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Parenting 103

This week was a ridiculously stressful one. On Monday morning, a student falsely accused me of causing him bodily injury. His scratches and scrapes were self-inflicted, but it was clearly an attempt to cause trouble for me, one of the aides responsible for his educational experience at school.

It had to be investigated, naturally. I would want an investigation done for my daughter, should she ever make the same accusation. Fortunately, the whole incident was investigated and resolved quickly, and both the parent and my school administration believed what I and two witnesses related to them. However, I still had two sleepless nights and was fairly zombie-like for the early part of the week.

“Every single person you will ever meet has the same questions, ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'” – Oprah Winfrey, 5/25/11

I thought about this quote a lot this week. Obviously, this student was screaming out to be seen and heard. That much is clear. One doesn’t self-injure and tell whopping lies on top of that injury without needing some serious attention. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t look at my own way of relating to this student and figure out what I can change for the next school year, should he still be attending the school where I work. I have to ask, “DO I see him? DO I hear him? DOES what he say matter to me?” I think perhaps the answer to these questions is “no”.

He’s an extraordinarily oppositional little man. He rarely does what he is asked, rarely follows classroom rules (raise your hand, face forward), and is frequently antagonistic to the other students. In short, he’s a pain in the butt. However, I think, as the school year wore on, I saw less and less of the boy inside and more and more of the pain-in-the-butt-shell. I think that’s partly because he withdrew more and more as the year went on (as he chafed at the rules and had teachers tell him over and over that he was bad or wrong), and partly because his shell got thicker and more prominent as the year went on until that’s almost all we saw. Occasional glimpses of the intelligent boy inside showed through cracks in his shell, but those instances were few and far between.

Why did he choose me to accuse? There are lots of reasons floating through my mind, but none of them have legs to stand on their own. The only real answer is in that little boy’s mind and he’s not talking. I doubt I’ll ever know.

The thing that blows my mind about this whole incident is that there were NO consequences for his behavior. None. No detentions were given, no apology letters are forthcoming, no one explained to him that what he did was wrong. It was all conveniently swept under the rug and ignored. At what point in our history as a civilized race did we decide that wrongdoing carries no consequence? Since when do misbehaving children get coddled? When did adults in positions of power become all lily-livered and wishy-washy? When (and more importantly WHY) did adults lose their ability to point out to children the difference between right and wrong, the meaning of respect and civility? Are we unwittingly doing this to our children because we “love” them too much? Much more frighteningly: Are we doing this on purpose because it’s easier for us as parents to overlook bad behavior? After all, isn’t the pursuit of our dreams more important?

I am not my daughter’s best friend; I am her mother. She is also one of my favorite people in this entire world, and I like spending time with her more than just about anything else. She is smart, funny, caring, considerate, strong, and responsible, to name a few things about her that I appreciate. However, she also has some personality traits that still need work. I won’t describe them here, because that would be disrespectful to her. I don’t want to be that kind of mother. However, it is my job as a parent to recognize those things, help HER see and acknowledge them as deficits, and help her work on them/through them. I would do her a grave disservice to her by allowing her to think she was perfect and never made mistakes.

I believe this is our responsibility as parents and as educators. It is NOT the sole responsibility of either group. We all have to make a safe place for our children to recognize, accept, and work on their shortcomings. At home, this means setting boundaries and rules and enforcing them all the time, so when our children go to school, they are more successful. This also means teaching right and wrong. There IS a right and there IS a wrong, and it is NOT attached to any particular faith. Manners are important. Very few children have chores to do at home, because parents don’t feel like teaching that, in a family, everyone contributes. I’m as guilty of this as the next mom. We as parents MUST teach our children that the world will not be handed to them on a platter. That’s not realistic; Life doesn’t work like that. It requires great perseverance and effort to achieve our goals. If we’ve raised lazy, rude, amoral children, then our society is truly, unequivocally and irrevocably screwed.

Back to my errant student. I pledge that, from this moment on I will make every attempt to see, hear and listen to him. I owe him that much. I hope now that he’ll do his part as well.

* * * * *

P.S. Before I get notes that start with “yeah, but…”, know that I am blogging about kids that do NOT have issues that require medication and/or therapy. If your child requires medication and refuses to take it, or needs therapy and refuses to go, that should be addressed by professionals trained to deal with that, not me.

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Comments on: "Parenting 103" (3)

  1. Cat D. said:

    Love it! Very very inciteful. right on!

  2. Just getting around to reading these now. What a sad story – parts of it remind me of someone I know well.

    But what I want to mention is consequences at school. I just spoke about this recently with someone – there are very very few consequences for bad behavior in the schools I am familiar with. Sure, there are “codes we live by”, etc., which state that if a child does some totally out of control action that they’ll get suspended or detention, and that “usually” happens (but not always).

    But just NORMAL things. When we were in school, if we didn’t hand in our homework, we got an “F” or a 0. That mattered. So we did our homework because we didn’t want to fail and be left back, because that’s what would have happened. And we didn’t get another chance. If it was due on Tuesday, then Tuesday is IT.

    Today if kids don’t hand in their homework, they get extra time. I know of a child who had a project due in December. They were still going to let him hand it in in February, for less credit of course, but that’s just ridiculous.

    It is almost impossible to fail today. It still happens but a child has to really miss the mark all year long to fail for the year.

    The child who lied about you should have received some strong consequences. He lied. He tried to get someone in trouble. Yes, he wants attention, and he should get it – detention, write a 1000 word paper on why telling the truth is important, parental conference, etc. That’s what would have happened to us!

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