■ Discriminatory skills
■ Ownership of behavior
■ Consideration of others and safety
Sometimes when you are growing up it's hard to know what is expected ofyou. Mom says, "Do the dishes," and Dad says, "Do you homework." Dad says, "Come here," and Mom says, "Go there." I'm sure you know what I mean. What do you do? What is okay and what is not? And how do you know?
That was the dilemma Harry was in. His mom and dad had some friends visiting from out of town. These friends had two boys: Dave, who was a little older than Harry, and Mitch, who was a little younger. While the two sets of parents sat talking over coffee after lunch, the boys disappeared into Harry's bedroom and were soon rough-housing and having pillow fights with each other. The parents had a laugh about it, commenting on how "Boys will be boys."
Later, visiting the neighborhood park, the parents walked and talked while the boys hung back, still rough-housing. When Mitch, the youngest, got dumped to the ground and came up crying, Harry got a lecture from his dad —probably because he happened to look guiltier than Dave did.
"Hang on," said Mitch's mom, trying to calm the situation a bit. "They were just doing what they were doing back home with the pillows before."
"Yes," said Harry's dad, "but they have to learn to tell the difference between when it's okay to fool around and when it's not. They need to learn when it's safe and when it's dangerous. Mitch could have hit his head on one of the rocks by the path."
Harry felt bad. He hadn't meant to hurt Mitch. They had just been fooling around like at home, as Mitch's mom had said. So how can you tell when one time is okay and when another is not?
Harry's dad's anger was an example. Harry was always being told not to be angry, but he saw his dad come home angry from work at times and he sure saw his dad get angry at the umpire when they went to the baseball game on Saturdays. In fact, sometimes his dad would stand up and scream so much that Mitch almost felt embarrassed to be with him. But he never saw his dad get angry with Mom, and rarely angry with him. So Harry wondered, When is it okay and when is it not okay?
"You should always tell us the truth," insisted both his mom and dad. But he had learned that if he told the truth he could get into trouble. Besides, he had heard his mom tell a friend that she had other plans when the friend invited her out . . . and Harry knew she didn't have any other plans, at all. He'd also heard Dad phone his boss one morning and say he had a really bad headache and wouldn't be coming to work that day, when Harry knew he didn't have a headache but wanted to go somewhere with Mom.
At the end of the walk, Harry's parents and their friends stopped at the tavern in the park for a drink. The tavern had a little sanctuary with some young male kangaroos that were fighting. They balanced on their strong tails, punched each other with their paws, and slashed out with their long hind legs. A crowd had gathered to watch in fascination. People were taking photos.
It's okay for us boys to rough-house in my room, thought Harry, but not do the same in the park. It's okay for the kangaroos to fight and box in the park, but I bet Mom would go nuts if they did it in my room.
No wonder it's confusing. How could Harry expect to know what was okay and what wasn't when he got messages like that? He certainly hadn't wanted to hurt Mitch and, fortunately, he didn't; but I guess he was a little smarter from the experience because he began to wonder: If he hadn't got it right this time, how might he do it better next time?
In his head, Harry began to ask himself some questions. Is it safe for me to do what I'm doing? Is it likely to hurt me or someone else? If we're playing, how can we have fun and do it safely? One thing may be okay for one set of circumstances or with one group of friends but not for another. How do I judge that? wondered Harry. Of course, things do happen that we may not want to happen at times, and there may not be any firm answers to those questions, but by asking them Harry put himself in a better position to know in the future what was okay and what wasn't.
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