During my week at the Institutes for the “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course, we discussed socializing your child. Every single parent, whether they stay at home or work, worries about “socializing” their kids. I’ve stressed about that issue for Moose’s entire life because we live far away from our families. We have also moved twice, making me even more stressed out because not only do I have to find friends, but now I have to find friends for Moose!
Since we moved to Indiana, I joined a Mom’s group. It has been very helpful – I’ve met some great people and we exchange a good deal of information about our kids. But when it comes to playgroups, it has been a disaster. Initially, I attributed Moose’s dislike of these playgroups to his tendency to prefer to stay home. My gut was telling me to quit going, it was more hassle than it was worth. He would cry and beg to go home while I would watch the clock for 90 minutes. Then as soon as time was up, I scooped him up and thought, okay, that was our socializing for the week. He has vague interest in the little babies (until they want to sit in my lap) and zero interest in the kids his age. Sometimes he watches the older ones, but mostly, if he ever does calm down, he plays by himself or with me. I had to keep asking myself, what is the point?
Janet Doman made some points that made perfect sense to me, that put in words what my gut had been trying to tell me all along. This idea of “socializing” little kids is a fairly recent notion. What good has ever come out of a group of 3 year olds? The only thing they learn is each other’s worst habits, whether it is hitting, nose picking, screaming, etc. For example, Moose has never been aggressive with other kids in his life (even after repeatedly being knocked around by his best friend in Knoxville!!) But in the weeks since we started going to these scheduled playgroups, he has started hitting and throwing things at other kids, and has even tried hitting me. Now, I hear hitting is supposed to be a normal part of development, but I don’t think it has to be.
How can an activity that makes these young kids act so aggressive be good for them? The only thing I’ve noticed is in the past 15 years since I graduated high school, the schools are only getting worse when it comes to aggression. You hear many crazy stories about violence in the schools. Things our parents only used to worry would happen to us OUTSIDE of school. I am not saying schools are the problem. The schools didn’t give secret classes on how to beat up your teacher if he says something you don’t like. And I am positive teachers didn’t give extra credit to the kids who set fire to a fellow student several months ago.
The problem is a combination of 2 things – aggressive kids who find each other and create madness in the schools, and the parents who don’t spend time with their kids to teach them respect and how to act in a civilized society. I am not that old, but I was raised during a time where you could get smacked on head for talking back to your parents. And in turn, you would never DREAM of talking back to your teacher, or any other adult for that matter. And my parents knew all of my friends, and they knew what we were up to and created situations where we couldn’t get ourselves in trouble.
I am not proposing we beat our kids to make them respect adults. But if you respect your kids at a young age, they will learn to respect you back. If you turn off the TV for 2 seconds and start spending time with your young child, it will make it that much easier when they are older to turn off the TV (or laptop or phone or whatever gadget) and see what its like to engage with other people in a meaningful way.
I was planning on enrolling Moose in a second day of a Mom’s Day Out program this summer. But after what I learned last week, I plan on dropping both days altogether. I do plan on finding a babysitter to spend some time with Moose so I still have my “me” time. And I have other friends with older kids who I still plan on spending time with. But for playgroups with the sole intention of socializing my kid? I finally have to the confidence to listen to my gut and say, thanks for the invite, but no thanks.