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Telling kids “it’s OK” isn’t OK

We live in a “resort community.” Translation: we’re some of the … younger residents of the neighborhood.

When we moved in, the girls were 1 and 4 years old. Since we live in a configuration of townhouses, most of our yards blur together in some form or fashion and there aren’t a lot of sound barriers. I was worried that backyard playtime would result in some ticked-off neighbors because my kids don’t exactly play quietly.

I’m not quite of the era of “children should be seen and not heard,” but at the same time, I was taught not to run around other people’s houses shrieking. Also, there were knick-knacks and sharp corners and other hazards that I didn’t want to run into or break, so there was a level of decorum that was expected. I’ve tried to instill the same in my kids.

Fortunately, our neighbors think my kids are adorable, and since some have grandchildren or great-grandchildren scattered at a distance, they like to visit with my kids and don’t mind when the girls come running up on their porches.

One neighbor (who has since moved) absolutely loved to have my kids run over to chat with her. She had a glass high-top table and my girls would gravitate straight to that and clamber up into the chairs, as I cringed at the thought of them knocking it over and shattering glass everywhere, or falling off the high chairs. If they weren’t climbing, they’d run back and forth, back and forth, along the narrow porch.

“Sit still,” I’d say, or some other gentle reminder that it’s polite to stay in one place while having a conversation.

“It’s OK,” my neighbor would always say.

I’m not the first person to say this – I know I’ve read a similar Facebook post and blog or two – but I really wish people would not tell my kids “it’s OK” when I try to correct their behavior.

I know other people’s hearts are in the right places. When they say, “It’s OK,” they’re saying, “It’s OK, nothing was broken/they won’t break anything,” or “It’s OK, they’re not bothering me,” or some reassurance that they’re totally chill and not offended or upset by my kids.

But when kids hear “It’s OK,” they hear, “It’s OK to keep doing this!” So the behavior continues, because that interpretation leads to more fun and kiddos are all for having more fun. And while I do appreciate that other people are trying to reassure me, it’s causing more trouble than it’s worth.

Too much “It’s OK” can be undermining. It may be OK this time because nothing was broken or no one was hurt, but I still don’t want that behavior to continue because next time it might NOT be OK. Something might get broken, or someone might get hurt, or someone else might be annoyed by that behavior, and I want to correct it before something’s not OK. And that is just not the way I want my kids to behave in someone else’s home.

It would be better if other people said something like, “I really enjoy your company. You have so much energy!” or “I do have some breakable things, so you might want to slow down a little,” or “You bumped into me, but I’m not hurt.”

Just please, don’t tell my kids – or anyone’s kids — “It’s OK.”

Jen Deinlein
Jen Deinlein is a self-professed “Jen of all trades and master of none.” She’s a SAHM to 8- and 5-year-old daughters, a freelance writer (you can also see her work in CPBJ) and head cheerleading coach at Penn State Mont Alto. She and her family live in Guilford Township, Franklin County, with a golf course in the backyard where they frequently rescue lost golf balls. You can reach Jen on Instagram: @groovypq; Twitter: @jlbd77 or by email: [email protected].

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