Going into a difficult week

So we’re going into a difficult week here, and I wanted to note it, especially today, as it’s painfully relevant to Dr. King. Anand got into an incident on the bus last week. A kid got physical with him, he got physical back, and the end result was that it went past mild roughhousing. No one was badly hurt, thankfully, but someone easily could have been.

And Anand is more at fault, for multiple reasons, but mostly because he’s three grades above the other kid. He’s just bigger, and older, and should have known better. He got mad, and all of his ‘what I ought to do in this situation’ training went out the window.

Anand’s got a chip on his shoulder due to the ADHD stuff, the sensory issues, etc., and when he was younger, he would often get into trouble for things that really weren’t his fault or based on any intention of his. His sensory issues meant that he didn’t have a good sense of appropriate personal space, and would end up bumping into other kids frequently in the hallway. (Even playing video games with friends now, he’ll sometimes sit closer than they might feel comfortable.)

So he’s been called out a lot, and lectured at a lot. Anand spent a lot of time arguing with authority in 1st and 2nd grade, which made things pretty difficult for him. He started therapy last summer, which I think helped, along with just general maturing, and 4th grade has overall been much smoother. This is the first disciplinary incident of the year, but it’s a doozy.

He’s got a bus suspension for the week (or possibly two weeks; I can’t remember, have to check), which means we’ll have to shuttle him back and forth.

(We’re lucky that our teaching schedules this semester make it not too onerous; we should be able to just do it, without needing to lean on other people for help. That easily could have not been the case, another semester, and we’re very aware that we’re privileged to be only inconvenienced by the loss of the bus, unlike other families, for whom it would mean serious lost income, etc.)

But more of an issue is that I’m still not sure Anand really understands the severity of the situation. And to the extent he does, he doesn’t feel like he has any power to effect change. He doesn’t know what to do when he gets mad, how to not be mad, or how not to act on that anger. And he’s still little, relatively speaking, but he is getting bigger, even if he doesn’t realize it. He’s notably bigger than the other kid in this incident, which is why he got the bus suspension.

So we’re having a lot of conversations here. Some of it we’ll bring up with his therapist, to see if she can offer him some tools for how to better work through anger. He’s frustrated — he says that we tell him to go to an adult if someone’s mistreating him, but the adults never do anything about it, and I’m sure that’s often the case.

If you’re trying to manage a playground full of high-energy kids, mostly I’m sure that if there isn’t visible blood, you’re going to just try to separate the kids, calm them down, and get them back to playing again. That doesn’t do much for Anand’s sense of justice, though, or his feeling of helplessness and frustration when he thinks someone has injured him. And I honestly don’t get angry very often (hardly at all), and so I don’t feel like I have a lot of tools, personally, for helping him calm down. Kevin doesn’t have a quick temper either.

One thing we’re doing is trying to get Anand to stop talking about ‘revenge’ as a justifiable concept. Honestly, this is particularly frustrating to me, as it’s a whole framework that I’d like to get Anand past, and I think it’s not going to be easy.

But it’s critical that we figure out how to do it, because otherwise, Anand’s going to grow up as a relatively light-skinned young man who is going to have a whole world telling him that he’s entitled to all kinds of things, and that he should get angry and maybe just take them, if he doesn’t get them handed to him. We have to counter that narrative now.

Anand knows, in his head, that he’s privileged in many ways, but he doesn’t feel the reality of that yet, since he’s only 10, and mostly, he experiences other people always telling him what to do. For him, life is freedom sometimes / constrained by adults the rest of the time. And even though he’s actually watched all of the Good Place, I’m pretty sure most of the ethical lessons in there didn’t really sink in.

Well. We’re talking, and we’ve been talking, and we’ll keep talking. I think maybe the next bit is some intellectual conversations about Gandhi and King and satyagraha and the frequent ineffectiveness of violence as a tool of justice. He’s been watching a lot of military history videos, so it’s going to take some work to persuade him of the futility of so many of those actions.

For our kid, actually convincing him is what will work best in the long run, I’m sure. In the meantime, we’ll reinforce the hard rules. No hitting, punching, kicking, etc., not even in revenge. Just no. We know it doesn’t feel fair to you, and we’ll keep talking about it, but right now, we need you to just follow that rule.

Just following the rule is pretty tough for our little authority-questioner. He trusts us, though, so hopefully, he’ll be willing to comply, and hopefully the therapist will have some tips on how to help himself calm down more effectively. Meditation, maybe. It might be time to teach him a mantra or two.


1 thought on “Going into a difficult week”

  1. I just wanted to say that we have a lot of similar things going on with my 13yo son. It’s helpful to me to hear you articulate it so well.

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