Friday, December 14, 2012

Reindeer Games

My oldest son and his two cousins (ages 2,3 and 4) went to the park with my mom and sister the other day. I had gone home earlier to put my youngest down for a nap and relaxed at home until my mom brought my oldest son home. When they arrived, I asked if he had fun and my mom said, "Yeah, but they had a little problem at the park."

I immediately thought that someone had been hurt or that someone had been mean to my sweet little boy. Imagine my surprise when I heard that the gang of cousins were the problem. Apparently a little boy around their age asked to play and my son quoted the Rudolph song, "You can't join in any reindeer games!" They all laughed at this joke and left this poor child behind. His grandmother tried to intervene and my two-year-old nephew told her they already had it handled. (Our children obviously don't have any confidence issues!) At this point, my mom and sister grabbed our crew and talked to the boys about leaving other kids out. They each marched over and offered an apology to the little boy and the grandmother.

My son explained to me that he just meant that the kid didn't know the rules of the reindeer game they were playing; He hadn't meant it as a mean thing. I told him that leaving someone out, no matter the reason, can really hurt. We talked about the times when he has wanted to play with some of the big kids in our neighborhood and how it felt when they said he was too little to play. He agreed that he didn't like that at all. Hopefully he made the connection.

This will not be the last time my son and his cousins leave someone out of their games but I am so glad that my sister and mom were able to jump in and correct their behavior.  These are such important teachable moments in their lives.  I want them all to grow up understanding that they are not better or worse than anybody.  Everyone has their own unique gifts that must be celebrated.  Maybe we should spend a bit of time watching Rudolph to remember this simple and timeless lesson.

How do you teach your children not to leave other children out of their games?  How do you encourage them to keep an open mind when someone new wants to enter their group?

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