Why I WANT My Toddler to be Angry
Thursday, August 4, 2016
I've been blessed with relatively even-keeled kids. They have their toddler over-reaction moments (trust me) but they really are pretty well behaved kids. But situations come up when I really WANT them not to react calm and serene. I want them to be angry when anger is needed.
This came up at the park the other day.
Therese was playing around in the sand, and another little kid came up and started messing with her dress. She did not like it. She slapped the kid's hand down, said "No!" nice and loud, and shook her little finger in their face telling the kid how not ok she was with this in toddler babble. Ended with "Bye!" which we all took to mean "I'm done, leave now." Kid scampered off, and a few minutes later they were playing nicely together in the sand with no more attempts to cross Therese.
I was super proud of her. But not everyone was. Another adult tried to say how the other kid "didn't really mean it" and "it's really ok". No, no it wasn't ok, and I do not want to teach my kids that you shouldn't react strongly when your boundaries are crossed.
I was reminded of this meme that I first saw pinned to our parish business manager's bulletin board:
We SHOULD be angry sometimes. It's called righteous anger.
We are now in a social situation where we have to have college orientation events about "No means No" and teaching 18 year olds how to establish boundaries. Because they don't know this.
We should be ashamed of ourselves. What have we been doing all along to not teach our kids how to say, and hear, the word no?
We should be angry at injustices and boundry tresspasses. It's not ok. Social life depends on the establishment of social norms and their enforcement. Expecting little kids to be ok with their boundaries being disrespected opens the door to all those later issues.
If we've learned anything from our many failed attempts to correct rape culture it's that this is a highly entrenched problem. The solution cannot be had from catching kids at orientation - I believe it must start as little kids. I have to allow my one year old to have boundaries, and I have to be ok with her enforcing them.
My job as parent is to teach my kids how to go about enforcing boundaries appropriately. Therese did it perfectly. She knew when something not ok started to happen, reacted with appropriate vigor, and, the important bit, the other kid heard her. She expected to be heard and she was. The issue rested with the adult who expected her to take whatever happened and deal with it silently.
Big Fat No to that. Every time.