Monday, November 26, 2007

Scary how kids reflect their parents’ views and speech patterns

On Friday Baby’s class went to meet same-grade kids from a sister school in the city. The kids have been corresponding for a year through a pen pal programme set up by their schools.

Baby was very excited that she would meet her pen-pal, with whom she exchanged a letter almost every two weeks.

She hoped the in-person meeting would help them get to know each other well, especially as the other girl was not eloquent with her letters, writing only a couple of lines in each letter. She insisted we go to the nearby shop to buy some snacks and sweets, which the two of them were to share.

“So how did it go?” I asked when she walked into the house late Friday afternoon, looking a bit worn around the edges.

“I hated her,” Baby said passionately. “I really hated her. No, I despise her. She was mean. She planned with her friends right from the start that she was going to make me do whatever she tells me. She didn’t want to know me; she just wanted someone new to be mean to.”

Part of the problem, I think, is that the girl gave Baby more than 300% the value of the goodies Baby brought for her as a gift. She also had a R100 note she blew on snacks that afternoon. Unfortunately, Baby didn’t see the gifts as generosity she saw it as showing off, which must have created tension right at their beginning.

The girl also made the mistake of demanding they play her preferred games. When Baby insisted she was going to watch the animals and in the park, the girl allegedly shouted: “For goodness sake, do as you’re told!”

Maybe I’m pushing my suppositions too far, but I could almost swear I heard the girl’s mother speak as Baby mimicked the girl’s words.

Isn’t it just scary how our kids reflect our views and speech patterns until they grow into their own sense of self and views, and or rebel.

Sometimes the mimicry is a good thing, especially when you try hard to teach her something you feel is important and you don’t know if you are getting through to her.

Then one day you eavesdrop on a conversation between her and a friend, and she gives the same advice you gave her, using the same words you used.

I could also see my influence as Baby described how she walked away from the pen pal and went to play with other kids in her group. “I don’t have to take that kind of abuse. So I just left and went to play at the swings. She can find herself another penpal.”

I'd promised to deal with the school if there is a backlash [the pen pal programme is not just to help the kids to make friends; it helps them with letter-writing and essay writing.] It turns out Baby did not need my interference. She traded penpals with one of her classmates, who she thinks is a better fit.

Apparently the classmate also flashes large amounts of cash at school and uses her generous gifts to control other kids. They can buy each other lots and lots and lots of snacks, Baby said in a singsong voice, then cracked with laughter.

Baby says she likes her classmate's pen pal. They met at the swing, when they both ditched their pals. "He was interested in me; asked me a lot of questions about my school and stuff."

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