Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Learning Social Skills

It is not until you have children that one realizes how many behaviours are learned. You need something? Say please. Going to pay for something? Stand in line.

Different cultures have different variations of this, of course. We were reminded of two very important social skills this weekend during LittleBird's birthday party.

Candle-blowing etiquette, and gift-opening decorum.

I have seen it happen at parties, and now it was our turn. We sang Happy Birthday, LittleBird took a big breath, and another little girl blew out her candles. Her look of shock turned to one of horror and then absolute despair. Our daughter just sobbed. We explained to her that it was okay and that we could light them again. We did, LittleBird blew them out. All was well with the world.

The poor mother of the little girl was horrified that her daughter had crossed the lines of birthday party etiquette, and I kept trying to tell her it was fine. She is two and a half, for crying out loud. This is how they learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It was fine.

The second lesson came during the opening of the birthday gifts. Now, I know a lot of parents won't let kids open gifts because it might hurt someone's feelings, or some other such total bullshit. In my opinion, having the child open gifts is important. Many times the little kids have picked out the gifts and are excited for their friend to open them. It is also an important lesson in giving. Sometimes you get gifts, but sometimes you give them. And when you give them that doesn't always mean that you get to open one in return.

One of the little girls got a little tearful because she didn't get to open a present. Her mom explained to her that is was not her birthday, etc. Things calmed down, but we had a trick up our sleeve. After LittleBird opened her gifts, she had a thank you gift for each little girl who had come. We had our daughter give each of her friends an Angelina Ballerina book and tell them thank you for coming. We wanted to do this because we do understand how hard it is at this age. We also wanted to teach our daughter a lesson. That just because it is your birthday does not mean that you cannot be generous to other people.

I am sure as the years pass we will have more experiences like this. It was a good lesson for me to remember that what society expects of my children are things I need to teach them. These skills are learned, and that sometimes I need to cut my kids a little slack. I can't expect them to be perfect. They are still learning, and as long as I am still teaching them, we have a little wiggle room.

11 comments:

Andrea said...

Have I ever mentioned how much I think you ROCK! This is the kind of mom I'm striving to be! :)

buddha_girl said...

That post made me grin from ear to ear. Honestly, you had such a generous, thoughtful approach to dealing with a problem most moms don't even think about - I'm surprised you had the time to not only recognize it but also DO something about it.

Little Bird and her friends had great lessons from you! I'm taking a lesson and making a note of the GIVING of gifts to guests for when I start planning Buddha's 3rd birthday.

You're an amazing mom, chick!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Okay, you two have totally made me blush. Damn, I am sabotaging my badass, bitchy facade...

Crys said...

We have an "infamous" family video of my little sister blowing out my brothers birthday candles. She just couldn't help herself! It was so cute. Because when we relit them for my brother to blow out, my sister sat there with her hand over her mouth to keep herself from doing it again!

Maggie said...

Just wanted to say, you have the best blog header EVER. I'm even going to show my friend who hates hates HATES "mommy bloggers".

Oh, and how do you keep your family from finding this one?

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. :)

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Maggie: My family doesn't know a thing about blogs, except for the fact that I have one specifically for my family. This would not be it.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Crys: My husband actually ended up getting whole thing on tape (unbeknownst to me at the time). My daughter watched it over my shoulder and proceeded to start crying all over again. It will be a great blackmail video when she is older. LOL

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

That's what I think is so fascinating, that they're learning our culture. I mean, it's like teaching someone from Somalia, for instance, how to order food in an American restaurant and how to tip. Same thing. They're learning our social norms. It's really neat when you think about it.

MilitaryMom said...

I love it when mothers let their kids make the mistake they need to in order to learn. How else will they know what to do?

I tagged you for a meme, if your interested, cruise on by!

latt├ęgirl said...

What a wonderful, lovely thing you did. I hope the parents (and their kiddlings) learned a good lesson that day.

Major Bedhead said...

Thank you gifts. What a good idea. (Of course, that would mean I'd have to actually *throw* a birthday party and I think I'm far too curmudgeonly to do that any time soon.)