Playing well with others

Playing well with others

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

There is one pivotal life skill that every parent and teacher is trying to impart to today’s children. It’s obvious because of what teachers write on report cards. “Johnny plays well with others.” Or “Johnny needs to work on his interaction with others. He is sometimes bossy and controlling.” Parents write back, “We are so relieved that Johnny plays well with others.” Or “We’re very disturbed that Johnny is bossy and controlling and want you to know we are doing everything we can to teach him to play well with others.”
Playing well with others. Wouldn’t it be great if a kindergarten teacher could come and observe each one of us for 24 hours? I think it might be fascinating to read her notes at the end of the day.  Would she find us bossy or controlling? Would she note our great willingness to share or would she observe greed and selfishness?
Some Texas friends and their three boys recently came to visit for three nights. My boys were beyond excited at the thought of their friends coming for an extended visit. Day One found everyone hugging and playing extremely well together. Day Two found everyone tired and playing a little “less well.” Day Three found everyone treating each other like siblings and threatening life and limb. That’s when we started hearing things like, “He got more Oreos than I did.” “We’re going outside to have a big stick fight.”
As a parent, I desperately want to teach my children the value of loving others. I want them to respect their peers and be sensitive to other people’s feelings. I think most parents want the same things for their children. We want children who aren’t selfish or bratty. We want to raise children who play well with others.
But it’s humbling to realize that they are looking to us for modeling in these pivotal areas. Are we selfish and bratty? Do we want our own way? Do they see us being considerate of our spouses and co-workers? Do we honk the horn and malign other drivers? Do we talk bad about our boss? Do we show verbal respect for our parents? Do they hear us speaking kindly to our spouses or do they hear us barking orders? I know. It’s worth some consideration.
Parents are always saying to their children, “Share with the little neighbor girl, Susie. Go ahead, let her play with your Lite Brite. Stop being selfish! No, Brad. Let Cousin Jimmy have the first jump on the trampoline. He’s your guest.” Doesn’t that sound good? Yeah. We’ve all said stuff like that. But, when is the last time you heard an adult say to one of his friends, “Why don’t you drive our new SUV on your next long trip! It’s SO comfy and we want you to enjoy it.” Just some food for thought.
Do I model sharing for my children? Do they see me being willing to give to others, even when it’s personally inconvenient? I’m concerned about what comes home on my boys’ report cards. I’m definitely concerned about their character. I want to see them develop into great guys. But, for a while, I think I’ll focus on my own character. And if you see me, feel free to ask the pivotal question, “Lisa, are you playing well with others?”
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For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.

Published in The Messenger 1.26.11

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