BeBe just finished Kindergarten, and I feel like we can finally catch our breath. Overall, it was a good year, but it was a major adjustment, with many lessons learned. One of the lessons is the need to teach her to be more assertive. This sounds counterintuitive with most young kids having a demanding streak, but let me explain.

BeBe has this wonderful, empathetic, kindness towards other kids. It’s something we’ve always encouraged and always will. The flip side to this trait is the need to have strong boundaries. I never thought to focus on that before, because the preschool years are all about sharing, taking turns, and building those social skills, but kindergarten was a completely different dynamic. Larger class sizes, riding the bus, recess with large groups of kids, and well, everything is just more. In elementary school, kids are not always able to turn to a watchful adult to help them with every tricky social situation that arises.

Before I go on, I don’t want to give the impression I think BeBe is a perfectly behaved child. The back talk and sassiness she throws our way is a topic for another day, but we did have some issues of how to handle other kiddos’ behavior. Here’s some of the issues we encountered, and how we hope she learns to deal with some of these behaviors.

  • She can say no to anyone touching her, and they must listen. This is the behavior we are taking the most seriously. A few of the boys in the class wanted to hug and kiss on her which she didn’t like, understandably and rightly so. Unfortunately, she didn’t want to tell the teacher because she didn’t want to get the boys in trouble. We talked with the teacher who helped handle the situation. We then explained to her about personal space, and how she should feel comfortable telling those kids not to touch her. We gave her some phrases she could use. Daddy also had a long talk with her about how that is never ok and she knows to talk to us or her teacher if this occurs again. I know at this age it’s just little kids being silly, but this is an area we don’t want to take lightly and something we’ll monitor closely. (And teaching boundaries and personal space are something we will be teaching our little guy as he gets older).

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  • If someone doesn’t ask for something nicely, she doesn’t need to give them something. It’s not ok for kids to snatch her school work. We expect her to be respectful, but on the flip side, she should expect other kids to treat her with respect.
  • Sharing is important, but kids are old enough to wait their turn. BeBe seemed to have the impression she had to immediately hand over something just because a kid asked. Most kids understand waiting, so she just needs to ask them to wait until she is done.
  • Balancing friendships is important. At recess one of the kids insisted that BeBe play their game with them, and only them. She was disappointed to miss playing with other friends, but she didn’t want leave that kid alone on the playground. We talked about playing a game with that kiddo, and then inviting them to join their other little friends in class. If that kiddo didn’t want to participate (which was often the case), then that was their choice, and BeBe couldn’t worry about it. She can have fun playing with the other kids too. She seemed relieved to balance out the time playing with all her friends at school. It’s such a tricky issue for kids to figure out how to include others while not excluding themselves.

Truthfully, I feel badly she had some difficult situations this year, and we didn’t realize it. I wish I had volunteered in the class more often, and could have observed the dynamics. She really had a wonderful kindergarten teacher and it was more small issues that went unnoticed throughout the year. BeBe is a kid who is aggressive in sports and putting forth her ideas so it’s a matter of transferring those skills to social situations. Lesson learned for us all, and we are taking a new approach for first grade.