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Why I No Longer Tell My Child to Be Inclusive and Kind

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Children being killed in our schools is unacceptable. From here the debate gets crazy.

Some support the #WalkOut.

I see this side. Our children deserve to be safe.

Some counter with the #WalkUp stance.

Inclusion. I get it. In fact, this is why I am here.

I would like to share my testimony of the philosophy of inclusion and compassion.

You should know that I am the mother who talks to her children. I drill them after school. We have conversations about their friends and choices. We talk about everything, and sometimes about nothing at all.

I take great pride in my responsibility to raise each of my children to be exemplary citizens in their community. I do my best to lead by example. Above all else, I tell my children, “Be nice. Be nice to everyone. You simply do not know what someone else is going through in their lives.”

Four years ago, we moved. My children were starting over in a new school. There was a child who would say, “Hello” to my daughter when we were out and about. he liked her. I thought it was sweet.

The next year, he still liked her and was picking flowers for her, remembering her at holidays and giving her notes that asked her to check “yes” or “no” if she liked him. Notes she brought home to me, rather than return, because she didn’t like him. Not like he liked her, but she was kind.

He was our after-school conversation.

I am the mom who told my daughter to “be kind to everyone.”

My daughter would tell me that this child didn’t have many friends.

I am the mom who told my daughter “be inclusive.”

My daughter would tell me this child was disruptive.

I am the mom who told my daughter to “listen to what people have to say.”

My daughter would tell me this child had issues at home.

I am the mom who told my daughter, “have compassion; you don’t know what someone else is going through.”

Then one day I got a call from the school.  The conversation started, “This is the school counselor, and I’m calling about your daughter. Everything is okay….”

My heart was racing. I have never been called by the school for my child acting up. I have never been called by the school about any of my children.

The call continued, “some of your daughter’s peers brought it to my attention that there is a child who has been giving your daughter attention.”

I listened as she revealed what my daughter’s peers have told her.

I interrupted and asked, “Is this ____?”

I was told she could not, by law, tell me his name; but my daughter could.

I listened as she told me how he followed my daughter too closely.

I listened to how he said things and was aggressive. Things like, “I’m the man; I will do it.”

I took a deep breath, interrupted again and said, “If this is ______; you and I need to be having a different conversation.”

She said, “I’m listening.”

I knew this child.

When my daughter came home telling me about this child’s angry outbursts in class, I would pull her close to me and tell her, “See? Aren’t you glad you are nice to him. It sounds like he needs friends.” Or “It sounds like he’s going through a lot; I’m so glad you are kind to him.”

This was the child I had told my daughter to include.

This was the child I had told my daughter to listen to.

This was the child I had told my daughter to have compassion for.

Terror pounded its way through my veins. My throat was dry.

It has escalated over the years. From inappropriate boundaries to bullying. This child was following my daughter very closely. This child was verbally putting my child down. This child was harassing my daughter to the point that HER PEERS felt uncomfortable. It wasn’t my daughter who said anything. The counselor’s words, “Some other children reported what is happening; they recognized your daughter didn’t feel comfortable in the situtations around this person.”

I learned no matter how many times my daughter changed her social media accounts, he found her.

I wanted to know what was being done. How was the school protecting my child?

I was told my daughter would be removed from classes with this child. Teachers were being notified to pay attention to this child and stop any interaction with my daughter. There were cameras in the hallways, and teachers would be outside their doors during a class transition.

My brain was ricocheting. I was thinking about how little time was between now and when they entered high school. I was questioning what I had missed in my numerous conversations with my daughter. I was thinking how crazy bad this could have been.

Every True Crime podcast I had listened to, every serial killer book I had read had my heart racing.

Then, in front of the guidance counselor, I cried as I told my daughter,

“I have given you terrible parenting advice.”

There was a long pause.

My daughter told me she was fine. “It’s no big deal.”

I don’t feel the same way she does.

I fed my child to a lion.

My attempt to raise a child who was kind, compassionate, inclusive and all these amazing qualities we are told makes us great parents, made her prey.

It happened last year.

Imagine my horror when my daughter went to Washington DC, and this child was placed in her group!

This time, tables turned.

My daughter had my permission to keep to her group. She had my permission to be nothing more than polite. She was instructed to stay close to the adult.

If you haven’t been in this situation, it is tricky. I don’t want my daughter to be afraid. I want her to be strong. I want her to be free, but I want her to be aware.

I find we are having more conversations about, “as a female there are things you simply cannot do…” Things she will have to be more hypervigilant than her brother.

We talk about how she cannot go into an alleyway or stairway alone.

She is reminded as we prepare to walk out of a store that we need to stay together, observe the cars parked on either side of us, get in the car, close and lock the doors and leave.

As we park, she is reminded to be aware of her surroundings.

I call to make sure the doors are locked when she is home.

The list goes on and on.

I am not taking sides on the school violence. We can all agree that we want our children to be safe.

What I am saying is sometimes, asking our child to be inclusive, have compassion and listen leads them into a dark abyss. Sometimes, it’s okay not to be inclusive and kind.

 

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Zoe

Sunday 8th of April 2018

I appreciate your article so much and agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, my husband and I put our daughter in a similar situation. Of course we always teach our children to be kind to others, but our instructions to take a certain child under her wing began a downward spiral into this child becoming obsessed with my daughter and the parents saw no issue with their child's behavior. My daughter's classes had to be changed, sports teams switched to a nearby neighborhood, and ultimately meeting with the police to find out what if anything could be done to protect our child because there were threats of harm as the obsession persisted for years. My husband and I regret every day encouraging her to befriend this child and I will NEVER make that mistake again. Yes, always encourage kindness, but I have certainly learned that kindness comes with limits.

Julee

Monday 9th of April 2018

I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's situation. Kindness does come with limits. Please don't blame yourself. Parenting doesn't come with an instruction book and the world is changing so quickly. We are still dealing with our issue as well, but we are taking it a day at a time. You're not alone. This seems to be a growing issue. My child is always polite, as I am sure your daughter is as well. Be strong and keep your chin up!

Erin

Sunday 8th of April 2018

Last school year I had several discussions with my 7 year old son about a kid in his class that he called a “bully”. The kid was disruptive and mean. I told my son that maybe the kid just needed a friend and to try inviting him to play on the playground. During the last two weeks of school, that same kid, during one of his regular meltdowns in art class, grabbed my son around his body from behind with one arm and held a metal clay knife to my son’s neck with the other. I worry about that kid being in the same school as mine every day now and there’s nothing I can do. The warning flags are there, and what are the adults doing about it? Makes me scared and sick. The boy in question got a two day suspension, and more frequent check-ins from the school counselor. In the mean time, all I can do is make sure every year that they’re not in the same class together. They won’t discuss anything further with me because it’s a “mental heath issue”. What about my child’s mental health? What about this boy’s escalating violent behavior and outbursts and lack of support at home? Every teacher I’ve talked to has expressed and complete lack of ideas or resources to handle him. Do we just hope he never REALLY hurts someone?

Julee

Monday 9th of April 2018

Holy Moly. I am so saddened to hear what has happened to your son. It's such a fine line. It's a fragile topic to juggle. Stay strong. Perhaps attend School Board meetings and share your concerns. Can you volunteer at your child's school? All we can do is raise our children to be strong humans and understand that they need to be aware of their surroundings and the people in those surroundings.

Amy

Thursday 5th of April 2018

I kind of feel like this could be twisted either way to conform to the situation. Ie: I was wrong to tell my daughter to always be nice because an unhinged kid (girl? boy? teen? 8 year old? We don't know) reacted in a way to the kindness that was inappropriate. You could also tell a kid not to ever be abrasive or aloof because when they were abrasive or aloof, someone was offended, thought they were "stuck up", and reacted in a way that was inappropriate. Alas, we can't control other people's behavior; only our own. Kids should be taught to go with their gut but also they should be taught that if their gut instinct is to be cruel because the other kids are doing it, that is wrong. There are no guarantees in life. My son is the awkward kid with autism, though miraculously, the kids at his junior high have all been so kind and he is absolutely thriving. I believe the #1 reason he is thriving is because he doesn't get bullied. My daughter is the cute, popular, charismatic one. Being a sib of an autistic kid, she's developed a lot of compassion and empathy and I think I'd have a hard time convincing her not to be kind to kids like her brother. The sad truth is she could get burned either way so I'd rather that she be kind and inclusive. As much as possible.

Julee

Friday 6th of April 2018

I am not telling my daughter NOT to be kind and NOT to be inclusive. I am telling her there are boundaries; be aware. I am no longer making excuses for others in telling my daughter, "Be kind." She is a kind, gentle human being. That doesn't change. I just am not setting my kids up under the blanket of be kind. Yes, be kind, but know that it is okay to just walk away and not look back.

Amy

Thursday 5th of April 2018

Is it a secret whether this "child" is a girl or a boy? I don't know why, but I feel it makes a difference.

Julee

Friday 6th of April 2018

It's a boy.

Sue

Thursday 5th of April 2018

This post kind of broke my heart. As a mother of a child with autism, I’m sure others see my kid as “the lion” and at some point decide to keep their distance... and part of me doesn’t blame them because he can be rude and doesn’t pick up on social cues. Maybe he follows people around who he thinks are friends but they see him as a stalker. Maybe he oversteps his boundaries.

But my heart just wishes other kids could be taught more compassion. More inclusion. More kindness. Because I can tell you exactly what will happen if he continues to be rejected without understanding why... his anger will grow. And my husband and I are doing everything in our power to help him through his depression with therapy and karate to channel his anger in a healthy way.

I don’t know what the answer is here. It’s complex and extremely painful to be on this side of the line.

Julee

Thursday 5th of April 2018

Sue, This post isn't about exclusion or about children in the spectrum. This post is about needing to teach our children that in all relationships there are boundaries. I was a broken record telling my child to be kind to everyone. I listened over and over and tried to teach her empathy. I was a broken record in insisting she consider the child left out, picked last, sitting alone, etc. I wanted her to lead the crusade of inclusion. The reality is sometimes it's okay to not be kind and not include everyone. My children understand that people are different, but when those differences are vastly different, it's okay to remove yourself. We are still dealing with this child. This child's parents have been notified, the school has been working with this child. This post is about teaching our children to be aware. To not cloak everything under the veils of kindness and inclusion. My daughter is very empathetic. She thought she was helping this child--she was being kind to this child because of the child's home situation because this child was perhaps angry because he didn't have friends. She thought she was doing the right thing. I am not telling my child to be rude, or to be unkind. I am not telling her to bully or leave anyone out. I am telling her to be aware. That not everyone is good, that not everyone is kind. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of people. Following a child is not necessarily stalking. Stalking goes beyond that...I did not write that line light-heartedly. I considered what was happening, what I was told by the counselor, recalling conversations between my daughter and me. I don't believe that a child with autism is the "lion"...

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