Should Parents Let Their Kids Act "Weird?"

If a kid wants to act like a dog, or dress up as "Jack, The Lost Little Boy" when it's not Halloween, is it time for parents to step in? Or should moms and dads embrace their kids' "weirdness?"

On Babble, former weird kid Aeriel Brown makes a compelling argument for the latter. Her parents were clowns — literally — her brother was the dog kid, and her sister tried out a variety of alternate personalities including the aforementioned Jack. Her parents didn't bat an eye. Instead, she says, "Our off-the-wall personalities were incorporated into the already off-the-wall show. Inspired by my brother's performance, my parents incorporated an actual canine — Waggs upstaged us all — and my sister and I played lost little orphan characters each night." The early weirdness of Brown's family turned out to be an asset for the kids:

When the show finally disbanded and my siblings and I began attending school regularly and making friends with people whose parent's weren't clowns, the three of us found that our ability to be weird still worked in our favor. We weren't afraid to try out new ideas in school, and this helped in every subject, not just the obviously creative ones. We were quicker to adapt to new situations and scenarios than other kids. We knew how to play constructively. Plus, we could juggle — really, really well. Which our peers thought was fantastic.

It's a heartwarming story, and Brown's parents sound awesome. But sadly, being a "weird" kid doesn't always turn out so great. The father of bullying victim Asher Brown said of his son, "He was very different. He's not the type of kid that would try to wear the newest clothes or try to do the coolest thing. He was an individual." And for this, Brown was tormented until he committed suicide. Of course, some kids who act differently from the rest are embraced — but unfortunately, some suffer.

That doesn't mean Asher Brown's parents should have made him dress differently, any more than they should have made him pretend to be straight. The people who need to change are the perpetrators, not the victims of bullying. But at the same time, let's not pretend that being the "weird" kid at school is easy. Parents need to support their kids' individuality, but they also need to watch out for signs of bullying, and teach kids to talk to an adult if it happens. And, unfortunately, they may need to advocate strenuously for their kids's safety, because schools don't seem all that good at doing this on their own. Being out of the ordinary may be an advantage some day — if you can learn to be proud of yourself even when you're not like everybody else, you'll be way ahead of a lot of people at least in the confidence department. But "weirdness" can also be a liability — and parents should respond to it with awareness as well as applause.

Weird Kids [Babble]

Image via Franck Boston/Shutterstock.com