Can your child go against the social norm?

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I was in São Paulo, Brazil, where my family lives for 10 days. The very first day I got there, I went to the mall with my sister to look for a coat for my 5-year old. After trying out some clothes and shoes, it was time to go.

My daughter didn´t want to put her shoes on, she wanted to be barefoot. I let her.

My sister tells me horrified: ¨You are not going to let her walk barefoot here, she can´t!¨

¨Why not? The floors here are almost cleaner than in my house¨.

I hope she doesn´t step on something disgusting, I couldn´t see anything on that floor dangerous.

Then my sister said: ¨If she does it, then my daughter will imitate her¨.

Fair enough, her 3-year old could do it and I was afraid of my sister´s reaction, so I took my kid aside and told her: ¨Please, put your shoes on, otherwise your cousin will copy you and her mom doesn´t let her¨. Luckily, she cooperated.

When my daughter was 2,5 years old, I had the same argument with a boyfriend.

We were in Santiago, Chile and it was my daughter´s first time using closed shoes. We went out one morning and she took them off. I tried to make her wear them, we were in the street, but she wouldn´t and so I let her (Santiago’s streets downtown are amazingly clean, not that I was comfortable with it, I just saw there was no point in forbidding it).

My boyfriend went crazy about it. He wanted me to make her use her shoes. He couldn´t imagine a child walking barefoot in the city. We argued and I told him he could try to convince her himself. He didn´t.

We were on our way to a Montessori kindergarten, where my daughter would go for a month and the teacher was fine with it. It wasn´t a problem that Luísa was the only barefoot child in the group and when I picked her up, she was wearing her shoes and didn´t complain about using them anymore.

In both situations, it was cold. I was bothered about the cold. But heck, I know my daughter won´t be feeling cold for long before she herself decides to be warm.

I think that both my sister and my boyfriend were more concerned about what people would think than in any danger of walking barefoot (even though believing it was all about safety and health).

Maybe they were also worried that if I let her do it, then she will feel that she can do anything else (as in any type of breaking rules that she can think of. Is it really a bad thing?)

There are other expected behaviors in our society that I´m more worried about breaking than in following. I wish that more kids were allowed to walk barefoot or to decide on things that concern their own bodies more often.

São Paulo: 20 million people, 7 million cars


¨Put your coat on¨, for instance.

I say that to my daughter, but in more like a hope that she will do what would make me feel good about how she is dressed.

She often says no. And I remind her that I have the coat if she wants it later (wich she takes, later). Lately, I´ve been thinking that reminding her that I have the coat is so silly, because she can see that I have it.

People around me told me to make her have her coat on at times. I felt bad saying what seemed so simple: ¨If she feels cold, she will put her coat on¨.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on June 20, 2012. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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