We have two middle-school-aged kids who are fraternal twins. They both participate in sports and other hobbies, and they share some shared acquaintances.
I have been more emotionally invested in their social relationships this school year. For example, one youngster, ‘Matthew,’ tormented one of my twins last year and now appears to be in difficulty with my other twin this year. I am not fond of Matthew’s demeanour. I have spent a lot of time talking to both of my sons about him, trying to offer them advice and letting them figure things out on their own, but now I am so angry with Matthew that I cannot even say hello to him at school. I am aware that my children have flaws as well, but I cannot seem to separate them.
Another example is when participating in sports. My two sons play lacrosse on the same team. Another youngster, ‘Peter,’ often brags and subtly humiliates my children. It irritates my boys—one more than the other—but it irritates me to the point where I am harsher with Peter than I should be.
Why am I getting so worked up later, when I know I should simply be there for my kids and let them figure it out on their own?
When parents believe their children are being mistreated, it is reasonable for their protective instincts to kick in, but it is also necessary to be interested in the severity of these emotions, as you are.
But it is not only about the intensity of your query; it is also about the time. You might be asking why these sentiments are so powerful right now, and it could be because many parents feel a sense of loss as their children get older. When children are infants and toddlers, parents are completely immersed in their social lives, and the transition to primary school does not seem so far since they still require so much of our attention.
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In middle school, however, there is a significant change. Because there are fewer options to get involved and because kids do not want their parents around as much, parents play a much smaller role at school. Their developing independence is on show, which can make parents feel both proud and sad.
How do some parents cope with the pain that comes with the loss of a child? They are clingier. Some parents may show this by keeping their children from becoming age-appropriately independent, such as by refusing to let them go to the mall or the movies without an adult. Others may perceive it as an effort to control their actions as if they were still children incapable of making their judgments. Others may interpret their sadness as an exaggerated urge to protect themselves from the fast-changing environment around them, which may resemble the rage you are feeling.
It is also true that as our children grow older, we have more recollections of ourselves when we were in their shoes. When we see our children being abused, excluded, or belittled, we may have strong emotional reactions. However, keep in mind that you and your boys are two distinct persons, and your children’s reactions to challenging social encounters may differ from yours, just as they may annoy one son more than the other.
None of this implies that you should stay out of your boys’ social lives. Allowing them to figure it out does not mean you may not act as a sounding board and guide them through the process if they come to you for assistance. (It is critical to let them come to you; otherwise, you risk accidentally aggravating the situation.) They still need your direction and support, and if you can provide it successfully, you may be able to control some of your rages. So, given the two cases, you provided, let us think about how to achieve that.
First, you claim that Matthew bullied one of your boys last year, and it is critical to discern between your protective parenting and a genuine incidence of bullying. Bullying is defined as ‘when a person or a group of individuals with more authority frequently and purposefully cause damage or harm to another person or group of people who feel powerless to resist,’ according to the National Centre Against Bullying. Bullying should always be handled seriously and involves adult action, which should begin with informing school personnel of the situation and developing a strategy with them to address it as soon as possible.
If it is not bullying, but rather an unkindness, joking about inappropriately, not being a good friend, or just being a doofus or naive middle schooler, this is a fantastic learning opportunity for both you and your sons. Since you know that they are not perfect, you may assist them to understand what part they might play in this interaction with Matthew. You may inquire of them: If Matthew were to present his version of events, what would he say about the conflict between you? Is something you are doing bothering him? For example, perhaps your guys chat to other kids about how much they dislike Matthew or how irritating he is. Maybe they had a disagreement a long time ago that has not been addressed. Perhaps something is wrong with Matthew that is not affecting your sons, and they can learn to respond to his conduct in a way that does not encourage him to do it again.