How do other parents handle it when well-meaning people interfere, especially when the person’s comment doesn’t fit with your family’s rules? I feel as though I’m having a difficult time striking a balance between teaching my children respect for authority but also not wanting them to be little robots.
For example, last year, Linnea flipped out when her preschool teacher required her to put on her jacket at the end of the morning. Now, it wasn’t a battle I would have chosen to fight, given that she certainly wasn’t going to freeze on that particular day, but it was their rule. So we had some talks with her about how she has to follow her teacher’s rules, and how the way she responded was disrespectful.
But today it was a different matter. I had walked to school to pick them up, and the children had already been turned over into my care. As we were walking away from the entrance, one of the teachers I don’t know came up and told Linnea that she had to hold onto the stroller. Now, Linnea is pretty trustworthy and very good about walking safely, so I don’t require her to hold my hand unless we’re at a very busy intersection–and not always even then. I just smiled at the teacher and told her that I had things under control, and then instantly worried that I had come across as disrespectful, and wondered whether I was setting a bad example.
The other issue that comes into play is that Linnea is extremely sensitive to strangers’ correcting her. One day, she was running down the sidewalk, and a lady in our neighborhood told her she needed to be careful so she didn’t fall. That comment reduced Linnea to tears, with claims of “but I AM careful, Mommy, and I WASN’T going to fall!” We’re working on this with her, especially in situations where I think the person does have a right to make a comment or correct her behavior (such as a shopkeeper), but also feel a little bad for her.
I will confess that I definitely have a rebellious streak and generally have no qualms about questioning authority. It gets me in trouble sometimes, and it’s not really something I’m proud of.
When I was a high school senior, they had problems with vandalism of teachers’ cars (maybe keying?). I guess they made an afternoon announcement about how we were now forbidden to walk through the teachers’ section of the parking lot, but I never heard it because I only went to school for half the day. So the next morning, I cut through that section as I normally did, and then heard one of the vice-principals shout, “What are you doing? Stop!” Of course, as a rule-abiding student, I didn’t realize he was talking to me, so I kept going. Then he finally caught up with me and scornfully said, “You can’t walk through here. What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” Shocked and insulted, I replied, “The ‘n’ part” and kept on walking. I’m amazed to this day that I didn’t get in trouble.
I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking it’s okay to talk to people like that. Ugh. But I do think the vice-principal spoke to me rudely, especially given that I wasn’t a troublemaker. I don’t want my kids to grow up to be doormats or automatons, but they do need to have respect for authority and also know when it’s sensible and more charitable to stay quiet. [Sigh.]