[Ed's Note: This letter has been condensed.}
I have a wonderful son. He's healthy, happy and very smart. He's a great brother to his siblings....He's always been a rule follower, ... never one to take risks and seems to need to really think things through before going forward with anything new. We know that about him and we've allowed him to make his accomplishments in his own time.
He as well seems to consistently need acknowledgement from us and others. As a busy mother of 3 there are times when I cannot respond to his question/issue/idea right away. He seems to at times lack the understanding that just b/c I can't get to his issue right away, doesn't mean I'm not able to help in later or respond to him later.
My concern also comes from his interaction with other kids his age. Seeing him interact with other kids, we find he can take the role of the submissive. He's always being told "you have to be 'it'" during a game of tag, or other issues of the like. When I attempt to talk to him about it, he tells me, "I have to be, Mom, if I don't, the kids will just keep telling me I do."
We try to help him find other ways to respond to these situations but I'm not sure they are working or he's even using them.
We wonder in a way how do we make our son more assertive? Do we even try? Is this just who he is or is it something to do with age? In a pack mentality that I see on the school playground and in other groups, it breaks my heart to see him treated this way.
My husband and I try very hard not to interfere and allow him to find his own way, but it gets hard when you know what's going on and how other kids are treating him. In a way, I'm not sure he really sees what happening.
I guess we wonder if these issues are just being his age (7years 6 months) are more of his style/personality or a deeper issue that we need to address with his pediatrician.
From: LovingMom, Merrimack Valley, MA/NH
As the mother of three, you don't need me to tell you that every child is an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses. In fact, that's what you say about this son, and wisely so. So what's the deal? Is it your issue that your child is more of a follower than a leader.......or is it his? I'm not being snide; this really is a tough issue for us as parents, separating out our own wishes for our children from who they are and want for themselves. And what is it with us as parents, anyway? Not everybody can be a leader!
Here's what you need to be asking yourself: Is he unhappy? Does he lack for friends or playmates? It doesn't sound that way; it sounds like he's part of the mix. When he says, "I have to be, Mom, if I don't, the kids will just keep telling me I do," does he sound miserable or matter-of-fact? Your description doesn't sound like a kid who's miserable, it sounds like a kid who has a role and knows how and where he fits into the dynamic. That can be a secure and comforting place to be. So when you say it breaks your heart, do you mean the kids are cruel, demeaning/ bullying? Or that you don't like where he fits into the pecking order?
If he's being the victim of bullies, that certainly demands intervention; if he's happy in this role -- even if you are not -- then I'd just give it time and see how things go. Giving him coping strategies can cut two ways: if he's asking for help, then it's great. If he doesn't see a problem, it can make him self-conscious. I'm not saying you have to keep your mouth shut, all I"m saying is that sometimes as parents, we jump in too quickly.
Meanwhile, there's no harm in covering your bases. First, get input from teachers. What is their assessment of him socially and developmentally? Some teachers won't share their opinions unless they are asked, specifically, about something. Secondly, share your concerns with the pediatrician. Just talking it out can be helpful, especially with someone who knows your other children and the family.
Readers, please share your thoughts on this one. I think we all experience this to greater or lesser degrees as we watch our kids of all ages navigate their social life. How do you know when to intervene? How do you determine that something is a problem that needs intervention?
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