You know that kind grandma who says “it’s okay” when your child kicks their seat 100 times in church? I really wish she (and everyone else!) would quit telling my kids it’s okay. Here’s why.
By Danielle, Contributing Writer
Every mom has been there. You’re in the middle of church, a soccer game, or the grocery store, and a straight-up WW3 breaks out. It could be about the red-40 dyed candy you refuse to purchase, the toy you had to take away, or…a blade of grass. There is no telling when it will hit. And just like that, you’re thrown into a situation where you have to exhibit your best gentle parenting techniques and get to the root of the problem.
You’re finally turning the corner on why “we don’t kick others, it hurts their feelings, and we want to show love to others,” and you can see that your child is really getting it. Their tears are drying up, and they’re about to hug you and share some feelings. Maybe even an impromptu apology for their victim. But then, the sweet, loving, grandma, leans down and says, “it’s okay, I have a lot of grandchildren, you don’t bother me!”
A smile, maybe even a wink, is exchanged and off your child goes to play with his friends again. Sigh.
Quit Telling My Kids It’s Okay
Listen, grandma, I appreciate it. I really do. I am a single parent, and this parenting thing is hard. Don’t think I don’t see the wayward glances when my little one misbehaves or pitches a fit–I do. And I appreciate you not judging me here in the trenches. But, I need that, not my child. My child needs to learn that causing harm to others is not acceptable, not ever. Not even to and especially not for, sweet grandmas.
So, I am going to have to ask you to quit. Back away from the child, or wait for the apology. I know it’s okay. I know your arm isn’t broken.
I am trying to raise a child to understands that we need to treat others how we want to be treated. So while I appreciate you not lashing out at my child, I don’t appreciate you accepting his misbehavior, either.
I recently had this play out in small, cramped, basketball bleachers. We were attending my brother’s championship basketball game, and of course, space was limited. In all my mothering wisdom, I allowed my son to bring his new educational toy, which had different liquid substances inside, showing how different densities interact. The issue was it was about a foot long and glass. No toy for such a small space. The kind lady in front of me smiled sweetly as my son kept “accidentally” touching her with the wand. She even made funny faces; which told my son it was game on.
The toy became a full out warrior wand, smacking all over her back, and her friend’s. As I told my son while this may be fun, hitting people can hurt, and this isn’t the place; she replied with, “it’s okay!” And the beating continued. I eventually had to leave the area with my son to explain that while she was having fun, this wasn’t the toy nor the place for this game. What could have been a fun game of learning limits and boundaries, or making new friends, became a tough parenting situation that couldn’t be beneficial. This is the perfect reason why we need other parents to help us parent how they would want for their children, not what is fun or what’s convenient.
I sat back down in my seat with my unhappy son, and heard my dad lean over and say, “hey, it’s okay…”
I got a little more upset than I should have, turned and said, “No, dad, it’s not okay. My child cannot learn it’s okay to hit people with glass sticks in public. And I need you to help me show him how we can play with others nicely.” He said, “I know…”
I get that we are all trying to give each other grace, which is much needed. But let’s start giving a vested interest in the betterment of each others’ kids as well. So, parents, friends, babysitters, teachers, and everyone else, here is what is okay:
It’s okay to get on my child’s level and explain how his or her actions make others feel.
It’s okay to ask about his or her feelings.
It’s okay to tell him or her something is NOT OKAY.
It’s okay to tell him or her how their actions have hurt another person.
It’s okay to make them work to make it up to them.
It’s okay to share your feelings with my child.
It’s NOT okay to take the “it’s okay” cop out.
Tips for the “It’s Okay” Moments:
I’ve dealt with this many times since that moment, and have found that this actually happens to a lot of moms often. Here are some suggestions for how to handle that pesky “it’s okay” moment:
#1) Ask the person to stay around and share how the action made them feel.
Talking about it rather than just walking away, even if the conversation isn’t great, will give both you and your child more insight into how the other person is feeling. Knowing this will help your child see the action from another’s point of view.
#2) Ask your child about how this started.
Play out the situation and talk about the feelings involved on both sides. Usually, a kick to the face was not because “I wanted to” or “I don’t know.” A big feeling or emotion evoked it and helping your child determine that will help them handle their emotions better next time.
#3) Admit your own faults.
This instantly sets my little one at ease. I bring up a time I royally messed up, apologized, or did something similar. This reminds your little one that we all make mistakes, and what matters is that we try to fix them.
#4) Suggest a resolution.
I am not endorsing a forced “sowwy” or a hug, but ask your child or the child harmed how this can be bettered. You will be surprised by their creative answers.
I’d venture to guess that we have all had those “it’s okay” mommy moments. I admit that the first few times I tried to change the person’s words and actions with a death glare or five. But, there are ways to handle this situation the next time it rears its ugly head, because mama, it’s coming your way again.
Good post. I admit that I either have or almost have done this in the past. As bystanders, we feel this is none of our business, and don’t want to interfere in the parenting moment. But we forget that saying “It’s OK” is actually interfering. Whatever we do, we are in the situation, and we can’t avoid teaching something to this child that we’ve never met and whose parents we don’t know.
We may also forget that the child doing something intentionally is not an adult doing the same thing accidentally (to which “It’s OK” is a perfectly acceptable response).
Agreed, Katya! I wish more folks would stick around to talk about it, but not approve of it 🙂
Great post, I was reading and slowly recollecting those moments of frustration i felt towards people around me “comforting” my kid. It was either my mother, mother-in-law, but also the father of my child. The thing is, that they don’t notice “harm” they are causing by saying “it’s okay”. Several times I had to get upset and mostly tell my mother to support me instead of making me do double work ;).