Last month while I was in Hawaii, I found a lovely snorkeling spot where I could float quietly and gaze at the pretty fish below. But my peace was shattered by five boys around the ages of 11 or 12, splashing by and calling to each other, “Try to touch the rainbow one! There he goes!! Over here, guys! Aw, you missed him again!!”
I swam away, annoyed and amused at the same time. What seemed like common sense to me – stay quiet and you’ll see more fish – was either unknown by or unimportant to the boys. The truth is, for boys (and girls) of that age, it’s all about having fun with the gang. They give little thought to how their behavior might impact others (it’s that Bubble again), and even less thought to the consequences of their actions. They’re often loud and rowdy and oh-so-annoying to those around them.
It’s good for parents to recognize this behavior as normal rather than immature, and to let it happen – within reason. For example, if there’s bullying or too much aggressiveness, it’s time for an adult to step in. When their boisterousness gets out of hand, ask them to either quiet down or move farther away. Keep your tone light and casual and you’ll get the best response: “Hey, could you take your noisy selves to the other side of the yard?” is more effective than “Why are you being so rude? Either quiet down or I’m taking your friends home!” The first is likely to get a “Sorry!” and a quick move, while the second – which will embarrass your child and cause defensiveness – will probably get you attitude.
I could’ve glared at those silly fish chasers, said, “Excuse me!” loudly and sarcastically, or chastised them, but because I was a stranger, I wouldn’t have gotten good results. Instead, I joined my sons – now all in their 20’s – sitting calmly on the beach. Not long ago they were those rowdy boys out in the water, and while I don’t exactly miss those days, it is hard to realize how quickly they’ve come and gone.
Just like that poor rainbow fish.