I’m a Southern girl born and raised. Anyone who comes from the south is taught from an early age to be a polite child. You always use “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” when addressing authority along with countless “please” and “thank you”s. You know the drill. So, naturally, it would make sense that I would raise my kids in the same way. Who doesn’t like a polite child, right?
When our daughter was born, that’s exactly what I started to do. She’s an introvert and takes awhile to warm up to people but I initially felt the need to speed that process up in order to have the perfect polite child. We’d asked her to hug family members she wasn’t comfortable around because she didn’t know them well. We’d ask her to say hello to strangers who addressed her in public. The list goes on. Part of that was pride, but part of it was just wanting to raise my daughter right. Looking back now, however, I realize that I totally approached this wrong.
Here’s the thing – we live in a completely different world now than our parents and our grandparents. Technology has really made accessing information easy and some of that information can be rather ugly.
It’s nice to be totally aware of all that goes on in the world so we can make informed decisions, but one of the things I’ve been made increasingly more and more aware of is human trafficking. It’s prevalent. In fact, it’s more prevalent than any of us would ever wish it to be right here in the United States. Even worse, Texas is a huge hub for trafficking, and inside of Texas, Austin. That’s where I live.
You see, Austin is known for huge international events like SXSW and Formula One. This not only attracts people looking to be entertained from all over the world but people who have much darker interests as well. Children and women are being sold right in front of our faces and we often don’t even realize it. It’s scary to think that people are looking for naïve children and teens to lure into their networks.
How many times have you found yourself doing something that felt strange or uncomfortable for the basic reason of trying to be polite to a stranger? I personally can think of multiple times I did something that was dangerous like rolling down my window to talk to an inquiring man in a dark parking garage to be polite. I look back and think of how stupid that really was but I was trying to be kind in spite of myself. These same issues can be passed on to our kids if we’re not careful to teach appropriate boundaries and safety in addition to politeness.
I love true crime. I’ve always been fascinated with the psychology of the criminal mind so I often catch myself watching stories on television or listening to podcasts that revolve around this. I can’t tell you how many countless stories I’ve heard of someone doing something to be polite and ending up murdered. Look, I know it’s a bit dramatic but this stuff happens and I kid you not, I’m surprised it’s never happened to me. You hear of young women allowing a man to use the restroom in their home only to end up dead and so on and so forth. And while you may be thinking that you’d never do anything like that, you have to give these poor victims the benefit of the doubt. The criminals were probably extremely convincing. Heck, look at how successful Ted Bundy was at this game!
My point is that it’s okay to teach your kids that they don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t have to give someone directions or let them use your phone. You don’t have to kindly decline a creep that’s making you uncomfortable while hitting on you. There are moments when it’s completely appropriate to not be polite. That’s what I’m working on teaching my daughter. I want her to use her instincts and be able to discern the difference.
I don’t ever want her to feel guilty about staying safe.
And while I’m using extreme examples to hammer things home, I hope what I’m trying to say makes sense. We don’t have to deny our gut feelings whether in a simple or extreme situation for the sake of appearing to be a nice human. That’s a really old mentality, decades old. It’s time to embrace standing our ground when necessary. My daughter will be strong and yes, even kind, but most of all, I want her to be smart.
Read more of Jillian’s contributions to AllMomDoes here.