Home > Choices > Choosing how we’re treated

Choosing how we’re treated

Six-year-olds are justice hungry.  They want all wrongs righted, all unfairnesses made fair, all infractions punished, immediately.  As a result, when a classmate does something they don’t like – e.g., tell them they can’t play a game, that their face is stupid, or another mean six-year-old thing – they come running to an adult to have the injustice corrected.  “Samantha said that I’m not allowed to play with her because she doesn’t like me but I want to play her game!”

Here’s how I blow their minds: “Huh.  That’s sounds like a mean thing to say.  I don’t think I’d want to play with someone who was that mean to me.  I think I’d want to play with someone who treated me like a good friend.”

This is very complex emotional reasoning – many adults still don’t seem to understand it, so it definitely makes six-year-olds stretch.  In general they look up at me, speechless.  Often they’ll protest: “But I want to play with her!  Tell her I have to play too!”  So I respond along the lines of “I don’t think Samantha’s being a very good friend right now.  Why don’t you play with people who are being good friends?” and steer the child towards another group.  I honestly don’t know whether this makes an impression on them in the moment, but here’s what I hope will happen:

I hope that by talking through alternative responses to people who treat us badly, I start to lay the groundwork for kids understanding that they have choice and they have power.  If someone isn’t treating you well, you don’t have to stick around, insisting on being treated better – you can decide to play with people who are good to you.  It’s a powerful change in the way of looking at the situation and its impact lasts long beyond the playground.  To me, these are the kinds of conversations about choice that kids, parents and teachers have to have to help children grow up into happy, confident adults.

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