Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Empowerment at every age.

Kol started acting up yesterday afternoon while we were on our way home from school.  It has been a month since his last serious tantrum and I kept chalking it up to the fact that he loves school and is doing so well there.  At first I assumed he was really tired, but then I took a minute to watch my son cover his face and kick his feet in the air while he screamed and I realized he is trying to tell me something. At 3 1/2 years into this job,  I am seasoned enough to know that though sometimes the  screaming and yelling are just because he can, most of the time it is an expression of emotion, and clearly Kol was having some serious BIG emotions!

Before getting Nava out of the car, I went to Kol's side and asked if something happened in school today that he wanted to tell me about.  His eyes filled with tears and he choked out that his friend punched his project. Following mommy protocol, I asked him to tell me about it instead of yelling out "that F***in a**hole" which is what I really wanted to say.   

I heard the story. It sucked. His friend ruined his project. This little punk made him car and Kol's teacher sat with him to make a new project to take home.

This specific kid has been an a**hole, oops I mean "problem" for Kol last year too. I would hear stories of Kol being hit,  of toys being taken away from him in the classroom and bike's being taken away from him on the playground.  Doing what all moms do, I alerted the teacher, often.  She kept reiterating how sorry she was and how this child was a bit of a problem child and they were working with the parents to try to fix things.

Every time there was an episode Dov and I would talk to Kol and after reminding him to always find a teacher to help and to speak up for himself and tell the boy in his loud voice, "Stop it, I don't like it." Or, " Don't hit me, it doesn't feel good."  We would practice using those words and practice empowering him.  Most of the time we would end up in giggles after yelling inside with our "outdoor" voices. 

Before we had kids, Dov and I discussed what we would do if our kids were ever bullied/bothered by others. Dov believed in the power of speech and how talking to the parents or the mean child himself could really change a situation.  On the other hand I always expressed the wonders of intimidation.  After all, when my baby brother Cobe was in 3rd grade, there was a kid who would bully him in the yard and after a week of Cobe coming into my car crying, I decided I had enough and the next afternoon I went into the school yard and took matters into my own hands. I had Cobe point out the kid,  I went over to him, and with my 18 year old confidence I looked him straight in the eye and said "if you ever both my brother again I will have bring our older brothers here to beat you up" (I am not entirely proud of this, yet I am also not ashamed).  Needless to say the kid never looked Cobe's way again so from my calculations that method worked really well! 

And up until recently Dov was against this approach.  But there is something that happens when you become a parent. There is a deep overprotectiveness that comes with creating a child.  As of late, we have both had enough.  My gentle loving husband keeps saying he is thinking of using my method on this kid.  We both know he is only joking, but there is a natural urge to do everything in your power to stop anyone from bothering your kid.  Stop pushing him, stop being nasty, stop ruining his projects and making Kol feel small and sad.  

We are in touch with Kol's teacher and we are so proud that he does not hit back, he does not push out of anger or take revenge and destroy the other kid's work.  Rather, Kol's emotional reaction is directed at me. It comes out in tantrums and I am grateful that I am in tune with my son enough to know to ask what happened in school today.  Every time there is an incident, I remind him that he can stand up for himself with his words. He can empower  himself to say "NO" and that at the same time it is ok to cry. Because honestly it doesn't matter if your 3 or 33, we all still cry or want to cry when someone destroys our work, or is mean to us for no good reason.  

I have a fantasy of walking into the school yard, staring down this 3 year old and scaring him just enough to stop bothering my son.  But I will not do it. Firstly because they may kick us out of the school and I ADORE my sons school and teachers! And secondly,  because unfortunatly this is part of life.  We have bullies in every aspect of our childhood and adulthood.  As a child it can be anyone on the schoolyard or even a teacher or principle (that story is for another time).  As an adult in can be anyone from family members, co-workers or unfortunatly sometimes friends.

I believe the only way to deal with a bully is head on. We must speak up, for ourselves and in turn teach our children to speak up for themselves.  Some days Kol comes back with tears in his eyes telling a story of hurt and I cuddle him as he expresses how bad it made him feels  But somedays, and I hope for these days more often as he grows,  he comes home to let me know that he stood up for himself,  he put his hands on his hip and yelled "stop it! I don't like it"!!  He tells me this with the biggest smile and we slap each other high five.  On those days I know that Dov has been right all along.  The power of speech empowers us and we need to pass it on so our children can empower themselves, because though we may want to step in, we will not always be around to fight their battles or their bullies. 


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