I was doing a puzzle with my five-year-old Amelia before her Pre Primary class started. Another child had plopped down beside her and made a game of snatching the puzzle pieces from her hand. She looked at me and sighed. I asked the boy to please stop. He’d been getting in her face a lot that week so when he pulled her puzzle apart, I decided it was time to speak to the teacher.
“His behaviour is intimidating. Can you please keep an eye on her?”
The teacher and I watched them while we spoke. He’d moved on to poking her.
I went back to the mat and said to Millie, “Mil, when he does that, I want you to walk away, okay?”
She nodded and stood up to move. But the teacher overheard me and she took Millie by the hand.
“Mum,” the teacher said, “I don’t think that’s the right advice. Millie is so timid. We need to teach her how to stand up for herself. To be more assertive. We can’t always be there to protect her.”
She crouched down in front of Amelia and said, “Amelia, you tell him, in a big clear voice, “Keep your hands to yourself.””
She made Millie practise saying it.
My beautiful little blondie in her tiny voice, “Keep. Your. Hands. To. Your. Self.”
“And again,” said the teacher.
In a bigger voice, she said it again, “Keep your hands to yourself!”
“Good girl!” the teacher said.
I left the room with new insight into my parenting.
I would never have thought to tell Millie to stand up for herself because it is not in my nature to stand up for myself either. If faced with conflict, I usually look for a quick exit. I’m not comfortable with confrontation. I will bite my tongue rather than speak up when I am spoken to harshly or unfairly. If there’s a choice between fight or flight, I’ll fly away every time. Or look to others to protect me.
The teacher’s words have stuck in my mind- stand up for yourself, be more assertive.
Let your voice be heard.