Posts Tagged ‘mature’

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retaliate?

July 15, 2010

On Monday night I spent the evening with Mike and Caroline and their adorable 3 year old son Billy, and we had Dominos pizzas, played with Claire’s cat (they were house-sitting for her while she was on holiday for her boyfriend’s birthday) and watched TV.  Between the friendly insults between Mike and myself, the yummy food and the cute trots around the garden with Billy, we ended up having an interesting conversation / I watched an incipient argument between Mike and Caroline about whether it is right to teach your child to hit back when they are hit.

A bit more background to the story: Billy goes to nursery on afternoons during the week, and is in a class with various other kids who are the same age.  His initial reluctance to go to nursery has more or less faded now, and he seems to enjoy himself there and plays well with most of the other kids (as well as trying to sneak home toys in his socks!).  However, there are two little girls called Paris and Jayla who have behavioural issues in the group, and because of these girls’ issues with the rest of the group, they are currently under watch from the head of the nursery.  Now, I don’t really know too much of the details beyond the fact that these girls act mean towards the rest of the children, and Caroline said that she has observed Jayla (the girl in question) acting menacingly towards all of the children and trying to bully them into giving her their toys, or pushing them around.

On Monday, Caroline mentioned that she had asked Billy how he had got on with Jayla that day, and he said that she tried to take a toy away from him and snatch it out of his hands, but he held on to it; in addition, when they were lining up after playtime, she tried to push him out of the line several times but he just stood back in it.  Caroline was proud of this, as it meant that Billy had stood his ground without making a scene or responding directly to Jayla’s behaviour; at no point did Caroline suggest that the girl was personally targeting Billy; rather, it’s a case of her trying to dominate whoever is around in a childish display of power.  Nevertheless Billy has been one of the victims of her behaviour, and although he’s handled it well, who knows if it will escalate or how much it affects or upsets him below his happy-go-lucky demeanour?

Caroline and Mike were discussing this during the evening and it became clear that they had different viewpoints on how to handle this problem.  On the one hand, Caroline was pleased with Billy for turning the other cheek, but she was worried that Jayla might not stop harassing her son and that it might end up really upsetting Billy and ruining his time at nursery.  Mike was worried about the same, but his solution for dealing with Jayla once and for all was for Billy to push her back when she pushed him or tried to take his stuff. Caroline didn’t like this (for what precise reason I don’t know, though I think it has less to do with ramifications from teachers or Jayla’s mother – Caroline can stand her ground and apparently Jayla’s mother is your average young chav woman – and more to do with the ethics of teaching a child to counter violence with violence) and refused to tell Billy this course of action; Mike said that that was fine and that he would tell Billy himself, but it became clear that Caroline didn’t want him to do this either.

Mike could tell that Caroline was getting agitated, and said that responding in a more direct manner might nip the problem in the bud; he was adamant that Billy should not and would not remain unhappy at nursery, and pushing this girl back in retaliation was the best way to get her to leave him alone once and for all. He supported this with a story from his own childhood which resulted in him triumphing over bullies who had made his school life miserable in a similar way; however, in Mike’s anecdote he was 11; Billy is 3.  How young is too young to advocate violence? Is one child pushing another in retaliation considered “violence”?  Does it mean that Billy is lowering himself to Jayla’s level by responding to her intimidation in kind? What might happen if Jayla decides to step her threatening behaviour up a notch?

From the above questions, it might sound like I fall on Caroline’s side of the fence, but actually I don’t.  I am not a parent, and I have not met Jayla; nor is it my place to offer advice to Mike and Caroline.  However, the way that I see it is that Billy, to his credit, has already tried turning the other cheek (as do, from the sound of it, the other kids) and Jayla isn’t giving up. She is a nasty piece of work, and although I don’t think that Billy is a weak child, he is a nice boy and perhaps pushing Jayla back is a primal way of demonstrating that he has some grit to his character.  Moreover, in life you have to protect yourself by any means necessary; at this point Billy has already tried a non-violent approach which has been mature and classy, but it’s not working… now is the time, in my opinion, to send a short, sharp message loud and clear.  Like Caroline, I don’t believe in using violence to get your point across, but at the same time if someone hits me then I will hit them back and I believe that their attack gives me licence to do so.  In the context of retaliation, I don’t think there is anything wrong with Billy pushing Jayla – to sound schoolyard, she pushed him first. He’s tried the passive approach, now it’s time to send a clearer message using a different approach. Although I think that Mike is projecting somewhat when he talks about his own childhood and says that he doesn’t want Billy to be seen as weak (which I think is a little bit of over-psycho-analysis), the result is the same: the goal is to get this girl to piss off, and turnabout is fair play. Like Mike, I have a feeling that from the sound of her, Jayla can dish it out but she won’t be able to take it, and I’m in favour of Billy giving her a taste of her own medicine.

In my childhood, there was one instance in particular when I lifted a boy up by his shirt and ended up ripping all the buttons off it in the process; I was 6 years old.  However, although my mother and his mother (who, thankfully, were friends) did have to come and resolve the situation after class (and we had to sew the buttons back on his shirt!), I didn’t get in trouble because my teacher had seen that my action was a retaliation; the child who got his shirt ripped had yelled in my ear. The moral of this story is that teachers, good teachers know dynamics between their children, and I didn’t get in trouble for a simple act of retaliation. I think therefore that the teachers at the nursery know the score and they wouldn’t hold any retaliatory action from Billy against him; so although I would always go with Caroline’s non-violent, rise above it attitude first, if that fails then I agree with Mike and it is time to hit back.

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illusions.

January 10, 2010

I was on the way home from work at the hospital on Friday afternoon and it began to occur to me while I was sat on the bus, for no particular reason, that just as we all want different things that can help us on our journey to happiness, so we’re all coming from different places with different perspectives. I thought back to Monday night and Tuesday morning, when I’d spent the night at Mike’s place, and playing games with his son Billy.  He messed about with his food, he splashed Mike while he was having a bath, he was bashing a toy meerkat on the floor the next morning looking for coconuts.  He’s three years old, and he’s a bright kid, but he’s a child that is almost totally carefree.  And why shouldn’t he be?  That’s one of the luxuries of being so young, that we don’t realise is a luxury until it’s passed us by.

Does that make him “immature”? In a way, yes – but with none of the bad connotations that the word usually carries.  He’s a child, he’s got a lot of growing up to do, experiencing of the world and everything that entails.  So as a child, we can’t blame him for not understanding the complexity of relationships, people, and a hundred other things that fall under the umbrella of “life”.  But just because he’s a child, that gives him a get-out clause that we don’t afford other people whom we presume should know better.  So I was sat on the bus, wondering if maturity and immaturity is just an illusion? Is it a concept that we’ve invented to fuel our own feelings of superiority and comfort us when we’re feeling insecure?

I know that I’m certainly guilty of this.  Through the years, many many people (parents, teachers, friends, colleagues) have told me that I am “mature for my age”, “wise beyond my years” and so on and so forth.  I appreciate the compliment, but it’s meant that sometimes I’ve looked at people my age, or people whom I’ve just thought should know better than to behave in the way in which they’re behaving, and the first thing to my mind is “they’re immature”.  Is that really just code for “oh, I am better than them”?  To me, it seems to be a way of dressing up a superiority complex.  Looking at it now, I think that when we see people as “immature”, it’s not because they’re mentally or emotionally stunted – or at least, it’s not their fault.  They just have a different viewpoint of life / whatever the issue or context is, because they’ve been through different things or they’ve been raised a certain way, that they approach the complexities from a different angle.  I’m sure that I’m not the deepest person around, and that some people think I am shallow. I like to think I am not, but then who likes to think of themselves as shallow? 😉  I like to think I’m mature, but then who likes to think of themselves as immature?

So I am trying to restrain myself from automatically judging people as “immature”. Yes, I may disagree with the way they express themselves in connection with certain situations, and I might think that if it were me, I would do things differently, approach the situation differently, or have a more nuanced viewpoint.  But we’re all learning, and maybe instead of judging someone else, I should learn to take a step back and see things the way they do.  Sometimes I think too much, and perhaps simplicity is better.  Mike and I did say sometimes that it would be nice to just be able to switch your brain off  and not overthink things – I’m certainly guilty of at times taking things too seriously.  And perhaps, sometimes part of ‘maturity’ (whether it exists or not) is letting loose and having fun.  I honestly believe more and more as I get older that levity and laughter is vital for sanity.