Then all at once, the mother slapped the little girls legs rather hard and the minute she did, she put her legs together. Up until that point, I had not even noticed that this girl was sitting that way. Of course, nothing was said, but you could get the feeling that the mother was saying, don't you dare open your legs around a man.
Before you think I'm any kind of a pervert, I'm not. So, please don't be reading that into any of this because you would be so far off from the truth, it would be sad.
The thing that got me though was what the mother was teaching the little girl. First of all, the physical part of this makes me cringe. While many may say, oh it is for their own good, or it doesn't really hurt them, I would beg to differ. When that girl's reaction was so immediate and automatic, the neural pathway in her brain has already been forged together. She knows exactly what the message is, but more importantly the cells and tissues of her body know what the message is. When that happens, it is a long lasting life event for her.
Granted, it may never fully affect her, but other events could come along and then connect to that one and all of the sudden, this becomes a nightmare for this little girl. On top of that, the internalized humiliation the girl most likely feels is nothing positive for her. The mother could have calmly talked to her once they were in a more private area, rather than using the control and humiliate procedure. I know, most people don't think about this, but these subtle little moments can be horrific for young children and last a lifetime for them.
The other thing that bothered me and where I felt uncomfortable, was that the mother was inadvertently telling her daughter that men are all about sex and you'd better not ever open your legs to them. I may be stretching my argument here a little, but honest in that moment, that's what I was feeling and picking up. So, I will trust my gut instinct. Again, you may think that this is so subliminal and innocent that it doesn't matter, but I've seen enough traumatized and hurt people dealing with things later in their life that were "subliminal and innocent appearing".
I think there is a way to model behavior to children and teach them what they need to know so they grow up with healthy boundaries. I also think that there is behavior that teaches them the exact opposite of what you are trying to get them to understand. Children model parent's behavior. Anything a parent needs to be teaching a child should be first modeled in their own life first, before expecting the child to do this.
Take a moment when you're with your kids and see how you're coming across. What is the true message that you're really teaching them? What are you really saying and what are you doing through your own behavior. Don't treat your children as something that you have to control and its your way or the highway sort of attitude. Don't treat them as property that you can do whatever you wish. Instead, try to treat them as human, depicting behavior in yourself that is good for them to follow and by setting healthy boundaries for them. Not everything they do is a major disciplinary moment for your children.
Blog Post And Images (c) 1/25/14 by Don Shetterly
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