Kids dealing with power and control at school...
I'm no longer worried about my kids.. I am sure they can handle tough times and people, and still manage to be kind!
I’ve been reflecting on a response to a facebook post about teachers needing sensitivity training. I had to think on it... I would love to create a safe bubble around my babies forever, but its just becoming less and less realistic. They are starting to experience all sorts of harshness, unreasonable boundaries and expectations, cruel reactions and moments of true power imbalance. And I'm no longer there. I'm not watching their programs, or even picking them up from school. I'm just not there to rescue them, and have to be confident that we've created some kick-ass little people who can handle it their way.
Our experience has been that most teachers are taught (maybe not taught, but at least hold and practice) behaviourist tools for controlling kids. Rewards. Punishments. Coercion. Fear. Compliance... Expectations to always fall in line... while they learn to think outside the box. And we’ve had our fair share of opportunities to help our children deal with these coercive and less than desirable ways to manage groups of children. It can be easy to default to parenting tactics that have forgotten basic kindness, respect and tools to build self-esteem when surrounded by dozens of children with varying needs, I'm sure.
I say this, and acknowledge this, having the utmost respect for their very hard and challenging work. I ask their teachers and camp councillors to look after my beautiful babes every day, among 30 others... I can only imagine what happens: the good, the bad, and the things I don’t know my kids do and say when I’m not around!! I understand that it is near impossible to expect others to mimic what I try to provide in my home, and that sometimes forceful control is all that can be managed with such huge ratio imbalances.
We’ve spent the last decade helping our kids understand how to react and respond... that not everyone is or can be 100% on their side, or has the energy for unconditional acceptance. We explain that it’s ok - that we are there, loving them, no matter what the world dishes out. That it’s less about protecting and more about preparing. And when it’s been really bad, a few times, we are 100% in their corner and would fight for them - and have. Even when we knew they were wrong. They eventually came to their own truth and apology, out of our belief in, and love and support for them.
They’re so young, they do not yet have the tools to “be an adult about it”... so we teach and catch and love unconditionally as much as we can, and we rescue and redirect and fight for them when it’s needed. Some parenting methods might see this as being too involved. Other methods see this as letting them have their way. We see it as guiding and modeling with kindness, balanced with a belief that they are strong and capable.
At 10/11/13... they’re amazing. And resilient. And kind. And loving. And when bad things happen or someone is mean/unkind, it comes out at bedtime as we lay together... they discharge and move forward. They are also the authors of others hurt or sadness, too. And these events also come out with as much truth as when they're the ones being hurt. When they do wrong, they feel it and they work hard to clean it up.
This is what it’s all about... the ability to interact with negative energy, stress, fear, coercion, and people in authority that are abusing or overusing that authority and come out the other side better, stronger and kinder. Not hardened. Not angry. To have the skill set to discharge the unneeded energy that another’s hurt, exhaustion, and reality of being overworked and underpaid has tried to give to you, in that moment of challenge. Kids can learn to block it, to let it go, to release others passed on energy and fear, rather than to hold onto it.
Our family practices a few different things to help the kids discharge rather than hold on to..
We always make ourselves available. We lay with them to sleep, or at least remain present until they no longer want us there. This is where the conversation happens... they days stress is talked out. We take them on drives when we feel they have something to say - there is no pressure to talk, and so it all flows out.
We have always made it clear that we are on their side, unconditionally loving them, even when they have been the one to do the wrong thing. We don't give them a reason to lie, by punishing or using fear when they've done wrong.
We have tried our best to be the rock to their ocean; the unwavering and stable base for them to cling on to when their world is messy and hard.
We recognize our energy, understanding that strong people can sway the energy in the situation. If income in angry, intense and forceful, I will contribute to a reaction that is just as strong. Or worse - might cause a child to back down and submit. Instead, I remind myself to be the calm, the simple, the slow... and encourage them to meet me there instead.
And most importantly, we see their actions and behaviors as symptoms, always. Symptoms alert us to a root cause that can be addressed. If we were to punish or reward the symptom (behavior), we would miss out on the real concern underneath it. Instead - a violent burst of energy and words can be seen as a child needing help regulating. Not a bad kid in need of a time out. I won’t be there to punish behavior when there 25... is rather teach them now how to redirect and choose appropriate responses and coping strategies.
Among all of this, I’ve yelled. I’ve said mean words myself. I’ve up and left when it got too big. Just like the teachers who love our children, I also have moments that I’m not proud of where I’ve relied on coercion and compliance.
And then I’ve apologized, and talked through what I should have done differently. They know I am as human as it gets, and we learn together how to clean up our messes.
These kids will be able to handle anything, knowing that they have a soft place to land when it’s needed.