Monday, October 20, 2008

“But, mom, please let me go over. Her mom said it was okay.” I can still hear the pleading voice from my daughter who had discovered a friend across the street. I confess. I knew in my heart she would eventually leave me for other playmates, but I thought she would wait until she was at least fifteen. But the calendar had marched on and my little girl was now four years old. She was no longer happy with me as a playmate or our yard as her playground. No, she had visions of a world that existed across the street. But I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t prepared her. I needed more time! You see, what my daughter didn’t know was I had been watching the little girl across the street for a few years now. At six, she was an older woman and much more street savvy than my daughter. She obviously had permissive parents as she was allowed to ride her bike down the street! And to top it off, she had an older brother. Everyone knows that any kid with an older sibling knows more of the things you don’t want your kids to know more about, right?
“What do I do?”
“How could I tell my daughter that I don’t want her to be friends with our
neighbors?”
“Should I see if my husband wants to buy acreage in country?”
These questions and more kept me awake for many nights until I decided that I was an adult and I could figure this out.
As I evaluated my dilemma, here are the things I knew for sure. I wanted my daughter to have a healthy understanding of how to choose good friends and how to be a good neighbor. I didn’t want her to ever go to off with a stranger or into someone’s home she didn’t know. So, it was up to me to teach her how to be a friend and who to be a friend with. And, one more thing, I didn’t want to move to country!
So I adopted a survival strategy that helped me cope. Maybe it will help you as you navigate through of scary waters of friends and strangers.
First, I had to open my heart. I realized my heart wasn’t very receptive to this new person in my child’s life. Whenever our hearts are closed to something, generally fear is one of the reasons for the closure. And, it was true it this case. Fear was keeping me from opening my heart to someone who might need a good role model in her life. I also realized that while it was true that she was a few years older than my daughter, she was just a child, she wasn’t a dragon! And I realized it was important for me to let my daughter see me acting kindly toward this neighbor.
Next, I had to open my door. One thing I realized early on is some mothers are quite willing to let the playing go on at someone else’s home beside theirs. Take advantage of this. I know it’s a lot more work for you, but if the kids are at your house you don’t spend hours worrying about them. It will be worth the extra time you have to spend cleaning up at night to get a good night's sleep. And don’t be afraid to implement your house rules with the neighbor kids. I used to say it like this, “At our house, we don’t do such and such.” That way it lets other children know that they may act a different way at their own house, but at your house, they must follow your rules. And it doesn’t have to be said in a mean way, it’s just a fact. For instance, I never and I repeat, never, let children play behind a closed door. It was a rule in my house. So if they tried to close the door, I would just open it and say, “In our house, children do not play with the door shut.”
And lastly, I had to open my Bible. I don’t mean I literally had to keep a Bible open when friends are over, but I also didn’t shy away from teaching Biblical principles when the opportunity arose. I always thought my best chance of teaching a parent would be through teaching a child. Again, this can be very subtle with the words you use. For instance, I would say, “At our house, we always pray before we eat. It’s a chance for us to thank God for everything He has given us.” Another way is to read a Bible story when friends are over. Kids love to be read to. It’s a natural way to get some Bible principles into your children as well as the neighbors. And, of course, there are many great videos to play while friends are over that reinforce the behavior that you expect your children to use.

I hope some of this is helpful to you as “be a good neighbor.” Remember you can not and should not take away every unpleasant experience your child will encounter. Those experiences are very important teaching tools of life. But, as the mom, you can lead and guide your children to make good choices in their friendships by opening your heart, opening your door, and opening your Bible.

May God continue to bless you as you make a difference one kiss at a time,

Chrys Howard

1 comment:

tomtom said...

"I always thought my best chance of teaching a parent would be through teaching a child." Chrys Howard

Wise words, my friend. Someone should cross-stitch that on a pillow. :) Hugs, Shellie