 'too rough' some times. I want him to be 'nice' but not 'too nice' to the point of growing up to be a doormat.  I don't want him to be a 'rebel' because there is value in conformity.  But I also want him to be a 'leader' and be independent-minded instead of just always automatically following what everybody else does or tells him to do. I want him to eventually understand (sooner, than later, hopefully!) that we all have boundaries to keep; that there is a difference between 'being mean', 'overly aggressive' or 'abrasive' and simply saying when something is 'not okay' and standing up for oneself, keeping your boundaries intact.  And finally, as a parent, I'm also trying to find my own balance because though I want to protect Noah, I also want to support him in his socialization process.  I don't want to intervene so quickly because I want him to learn to deal with these things and other conflicts on his own.  I know that releasing the reins reasonably is how we can teach accountability and responsibility.  He will be better equipped if he learns how to deal with friendships and conflicts this early.  He will be better equipped if he understands early how important standing up for oneself truly is.

I just find it amazing (and amusing) how life really prepares us for the next step.  Last week I was attacked here too. Boundaries were violated, on my own site, my own space, for the blog post I wrote about winning a blog competition. Two bloggers took the liberty of spewing their negativity here, leaving comments filled with unfair and false accusations.  They even went so far as to say that I'm not a 'blogger' just because I don't blog as often as they do, so how could I have possibly won a blogging competition.  In the entire process, they not only insulted me (or my online persona, as one of my friends pointed out, given that they really don't know me), but insulted everyone who supported me in that competition. That is a line I choose to draw.  I did not want to stoop to their level, but at the same time, I felt I had to address some of the unfair, illogical and hypocritical things they said.  However, I knew when it had to stop and when to stop engaging them.  I knew it would go nowhere because their intention was not to clarify anything with me, but to insult me and take away the joy of Catharsis' victory.  (What they didn't realize is that by showing me how much the victory meant to them, they were adding to the honor I felt for achieving something that was obviously so coveted).  

After a short while it was clear to me that I had to temporarily disable commenting on this site, as some of you might have noticed.  And now that commenting is back, I am clear about what types of comments to allow and which ones I will never tolerate.  I allow for disagreements and constructive criticism of ideas.  But once you start attacking people personally and simply comment to spread your negativity, I want you to know that you are not welcome in this site.  

This site is sacred to me and I want it to be a space for exploring my passion, my ideas, while hoping to be able to inspire, spread a sense of gratitude, and help others see the richness in the mundane in terms of insights we can glean from them. These are my intentions and I can only hope that I'm succeeding somehow, even if it's in some minute way.

P.S. A problem occurred with my site's commenting section but I have managed to fix this for most of my recent posts.  Thank you for your patience and please feel free to leave your comments below.  

Photo Credit: Gordon Browne (1858-1932) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. IntenseDebate Notifications
    5:28 AM
    undeniably English commented on Self-Assertion Is Different From Obnoxiousness - Catharsis:

    Good Show old girl (since you don't like me calling you good girl). A punch on the nose for bullies in general! Be warned out there victims can rise to the surface when enough is enough!

  2. IntenseDebate Notifications
    8:52 AM (4 hours ago)

    to me
    This comment requires moderation

    MuMuGB commented on Self-Assertion Is Different From Obnoxiousness - Catharsis:

    I think that it is all abut having a thick skin, don't you think? As for me, I simply remove offensive comment and don't even dignify them with an answer. As for my children, I try not to get too involved, unless there is a danger. Easier said than done.

  3. Your advice to Noah to stand up for himself is probably the best he'll get. It's a big order for a little boy, but the bully seems to have targeted Noah and he won't stop until Noah stops him.

  4. Parents sure do have a lot to contend with sometimes when their child is in school. Keep talking to Noah and teaching him your values and how to stand up for them and himself.


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