My 7-year-old daughter has been going to Primary One since January this year.
I am glad J would share with us stories of what has happened to her in school that day, especially during dinner. I encourage that. After all, that is the best way to find out more about her school life.
Here are a few stories I pick up along the way and I would like to share them with you here. Also I am going to tell you how I (my wife too!) handled each one of them.
Every situation in life is a learning experience for our child. I always take this opportunity to teach them some lessons. There is nothing better than real life lessons. How we handle the situation is important so that we can show and teach our children the right way to live their life when they grow up.
Story #1 – Beaten Up by Teacher
She came home one day and steadily and calmly told us that she was punished by her teacher. The reason? For not doing her duty. According to J, this was the first time she forgot totally about her role in keeping the class clean and tidy. I am not going into an age-old debate about whether we should or should not cane our children. But without showing any compassion, the teacher took out a cane and hit her palm – only for the first “mistake” she committed. Was it painful? She said no. Besides her, there were a few others who were caned for the same reason.
How I Handled: My first reaction was why caning while this was her first negligence of duty? Why there was no warning at all? Why the teacher went straight to punishment without giving an educational “lecture?” After calming myself down, I asked her how she could prevent this from happening again in the future. After some discussion, it seemed that we don’t have a good solution except that she has to split her time wisely between food and duty during recess. Another solution is to get her classmates to remind her that she has a duty to do on Fridays. Of course, I will keep monitoring to see if the teacher is a punishment freak.
Story #2 – Lost Her Colored Pencils
J set her eyes on a set of colored pencils after she saw another girl using them one day. The colored pencils are not the usual ones but they are twistable. Since coloring is her favorite pastime, we agreed to buy for her. She was elated. And she even brings them to school.
Due to the fact that the pencils are special, plus out of curiosity, many of her friends borrow them from her. As a generous person that she is, J willingly shares his prized possession. (In fact, I don’t stop her from lending them to her classmates except that I encourage her to use her discretion to determine whom she should lend the pencils to. If she thinks her friend genuinely needs her pencils, she should lend them).
As expected, one day she came home telling us that she lost the whole set of pencils after lending to a friend. This happened somewhere in mid-April.
How I Handled: Under normal circumstances, I would not have hesitated to give J a big, expressive lesson on how to take good care of her things. Fortunately my wife stepped in and then I toned down. If I didn’t and continued with the lecture, in the future J might not be so willingly to share her stories with me and I will be the last one to find out about her happenings in school.
And who wants to talk to you if all the child gets is blame, blame, and blame? It is always good to save the teaching until a time when things cool down.
Instead, I told her it’s okay to have lost her colored pencils. Take it easy and don’t need to fret. I suggested to her that she should check with the friend – who last took the pencils – the next day if she found them. Also she should let the teacher know about the loss so that the teacher could help find the pencils. But J never did.
Things were quiet until a few days later when another friend of J found the pencils but some of them were all used up. We still, until now, don’t know who took the pencils and used almost half of them.
Story #3 – 2-for-1 Deal
My jaw dropped when I heard this. This happened last Thursday. J met a same-year student who is not from her class. The student wanted to borrow a dollar from her. J refused. To make the deal more interesting, her schoolmate quickly told her that she would pay her two dollars for the one dollar that she lent. To prevent the deal slip through her hands, J, with lightning speed, took up the deal of the lifetime.
What boggles my mind is not about J lending the money to her friend, but how on earth a 7-year-old could come up with such a smart business proposal? The best thing about this deal is J doesn’t even know her name and who she is.
How I Handled: I don’t want to paint a picture to my daughter that she should cling to money and should not let go. After all, abundance is what makes the world spin. I don’t want to spoon-feed her and I want to teach her to make her own decisions. I told J it is okay for her to lend money to her friends as long as she feels it is the right thing to do. One more thing she needs to do is to make sure that her friends need the money genuinely.
I also asked her to remind her friend for the money if she ever sees her. Even though her friend gives her back one dollar (not two as promised), I told her to just take it! Herein, I teach her it is okay to receive what is rightfully hers, and to receive what she deserves. No shame in it.
This Monday, J reminded her friend who took her one dollar and she promised to return it on Tuesday.
Came Tuesday, which was yesterday, J approached her and she said she would pay back the following day. Duh, not again? While picking up J from school, I met the girl at the entrance and I asked her about the money and she said she would pay back on Wednesday, which is today. I told her if she didn’t, I would report to the headmistress
Story #4 – Kissed by A Boy!
Boy! This is a killer. Just this Monday, J was kissed on the cheek by a boy classmate. I asked her what she did when this “cherished” moment took place. She said she laughed. So did her other friends.
What? You say no big deal? I agree with you if you are in the Western countries like US, UK, Europe, or Australia. But not in Malaysia – an Asian country with conservative values. Jokes aside, in Asia, unlike Western culture, kissing is only reserved for the loved ones: spouse, children and to some extent parents. Other than that, kissing is a big no-no, especially in public places.
Not that I am against affection or kissing for that matter, I am worried that J is taken for a ride. You know there is a fine line between harassment and a show of genuine liking. Girls, especially, have to stand up for their rights. And I also worry about the passionate boy (I know him) who might not even know that it is improper for him to kiss a girl in school for all that he cares. From young, parents play a significant role in teaching children proper manners.
How I Handled: Since this is something that can’t be taken lightly, and if it is not addressed properly, J might not learn how to defend herself as she grows up. People must respect her personal space. Intruders must be told off with a stern voice. My wife is especially disturbed by this incident and I had told J to tell people (who kiss or hug her) that it is rude and they should stay away from her. She was told to report to teachers and us, of course, if the same thing happens again.
There is no right or wrong way to handle situations like what I mentioned above because every parent and child is different. What is more important is the message or lesson you want your child to learn out of each situation.
Ultimately, we want our children to grow into empowered persons who can protect themselves (while not forgetting having fun at the same time) without our presence.