When I say no, I mean it

Years or months ago I’d written about how I don’t like shy kids (meaning I don’t like my kids to be shy, alright Poppy?!). I’ve also blogged about how clingy and cranky the Bean was when she was an infant. I’ve also written about my childhood sexual abuse incident and how it horrifies me to think of my daughter ever experiencing anything even close. All of it just went around in my head and created a cess pool.

I knew I *wanted* my daughter to be fearless and she is. She charges up to huge dogs, yells at strangers who trouble her brother, jumps off high walls, climbs the highest slides, tastes everything new without cringing and much more. But nothing comes without a price and I often wondered how I’d temper this fearlessness with teaching her a healthy fear for strangers and not walking off with them. It’s hard because I have friends and visitors coming over all the time and the kids learn to say ‘hello’ to a new face every few days.

It’s also sad that we need to teach our daughters to be fearful (not that I don’t realise the risks our sons run) and enforce that sort of gender bias. But the Bean put my fears to rest on our Diwali train trip to Allahabad. We had just about settled in to the train when someone began to make overtures.

As a younger parent I had often handed the Brat over to others at a party easily – partly pride and partly to get a break. But I realise as I grow older that I am more scared to let anyone lay a finger on my children. I am getting more paranoid and I don’t know how to back that paranoia up with the guts to say no.

As I sat there wondering whether it was okay to let him put his greasy paws on the Bean, she took the matter out of my hands. Looking him up and down she considered it and then turning to me said, “Mamma, I don’t like this man. I don’t want to go to him.”

I wanted the earth to open up and swallow him. Because of course I want everything to come wrapped neatly in a ribbon. I didn’t want her to go but I didn’t want to be rude either, you know!

I looked at the OA who looked away in disbelief. And then I stammered an apology to the gentleman telling him that she was shy (yeah right!) and then firmly told her that she doesn’t have to go to anyone she doesn’t want to, but that it’s rude to tell someone that you don’t like them.

I don’t know how much of it she understood and whether she got the nuance of it or not, but I am so glad for her strong instincts. I have poor instinct and bad judgment, often trusting people who come right into my home and breach my trust. But I think I can strike this worry off my list.

Okay next… unsuitable clothing… hmm….

*goes off, brow creased, looking for something new to fret over*


43 thoughts on “When I say no, I mean it

  1. Ok I get the message LOUD and CLEAR 🙂

    Well, on the positive side of shyness, that’s one less thing for me to worry about – my older one will NEVER walk away with a stranger:) The younger one, dunno I’m still reserving judgment on that – she does go to other people easily but won’t stay long with them.

    It’s too early to worry about inappropriate clothing silly. Go find something else to worry about *thinks hard and comes up with nothing!*

  2. I was just telling my husband this morning of similar worries that have been plaguing me for my own daughter (sure, she’s just 7 months old – but its never too early to worry, right? ;))I have great instincts when it comes to sleazeballs but I still have had to endure my share of pawing from total strangers. Good on the Bean, I hope she remains as firm and as clear as this always. As for my daughter, I will pray she will too.

  3. Ah, that man will remember Beanie every time he tries to approach a kid. “I don’t like this man,” indeed. Like Aslan said to Amy (Narnia), “if you were any braver, you’d be a lioness.” Bows to her HH.

  4. there is a really good book by tulir that talks about the touching rules. about tickles that go ‘wrong’. and even with closest of friends/family/neighbours, i’ve made it clear that they CANNOT force my daughter(s) to hug or kiss. they will if they want to or when they are comfy. no give uncle/aunty kissy, just because the parents want to have ‘cute’ kids.
    and don’t get me started on unsuitable clothing. it’s such a bloody task getting decent swimming costumes, and clothes that don’t look like a mini-adult dress. http://ummon.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/so-sexy-so-soon/ check it out when u can.

    • This is one I have huge trouble with. I don’t force the give uncle a kissy bit, but I do want them to stop, wish the time of day, stay and talk. I know they’re young yet, but kids have strong instinct and its hard to get them to even behave if they dont like the person. 😦

      Tulir? Where can I get it?

      • i got mine (with audio book) from landmark chennai. but i am sure tulir itself can be contacted online to send you a copy. their fb group is also quite interesting, so if you are on fb, link up there…(http://www.tulir.org/)
        and about being polite. i make sure she always says hello and responds to a wish. but keep drilling into her the need for physical space.

        • you’re right. the trick is to drill into her head, be nice, but dont go close. thanks 🙂
          having been brought up to kiss the uncles and aunties.. its hard to teach her differently or to even break out of that way of thought.

  5. Hubby goes crazy if friends/family even tickle our kids…and he’s right…it’s a lovely excuse for molestation.

    So good to hear abt Bean’s forthrightness…and maybe it was okay for her to be rude too…she may have sensed something and felt it was important to say it aloud…I definitely had a problem in my childhood (and most of my adulthood!) of not verbalising my instincts or feelings. To be able to say “I don’t like this man”….WOWOWOW! Let it be, na? She’s polite and friendly with the majority of people right? why should we teach our kids to be nice, no matter what?

    And I’m presently struggling to get Dhruv to understand abt bad touch, he finds it hilarious and laughs…I don’t know if he will respond appropriately to a creep trying to touch him. So it’s not about gender bias…a child should be able to stay safe by herself/himself. I’ve even warned Divya about older children touching her, you never know:(

    • “why should we teach our kids to be nice, no matter what?”

      this is something I struggle with everyday. Should I teach them to behave nice no matter what? Isnt that what manners is all about? Or should I teach them to be nice only to people they want to be nice to. In that case, is that good manners? I remember in the old days my grandma used to talk about grace under pressure. the entire point of manners being, to be nice even if you dont want to. how things have changed na… and yet you’re so right.

      • I’m changing my words…how was what the Bean said rude?! If the adult wants to touch her and she doesn’t like it, nothing rude about it. Assertive. Something to learn from Bean. And that extends to being nice…if a kid wants to resist an adult’s overtures, she has a right to, but politely! And she can get rude or walk (run)away if the other person won’t stop.

    • Starry, if it helps at all — what my mum taught me and a cousin was that if for any reason whatsoever anybody’s touch ever made us the slightest bit uncomfortable, we were allowed to walk away and not allow any further physical contact. And anybody here meant a father, a cousin, a grandparent, whoever.

      We were welcome to come tell her about it but we were to always act on the instinct even if it turned out to be wrong in the long run.

      • It looks like ur mum gave you the freedom to listen to your inner instincts…so important. That’s a nice attitude…will use it for my kids, tks!
        I remember my parents used to tell me to refuse to let certain over-eager relatives kiss or hug me, because THEY felt uncomfortable. But that was their judgment, luckily there weren’t any (touching) incidents where I had to rely on mine.

  6. Pintsize is friendly but he’d never walk off with a a stranger. A huge relief to me. Anyway, I don’t know what you’re worrying about. The way she handled Vicky will make me smile with pride and satisfaction to my dying day.

  7. i do believe children are gifted with instincts for liking a stranger or not. but they do need plenty of courage to do what Bean did methinks, not get intimidated by overpowering strangers but act according to what their lil minds say…

  8. You go Bean! You have one spunky kid:))) And who cares if she is assertive when dealing with some random guy on a train? She is simply following her instinct.

    I have always felt that one of the toughest things about parenting (among the gazillion other) has got to be the talk about good touch bad touch. The birds and bees seems a breeze compared to it. My mum sat us down, both my brother and I, gave us different versions of the same talk depending on our age. My mum did a great job, telling us to go with our own feelings and if we didn’t feel like giving someone a hug or kiss it was OK.

    I have a sneaky feeling when in the distant future I need to give my kids the same talk, I will put in a plane and send them to my mum.

  9. go beanie, you are my kinda girl! having said that, i hope she will come to me when i come over…i really hope i can make it. leaving on friday! will call ya as soon as I can.

  10. I really liked Beanie’s attitude … and the best part, she almost did what you wanted her to do … only you felt she was rude. Wonder how many strangers really take “I don’t like you” from a kid to heart. I think she did fine … stop worrying 🙂
    And about unsuitable clothing … I’ve got to start thinking on that because the day is not in distant future when Cantaloupe (now 5) will want to select her clothing.

  11. My grandmom’s neighbor used to terrify me. Nothing he did, but I was just terrified of him. And my response use to be just a stone cold steely silence or hiding behind my mom or dad. They termed it shyness, I think it was something that I didn’t like about the uncle. I outgrew it…and of course when we’d pass him or see him he would remind me of how scared I was…but politeness and manners develop over time. Eventually everyone will take matters in their hands and decide who deserves a polite declination and who deserves a kick in the err crown jewels!
    Also, we grew up around working parents and we often spent time alone at home for a couple hours until the mother came back. Our standing instructions were, don’t let a stranger in even if he says he’s your father’s friend, even if you know he is your father’s friend. We learned eventually to filter through that as we grew up, but we were very aware of the perils of being home alone and were on guard at all times. Not a bad thing…esp if you consider it came in handy when we traveled overseas and lived alone.

  12. MM,

    As some one who has suffered the same fate and who also was shy kid who didnt even know a no was an option, I am so glad Bean has this clarity.

    though it could happen from a friendly person as well you know. And boy is as much at risk as the girl! Sue’s mom suggestion made sense.

  13. I have the same worry as you. My daughter is extremely social and will go to any stranger who smiles at her. We watch her like a collective brood of hawks, but eventually she is going to grow up, and that’s the tough part – training her about the world. I hope she has some of your daughter’s assertiveness then.

    And we were NEVER brought up to give kissy to uncle/aunty, thank goodness! But we were brought up to say good morning/good evening, and then go inside.


  14. MM I know what you mean. My monster is not shy (I just say she is), as far as I understand the Bean, mine is very different from her (Which is one reason why I LOVE the bean and cannot wait to get my hands on her). She cannot be bothered to deal with adults, though if anyone makes a concerted effort and plays with her and chats with her, she is quite comfortable with them. Stranger on a train? No way! She was sitting in my class one time, and my student offered her a stick of gum, she said ‘Amma tell him I dont talk to strangers’ I feel a bit embarrassed as it does come off sounding pretty rude, and it drives her father crazy, but since I cannot figure what to do about it, I just let it go. She WONT EVEN tell her name to anyone, She gives me a look that says, they are YOUR friends, so what does that mean to me? Attitude man, you can cut it with a knife. And me, so easy-going and peaceful about everything. Real tough going.

    • Oh man! Tough. But hey, she knows what she wants 🙂 It’ll pay off in the future. And it could be a diffident sort of shyness or not – as long as she likes her little friends who cares.

      Makes me remember when we were growing up, we weren’t expected to make conversation with adults like the way we expect kids to do these days. My mom’s friends would ask some stupid q, I would grin goofily, and then go away back to what I was doing. Come to think of it. I still do that with the doddering relatives 🙂 I never knew what to say to them.

      And nobody passed any judgment on me that I was shy or ill mannered or what not. We’re expecting children to behave like adults and then we get all upset about their sexualisation and what not! 🙂

      • lucky you 🙂
        as kids we were very clearly told that we were behaving badly if we didnt answer questions and interact for a while with my parents’ friends. It was not about behaving like an adult – it was just about having manners – like you’d expect your child to put away their plate after a meal, clear up their toys or any one of the other 100 things we start with early.

        • I see the point of it. I’m sure it’s good. But then again I feel uncomfortable with kids who talk too much with adults – like the kids who come sometimes to play with Poppin but end up talking to me like their mothers 🙂 Seriously.

          Teaching good manners is good, but teaching assertiveness is better. Bean has that naturally, don’t confuse her!

          • no not at all.. although i have no probs with kids talking to elders. as long as its polite and appropriate. its always nice to hear their POV. and I have a lot of women friends who are much older and have kids our age. I’d start with Dipali as an example 🙂

            and yes – teaching assertiveness is first, so no confusion there. thank you ma’am

  15. What a relevant post this is, MM. Beanie has great attitude and you don’t go and muddle it up. She is spunky, let her be that way. There is no rule that she has to please everybody, Ok? Ok.

    This dicussion is too good and thank you for bringing it up 🙂

    Sue: Thanks for the tip. Your mom has awed me and she still does.

  16. MM, Me thinks it’s easier when you’re around your kids than the times when you are not. I am getting slammed with shout-outs for sleepovers, hours long play dates etc where I am not wanted, which I have been stalling on for now:) How does a parent derive any sense of balance? I know friends that have been abused by their dads’ best friends when they were left at their place by trusting parents. The guy or the girl I know as a personable, affable, trustworthy friend may turn out to be so much more when it comes to our kids – where does one draw the line between caution and paranoia? My mother always claimed it was okay to be paranoid than abused and even she slipped up once when she left me with someone she trusted that obviously was not worth her trust.
    Teaching them to say no is one thing, determining safe zones?aaargh!

  17. Bravo Beanie! I can so relate with your fears! How to say no to people who want to play or hug your child. I guess it is a constant lesson.

  18. Pingback: How are we protecting our children? « Things do not change…until we change!

And in your opinion....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s