Who said BOLD was bad? I have noticed that the reason why many adults want quiet, obedient kids is because they do not want their view of the world challenged. Bold kids do that and not because they are rude or bad, but because they are being true to themselves. They are the ones who follow their impulses and search curiously about the world. The truth is, I admire these kids and I have spent a lot of time wondering about how much social convention to support and teach kids in my care. I want to encourage that Spirit of authenticity while also teaching kids sensitivity and respectfulness. The most effective thing I have found is to be really clear in my relationship with them about my own boundaries while honouring theirs and in so doing, show them how to respect the boundaries of others. Other folks have their own boundaries and values and that is OK. Kids learn that quick- especially bold kids. They WANT to know where the lines are. And maybe those bold kids get themselves into some pickles sometimes because they do not understand that something might ruffle someone’s feathers and that is a valid way of learning. That is OK too. I worked with a kid once who would often blaze ahead when he had a goal in mind without taking other folks into consideration. He was continuously perplexed by the responses he got. He was the ring leader in my next story…
One day, we shot off a rocket in the field in front of the learning center as part of a science experiment we were doing. It didn’t quite go where we thought it would and ended up in a lady’s back yard. The kids were distressed and were willing to do anything to get it back. After listening to their plan, I warned them that they could not just go rummaging through people’s fenced backyards without their permission and that it was illegal. They ignored me. Most adults would have stopped kids by force but I wanted him and the other kids to learn from natural consequences so I went with them while they did this. At a certain point, they figured out where the rocket was and started going through a lady’s well-manicured garden bed without regard for her flowers to get to their rocket. Well, the lady was home (I had seen her in the window) and she came out and tore a strip out of them. Not only that, she refused to give them their rocket. She told them they were on private property and did they know she could call the police and sent them away while giving me a sideways glance as if to say: “Why aren’t you DOING something about this?!”
I ignored the “look”; I had purposely decided NOT to rescue them and I held to that. The kids came back to me and were totally scared and defeated. “How are we going to get it back now??”
I said, “Yup. She was pretty mad. I would be too if someone came into my yard and trampled on all the flowers and plants I had spent so long planting without talking to me first.”
The look on their faces was priceless. They had never considered it from her point of view. After brainstorming solutions, the kids decided to write her a letter of apology and went down to deliver it in person. She agreed to give them back their rocket and seemed impressed at their response. She smiled at me as if I had something to do with it. It was all good and I was glad I didn’t intervene because it was an experience they needed to have to find out how the world worked. And these kids were not “bad” kids. I actually have yet to meet a “bad” person. I’ve learned that all behaviour makes sense to the person doing it otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it at all. In the end, we’re all trying to get our needs met- we just don’t always go about it in an effective way.