Lately, I have been hearing a lot about children, more precisely, about “difficult” children. I really don´t like to use that word, I hate to label a little human being, I just don´t know what better word to use. What do I mean when I say difficult? Well, the typical kid from school that picks on his/her classmates, that pushes/hits them often, that doesn´t always comply with the instructions that are given. Maybe sometimes he/she also is naughty and ill-behaved and creates some chaos.
I am usually very patient with my daughters (although I have to say that it is getting harder as they get older…) but not so much with other children. I have never been a “children´s person”. Nevertheless, I am very patient with this “difficult” children when they are at school (and I don’t have to deal with them myself!), even if the “victim” of their “difficultness” is my daughter.
What I have been noticing is the lack of tolerance towards these kids. The lack of empathy. Our incapability to put ourselves in their shoes (or in their parents´ shoes). I keep seeing people pointing at them, labeling them, wanting to “suppress” them, to have someone “deal” with them immediately, make them go away (not THEM but the behavior that makes them “difficult” and different), to make them invisible, unnoticeable.
I feel, and I might be reading it all wrong, that more and more we want to be surrounded by people like us. We just don´t want to have to deal with adversity, with difficulties, with differences (and unfortunately we see this in all scales everyday, we just need to read the papers or watch the news)… but this is goings as far as the way we think about kids, and our kids, and who we want our kids to be with. We don’t want kids with issues (as is we didn’t ALL have issues) and more importantly, we don´t want them close to our kids, to our family.
Someone told me a (sad) story about being asked if she was OK with her son having a girlfriend whose parents were divorced… Really? Or parents asking the school to expel a kid because he had been rude to his son. No one thinks or wonders what makes these kids act like they act or what may be behind each behavior, or how we can help them deal with things in a more constructive way. No one thinks of them as part of us, of our tribe.
And I get it, it is easier to only surround our kids and ourselves with people just like us…but guess what? Life is not like that, life is difficult, full of different kind people, with different backgrounds and upbringings, full of complicated personalities, and we need to prepare our children for that…. We have to prepare (if we haven´t already) OURSELVES for that. That is the real challenge of parenting. That is what parenting is all about.
We can´t isolate the different, the difficult, the alien just because they are how they are (and not like us), we need to give them the support they need, maybe even the one they can´t find at home. Have you ever thought how different WE are to other people? How would it feel to be isolated or, even worse, be the parents of the isolated kid? Think about it. I am sure it wouldn’t be nice.
Empathy is such an important value and skill, lets teach it (and practice it ourselves), let´s make this world a better place to live in.