Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Elementary School Melt Downs

 Elementary School Melt Downs 
Consequences of Being A Brave Friend

Ten Year Anniversary of this Post

Originally published on Friday, March 28, 2014, at The Mother Freakin' Parent (Hood)

by: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez

Recently my third-grade son got into the car after school and was in tears. These were tears of frustration after many months dealing with a challenging classmate. He finally reached his limit and provided his classmate with the universal sign for "leave me alone I'm tired of your @!#?"  The teacher who escorted my son to the car to explain what had gone down was sympathetic and almost apologetic that she had to inform me of my son's "communication technique". She promised to let the teacher know why this had happened so that the situation could be resolved.

I calmly informed my son that I was not upset with him and waited for him to settle down.  He told me that one of his classmates had falsely accused his friend of doing something for which she was not responsible. My son stood up for his friend and asked the other classmate to stop his accusations. When the classmate did not cease his finger pointing, my son became upset, and the conversation escalated to the point that inappropriate finger gesturing occurred.

It turned out that the "tattle tale" classmate had a long history of participating in his little game of judgments. He had a habit of falsely accusing his peers of activities just to get a reaction. I explained why some children may feel a need to act this way. We discussed appropriate dialogue and strategies to deal with such situations. The most important thing is that no matter what another child says, he should never allow himself to get so frustrated that he physically strikes out. I could see how such a situation could escalate to the point where punches are thrown, or someone is wrestled to the ground. NOT acceptable strategies.

I immediately called the school to report the incident and follow up with the appropriate individuals who could assist with this matter. I knew that the teacher in attendance during dismissal would be reporting the concerns as well. I left a message for my son's third grade teacher and for the school counselor. I gave the information that was available and also included what I hoped would happen:
"Please help the children discuss their concerns and provide them with some communication strategies to help them reach a resolution. Let me know how I can follow up with your recommendations at home."
This communication with the school was important because I wanted the school to know I was aware of the situation.  I gave a specific request for them to consider.  I also wanted the school to know I was a part of the solution to the problem and was willing to follow up with their recommendations.  The team approach was very necessary to ensure that a repeat of the situation does not occur.

I was pleased the get a follow up call the following day from the school counselor who had taken time to speak to both of the boys involved.  She made sure they knew to ask a teacher or counselor for help if they had any other difficulties with communication. Both children felt empowered to resolve their differences.  I let the counselor know I appreciated her time and quick attention to the matter.  I emphasized again how I feel that we are a team and I will continue to encourage my child to discuss his concerns in an appropriate manner.

Make no mistakes here. I am a mama bear. If I had not received a timely response to the matter or felt in any way that our concerns had not been addressed, I would have shown up in person. (I have no qualms about making an appointment with the principal or teachers involved.) The keys to ensuring that your child's voice is heard include:

1.  Use a Respectful yet Confident Voice to express your concerns.

2.  Be specific. What happened and what do you want the school to do to address the challenges?

3.  Inform the school what you have already done to help resolve the issue.

4.  What you are willing to do to be a catalyst for positive change?

5. Make sure you follow up with compliments and reassure the school that you appreciate the "Team Approach."

Advocacy for your child often involves unexpected and on the spot problem solving.  Confidently and respectfully pursue what you know is best for you child!

Additional note for the 10 Year Anniversary of this post

It has been ten years since this incident, and I am happy to report that all three of my children, including the one involved in this article, are showing signs of being excellent advocates for their peers, for themselves, and for their coworkers. Developing a sense of equitable treatment of others, ethical personal and business practices, and a sense of responsibility for self and others is a cumulative skill that requires practice. I also continue to demonstrate advocacy skills and practice communication in my personal and professional life. Although it can be uncomfortable to confront inequities, it is important to be true to yourself, represent what is right and just, and hopefully make things better for those with whom you share space on this crazy, spinning planet. We're here to support each other, and anything less than respectful interactions needs to be appropriately addressed. 

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