Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Bully Pulpit

By Sheilah

Sometimes the class bully doesn’t look the part. Sometimes he’s the little guy with glasses and a nonstop tongue. Sometimes he’s the annoying one who won’t stop talking, who gets in your face blabbing, who pokes and prods and is like a rash that spreads its contagion. Dylan’s class has one. He’s the guy last year that I heard about all the time, how everyone avoided him, and my response was to be nice to him because no one else was. Wrong move.

This year, the little guy still lacks impulse control, a closed mouth. The problem kid gets sent to the principal’s office all the time for something, won’t stop talking back or stating his case to the teacher. When he’s gone, Dylan says the teacher tells the class to remove themselves from the situation. My thinking was it’s beyond that--that “the Situation” needs to be removed.

So one day the Situation threw some punches at Dylan on the playground, and Dylan threw a foot back where it hurts, according to my son. So I talked to the teacher. I told her I wanted them separated, and she said they are, that the other kid (aka the Situation) has “issues.” But, get this, she said they’ve been playing together all year, that they wrestle, that sometimes it gets out of hand. She said she was going to talk to them this morning about what punishment they could come up with in lieu of going to the principal’s office for the playground incident in which they both were at fault. I said, huh, oh, I forgot that I have to take what kids say with a grain of salt.

Ironically enough, I was telling Dylan on the way to school that same day that one day he’d be in the principal’s office, and then how would he act? I suggested that he be calm, courteous, answer questions, and then shut up—and accept the punishment quietly. I said his behavior screams louder than his words. They were not sent together to the principal for that offense; they just had to agree to keep their hands off each other.  

The next day, according to the gospel of Dylan, the Situation kicks him under the lunch table, and Dylan tells on him. Then Dylan says he got shoved into the Situation in line (guess the teacher failed to separate them in line order), and he gets told on. I said enough of this--you’re like squabbling siblings. And it definitely takes two to tango, regardless of the Situation’s “issues.” I told Dylan I didn’t want to hear about tattling again, and that it was his job to ignore, move, etc. You can’t have it both ways—you can’t play together and then when it gets rough go tell on him, expecting it  always to be the Situation’s fault.

I suggested he spy in his little mind’s eye the Situation with a diaper on, imagine him as a little pestering brother who needs to be ignored. Dylan has to be the mature one and rise above it. I realize that as an only child Dylan hasn’t had a chance to learn the important skills of negotiation, neglect, avoidance, and rivalry resolution that others do—or the sneaky things to do to piss your sibling off where it hurts—like crossing out her David Cassidy poster, which I’ve been known to do. He liked the image of imagining the Situation in diapers. It’s been a week and I haven’t heard a tattle tale-ing tale yet, so maybe the brothers are working it out.

Chalk one up for something I was taught many years ago: Imagine the man you resent with a head wound, visualize him with a bandaged head—because he truly is a sick person (as we all are, to some degree or another). It helps you see your brother in a different light, and sometimes your brother’s head wound really is bleeding, and sometimes his diaper is full.

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