Editor’s Note: With the issue of bullying consuming many parents across the country, NYC Dads Group member Dean Keppler has the opposite concern about his son.This is his story. – KMcK.
As preposterous as it might sound to some, I think I might be raising my son to be too kind.
At age 3½, Matt is smart, creative and already has shown signs of an incredible and innovative imagination well beyond his years. From a physical standpoint, he’s always been in the top 97 percentile of height and weight. He’s a giant kid that physically looks well beyond his actual age, but occasionally his mental development isn’t always on par with his enormous size. And that’s perfectly fine and normal.
What bothers me is that he’s not as aggressive as other children his age when playing on the playground. He isn’t forceful toward other kids. He doesn’t push. He doesn’t steal other kids’ toys. Instead, he shows mannerisms far beyond his age. He’s extremely polite.
By no means do I want to raise a bully, but I want him to be able to stand up for himself. If another child takes his toys on the playground, he doesn’t fight back. Most of the time, he’ll just move on and play with something else, showing no interest in being assertive or confrontational. While I’m proud of his maturity, I also don’t want him to be taken advantage of. And as a 300 lb.-plus male myself who played hockey, loves sports, horse racing, and more, I find myself frequently wondering if I am possibly be raising my own son to be a wimp or a pushover.
Although he’s an only young child, Matt generally socializes well when around other children and even adults as shown by his excelling at the learning center my wife and I send him to three days a week. This is a positive. When I was my son’s age, I was very shy so perhaps I’m overly cautious about the importance of social interaction and people skills. I know firsthand that a passive approach throughout life can be detrimental in overall success and I’m convinced it starts at this young age. There’s an equal balance of confidence, integrity, kindness and assertiveness, and I want my son to have it all.
Unfortunately, a wait-and-see approach doesn’t work when handling the daily care of a toddler. Indecisiveness is not an option. You react, adjust and hope for the best. (Do you have any plan/idea of how you will handle this if weak/cowardly is what he is heading for? Have you given thought about how to build the confidence/assertiveness of the balance?)
I hope what I see means that he is simply gentle and kindhearted, rather than weak and cowardly. I think there’s a big difference, but his gentle behavior is one I will continue to worry about as he gets older and the need to stand up for himself grows. Although one’s best laid plans usually have a way of coming back to haunt you when the unexpected happens and derails all good intentions, the aspirations for my son Matt will remain the same. Socialize, socialize and socialize some more. The more activities he’s involved with will only help build his confidence and assertiveness. Hopefully, the skills he learns by constant interaction at this early age will transfer into adulthood. Whether it’s little league baseball, karate, swimming or some other activity that piques his interest, I’ll persuade him to be an energetic participant. I’ll encourage him to speak up, ask questions and build as many friendships as he can along the way.
So is my son too kind? Perhaps he is, but if raising a smart, lovable, caring and overall sweet kid is a bad thing then I’m guilty as charged.
+ + +
In his past life, he was the director of DRF Press book division for Daily Racing Form and managing editor for the American Kennel Club performance-dog publications. He’s written five books on horse racing and dogs, and published over 50 articles on horse racing, dogs and tropical fish for Forbes, the New York Times and a variety of other publications.