I feel fortunate and grateful every time I think of the excellent mommy friends I made in Doha – friends who share the same parenting values, making play dates so infinitely easier knowing that we set similar limits and allowances for our children. Now that we are back in Taiwan, I am experiencing some reverse culture shock. While we came expecting some approbation for our ‘scantily’ clad infants, what I was not expecting was how evolved many young parents are becoming, and how much I now notice some correlation between parenting and child behavior. I am also starting to get a feel for how the ‘traditional’ method of Taiwanese parenting and our school system may have an adverse effect on the long-term perspectives of children and teenagers. It is both fascinating, and worrying.
On to anecdotal evidence:
1. The aggressive-passive child After several days of delightfully healthy and varied Asian food, we decided we had enough virtue to go to McDonald’s. This McDonald’s I recalled had a fine soft-play climbing gym. It has, to my surprise, been replaced by a digital interactive floor game. The program is far too fast and busy for my (increasingly austere) taste. But Knox and Quin enjoyed stomping around busting projected balloons and whatnot. An older child was playing there as well. He seemed to not notice Knox and Quin at first.
Later, a game came on where the goal was the step on the eggs while birds flew around. He started pushing Knox because he wanted to step on all the eggs in a nest himself, calling: “You should step on the birds! Don’t step on the eggs!” (he didn’t bother Quin because she was just stomping about rather aimlessly). Knox came over to us crying. He appeared bothered that someone was being aggressive. Mike told him that “If someone is pushing you, just push back.” Which Knox went back and did, but he appeared to be not enjoying it at all: he seemed to be crying more because he had to push the other kid to defend himself.
Mike stood up and went to sit in the middle of the floor, at which point the child got up and left. He came back when Mike moved to the margins. Starting pushing again. Mike sat closer. The child went to his parents.
Mike was very upset that the child’s parents were not there to intervene. I was more upset at myself that I did not know what to do in this situation.
While parents generally believe the sun shines out of their children’s bottoms, I really do believe that Knox’s stressed crying when he pushed the other child back comes from a reluctance to deal violence as well. I do not want that sentiment to go away, but I was momentarily frozen – I did not know what to do. How can you preserve the peaceful nature of a child while teaching them to defend themselves? How can you also give a stranger’s child the opportunity to practice peaceful ways of interaction? I know that violence only begets violence. And I have done ‘walking away’ with Knox from violent children before. But I do not feel that that is the solution. Walking away from this child will not be helpful to him in any way. He obviously craves being alone to have the game to himself. He is so isolated he does not see the value of the company of this other child. What he needs is the ability to connect with other children.
You may think right now I am making a mountain out of a mole-hill. But putting aside the fact that I was not happy that the child he was hurting was my own, and the morals of picking on those who are younger. I do not consider such behavior normal.
It is not normal; it should not be considered normal that a child will devise a twisted logic to justify his actions of actual aggression. It should not be considered normal that a child will, at his young age, feel the need to be less than honest with himself. And it should not be normal that the child is so fixated on winning all of a game (that is designed for several children to play together), that he cannot see the value in another child.
I have seen some different forms of violent children. Some because they do not know their own strength, some because they do not seem aware of what they are doing, some have an irresistible urge that they need to learn to grow out of… this is slightly different. This appears to be a child who feels the need to hide his intentions and sense of rejection. A child who is afraid of adults but will pick on someone smaller. This child could be over-fatigued and out of his mind. But I feel that he needs positive connection with others, to develop his sense of self and honesty with himself.
It is a pity that children’s rejecting behaviors because of some inner need actually cause us to react in a way that exacerbates the situation. We walk away. We criticize and we punish. And those who need the most love are even more isolated than before. I feel that I will eventually learn how to react in this situation. I know I must. Right now I am not there yet. Any suggestions?
Update 11th Feb, 2015: Found this article that seemed pertinent to this situation. I suppose there is not much we can do when it concerns someone else’s child, but to protect ours. http://wangpeiting.pixnet.net/blog/post/380796614
(other anecdotal evidence, to be continued…)