One of the first instincts you have as a parent is to protect
your child. Even before a baby is born, parents obsess about
correct diet, medical care and safe baby items. And, of course,
their child's name.
Many of these questions come up when a name is being chosen:
What will other kids call them? Will they be teased because of the
name? Is it too weird? Will it result in funny initials or rhyme
with something we wouldn't want them called?
I was always a little annoyed by those questions. I wanted the
names I chose for my kids to be names I liked, not names I thought
their elementary school classmates would like. Besides, before I
was married, my name was Sarah Brown. It's not a "weird" name by
any stretch of the imagination, but I got teased about it from time
to time. Kids are creative!
As kids get older and start to have their own preferences and
personalities, parents often worry about their choices in clothes,
toys, Halloween costumes or things they may say or do. I hear a lot
of parents discouraging or even forbidding certain clothing or
behavior out of fear of how their children will be treated. Maybe
that frilly tutu is OK on your son when he's playing dress up at
home but what about when he wants to leave the house wearing
No parent wants their child hurt or mistreated, so what do you
do? You can encourage your child to act/dress/talk more like other
kids or you can let them be themselves, even if that means they
might be mistreated by other kids, or worse, adults.
The truth is that children will be teased at some point, no
matter how much we try to prevent it from happening. Even as
teenagers and then as adults they will feel judged by their peers
at times. I like to focus my energy on teaching my kids to feel
confident and empowered to deal with these situations rather than
trying to avoid it at all costs.
Of course, we all wish our children would, "do as I say and not
as I do," but the truth is that they really learn about the world
from our actions. We tell our children that they should be
themselves, that they shouldn't worry about what other people think
and that they shouldn't judge or tease other children. But what
message are they getting when we won't let them do things simply
for fear of what others will think or how other kids may treat
them? I think the better message is that they should be themselves
and that teasing or judging others is wrong.
I worry that if I teach my kids that there is an acceptable way
to dress, talk and act in front of other children, they will hear
that it's not OK to be themselves. And by extension, that it's not
OK for other children to be themselves. If so, is it then OK to
tease or bully those kids for it? Or stand by and laugh when
someone else does?
I know I'll struggle with this issue as my children grow. I hope
my decisions will not be made out of fear and I will try to teach
them to value themselves and others, including their
Have you ever made a parenting decision based on fear of your
child getting teased or taunted?
Sara Parisi is an on-the-go mom of three energetic boys.
See more of Sarah's stories here.
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