Sometimes, It’s Deeper Than You Think
For a while, there have been
a few several many times when Bradley has come home and told us about a student who had been bothering him. It’s usually the same student and from what he tells us, this seems to be an ongoing issue with this boy acting out against others as well. Dad’s response is usually, “If someone hits you, you hit them back! Punch him in the face” etc. Growing up, I remember my mother encouraging me to fight, “If you don’t fight her, I’m going to f#ck you up!” We’re from the Bronx, that’s what we are taught. But that is not an excuse, in my opinion, to act violently. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I want to raise genuinely good people, cue sparkles and sunshine. I’m going to be honest. My son is a soft kid. He is also funny, smart, inventive, curious. But he is not a tough guy. At home, we talk through problems and work together to find a solution. I encouraged Bradley to speak to his teachers about the problematic child, and hoped they would handle it.
Unfortunately, the school didn’t -outwardly- do much about it. When Bradley would come home worked up and visibly upset about this other child. He was becoming very affected by this other boy’s inability to just be friends. “I even gave him a Valentine tattoo and he was still being very rude to me and hitting me.” Clearly, Bradley had enough and so had I at this point. I approached the very involved Parent Coordinator at the school with my concerns, and asked what was being done about it. He recommended that I speak with the Principal about it to expedite any potential solutions. The principal had not been aware that my child was “one of the kids” being affected by this boy’s behavior. They offered to change Bradley’s class to the other available classroom, and did something bigger.
The principal told me that a guidance counselor had recently joined the only three-year-old school. The boy who we thought was a classroom bully, in their opinion, looked to Bradley as a cool kid with many friends and was “starving to be Bradley’s friend.” The problem was that he didn’t have many other kids around outside of school and was going about it all wrong. He would push, or yell or hit and he thought it was funny or cool, but it turned all of the students away from him. It made sense to me and I felt a little sad for him. His parent(s) should have noticed this behavior and tried to help him earlier. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to help. The school asked if I would give permission for Bradley to participate in peer counseling, where they would work together with the guidance counselor to work out problems effectively. Bradley would act as a model for proper behavior and hopefully, this other boy could learn the skills he so desperately needs so he is able to make friends. I really like this idea because Bradley will also be learning some effective way to deal with emotions and work with others.
Two weeks later, Bradley tells me he doesn’t want to go to school anymore. The boy continues to act out and wasn’t using the tools taught to them in their private sessions. Bradley had become frustrated and was feeling bad about himself. I told the school immediately and we had the class changed. I do still want to help both boys because I think they are learning really important skills that will help them for life and because they still interact during common times such as gym, recess and after school. The boys are still doing peer mediation. Hopefully one of two things will happen; either the boys will become friends and the other kid will learn to chill the F out, or they don’t become friends and the boys still take home the invaluable lessons of how to deal with emotions, how to make connections, how to be considerate of others, and how much of an impact we can make when we help others.
Now, Bradley complains about a boy in the new class. I take the time to remind him that no matter how people behave around him, he always has the power within to be kind, be patient and respond appropriately. So if Sammy or James are going to be acting out or bothering you, do your best to use the methods you’ve learned to handle those problems. It’s not like we can keep moving him away from people who bother him. But with this experience, he’s learned the following:
- When you come to me with your concerns, you WILL be heard and they will be addressed.
- We have the power to be good people every day, even when others are not.
- There will always be people you may have problems with or may not like you. There are methods for dealing with those people.
Some parents may read this and think their method of raising a tough guy or a fighter makes their kid superior. All it does is teach them to act out and bulldoze others instead of thinking on a deeper level and making connections. I am raising a strong leader. Every lesson counts and every experience is a lesson. The school also didn’t just put a band-aid on the situation by covering it up or sweeping it under the rug. They are working on correcting the problem from the inside, and it means so much to be a part of that.