When my daughter was two years old, I was called into her classroom for a parent-teacher conference. Apparently, Jordan was pushing other kids and her teacher was not happy about it. The teacher, (one of my least favorite thus far) told me that Jordan would grow up to be a bully and never have any friends.
I came home and remember crying and crying over the matter. My mom, who was visiting from New Jersey that week, kept saying, “She’s only two, Kelly. Just two.”
I knew that she was right. Just because my two-year-old pushed a few other children did not mean she was going to grow up to become a serial killer.
“Still,” I told my mom, through my tears, “if Jordan is not a good child, it’s my fault. I’m the only one raising her and I must be doing something very wrong.” (At the time, my husband was in Iraq.)
Fast forward five years. Jordan is now a seven-year-old second grader. Never once, since kindergarten, or really, since the age of two, has she ever been in trouble at school. In fact, I dare to say she’s the most empathetic and compassionate member of our family.
I look back on that memory and realize that my mom was right. Just because she did something disobedient when she was a little girl did not mean she was destined to be a menace to society for the rest of her life.
So, when I showed up at my son’s school last week and they told me that he had pushed another child, I was not happy, but I also did not break down into tears over it. When we got into the car, I told him how disappointed I was, how pushing and hitting were wrong and how he was going into "time out" when we got home.
I’d hoped the situation was resolved, until I arrived at his school two days later and was approached by the director as soon as I walked in the door. Now, in the five years my children have attended this school, never, ever has one of them been in big trouble. I started to panic the minute I saw the look on her face.
It seems that the hitting and pushing had continued that day and the teachers were very upset with Bennett (and rightly so). I promised the director, and the teachers, that we would take care of it at home. I made Bennett go and apologize to each teacher and then I brought him into the director’s office to talk to her, too, about his behavior.
When we got into the car, I didn’t yell at Bennett. I just turned around, once we were all in our seats, looked at him, and started to cry.
He just stared at me.
I calmly told him that we do not hit people. That hitting is wrong and mean and that it hurts me to know he did that.
Bennett didn’t say a word. He just sat quietly, (quite an achievement for him), until we got home. Once we arrived, I told him he had to go to his bed and would not get dinner that night.
Now, in my children’s defense, and heaven knows they need one, they are very tall kids. I say this because they are considerably bigger, especially in preschool, than all the other kids in their class. To put it in perspective, most of the kids in Bennett’s class come up to his mid-chest.
Thus, when Bennett swore to me, up and down, that the other little boy had hit him first, I didn’t really doubt him. What I have learned is that, when another kid hits or pushes my children, nothing really happens. But then, when my kid pushes back, that child will go flying across the room. (And, naturally, gain the attention of the teacher.)
As a result of this, all weekend long we worked on “role playing” with Bennett. I enlisted the help of Jordan and we’d pretend that she was the other child in the room. When she’d push him, I’d ask him what he should do. Methodically, he’d tell me each time, “Say stop and tell the teacher.”
By Sunday night, Bennett knew what to do if pushed or hit by another child, but I wasn’t sure he understood why it was better to tell on the child than just shove him back.
At dinner that night, I once again said to Bennett, “What do you do if someone hits you at school?”
As usual, he replied, “Tell the teacher.”
And then, it was if a light bulb went off in his head.
He continued, “Cause if I tell the teacher, then HE’S the bad boy!”
“Yes, Bennett. YES!” I said with joy.
“I’m not the bad boy,” he said, getting more and more excited. “HE’s the bad boy!”
I nearly jumped out of my chair with glee.
“Yes, Bennett. You’re not the bad boy! HE’S the bad boy!”
We laughed and giggled as we continued to say, “If you tell on him, HE’s the bad boy. YOU’RE not the bad boy!”
I really felt we’d achieved a major breakthrough.
I’m not sure how long it will last, but the next day, he was so good at school that the teachers gave him a cookie.
Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the promise of a cookie, and the other kid getting in trouble, is enough to keep him from becoming the class bully.
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