This boy may be a follower. Is that so bad?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 5, 2012 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

[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.

Thank you-

From: LovingMom, Merrimack Valley, MA/NH

Dear LovingMom,

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?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

3 comments so far...
  1. It's good to teach a kid how to advocate for himself. However, in the workforce, followers tend to be the ones who are rewarded. The ones who say, "I have to because they told me," get promoted, while the ones who question get left behind for being "uncooperative". He will probably grow up to be quite successful.

    Posted by AP September 5, 12 12:19 PM
  1. Blind following contrary to common sense is bad. But what's so bad about going along with what's going on so long as it's safe and you're getting something out of it?

    Have we gone so far with the special-snowflake theory of childhood that we can't deal with a kid who doesn't go around trying to be unique all the time?

    Posted by di September 5, 12 01:34 PM
  1. Tell your son game have rule and have him tell his friends if they are not going to play in the rule he won't play the game but if he don't mind being it all the time for that game then let him. Nothing is wrong with if he like to be it but tell him not to do if he doesn't like it but other are making him to do tell him to walk away from them.

    Posted by Sara Shin September 9, 12 01:17 PM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. It's good to teach a kid how to advocate for himself. However, in the workforce, followers tend to be the ones who are rewarded. The ones who say, "I have to because they told me," get promoted, while the ones who question get left behind for being "uncooperative". He will probably grow up to be quite successful.

    Posted by AP September 5, 12 12:19 PM
  1. Blind following contrary to common sense is bad. But what's so bad about going along with what's going on so long as it's safe and you're getting something out of it?

    Have we gone so far with the special-snowflake theory of childhood that we can't deal with a kid who doesn't go around trying to be unique all the time?

    Posted by di September 5, 12 01:34 PM
  1. Tell your son game have rule and have him tell his friends if they are not going to play in the rule he won't play the game but if he don't mind being it all the time for that game then let him. Nothing is wrong with if he like to be it but tell him not to do if he doesn't like it but other are making him to do tell him to walk away from them.

    Posted by Sara Shin September 9, 12 01:17 PM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives