If someone directs kind words about John to me, I say “thank you.” It’s not that this person is complimenting me personally, but if he or she thinks my kid is sweet or well-mannered or generous, it makes me feel like I’m doing something right as a parent.

Which begs the question: what if you have one of the bad kids? Because there are bad ones. Parents never talk about it above a whisper, but it’s true. There are the kids who talk back, who are destructive just for kicks, who are bullies, or who generally teach your own angel child things that you don’t want him to know. If you have one of those, is it your fault? Are you making a giant mess? If John goes to a friend’s house and acts like a jerk, am I a terrible person?

Which brings me to another question: how do you even know if you have a rotten egg? Because nobody’s going to come right out and tell you. If you have a total juvenile delinquent, obviously that will be brought to your attention, but if you have a kid who’s snotty or mean or difficult to get along with, how would you know? Other parents or coaches or teachers are no more likely to tell you than you are to tell them that their precious pearl is actually kind of a pain in the ass.

I think about this more as John spends more and more of his time out of my sight, He’s just a little kid, but I’m starting to feel that in some ways, the days of my greatest influence are quickly passing by, if not gone. Now he’s out in the world — at a friend’s house or sports practice — armed with the strength of his own character and whatever  remains of the things Matt and I have tried to drill into him: Be nice. Think about other people’s feelings. Take turns. Say please. We’ve said these things a million times. I sure hope it was enough.

2 thoughts on “Character.

  1. I encountered a situation once where the son of a neighbor was a bully. By 5th grade he was a manipulating bully, having found the strength of pitting one classmate against another. It was incredible to hear about from my daughter who watched and began to understand what this very intelligent young man was doing to the class. Then it happened. The class had had enough. The house of cards fell down around him and the teachers, principal, and authorities stepped in. The mother of the boy, a neighbor who we had been friends with, phoned me that evening to ask incredulously,”Are these stories true?” I was angry. I said “yes.” I couldn’t see her but I could tell her knees buckled. It was a tough lesson for her, who paid little attention to her son.

    So how can you tell if your kid is the bully? Easy. You watch the way he is received by his friends. Do they run up and smack him on the back and smile? High fives? Hugs? Or do they approach with caution. Kids don’t hide their feelings very well. that takes time and practice. Some how Kate, I don’t think that you and Matt have much to worry about.

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