by: Staci Stallings
My kids are awesome. They pay attention. They think. They talk. We talk. We talk about what happens and what it means and what we can learn from what happens.
This morning we had an interesting discussion. It wasn’t long. It was as they were getting ready for school.
One of them had a school counselor come in yesterday to talk with their class. The counselor said, “And just know if we have an argument, I’m going to win, so just don’t go there.”
This clearly upset my daughter who is a freshman in high school. And when she’s upset, you will know it.
So as she’s ranting and raving about this statement, I calmly looked at her and said, “How many times in the last year have you and I had an argument?”
That stopped the rant, and she thought about it. ”I don’t know. Maybe once.”
“Right. What the counselor is doing in her mind is setting up that any discussion with her is…”
And instantly, she understood.
I said, “I don’t argue because I want YOU to come to your own conclusion and do what’s best for you. It’s not a control thing. It’s a ‘let’s work together to figure out what’s best for everyone’ thing.”
Now I know this counselor, and unfortunately, a lot of times it is more about control than anything.
However, I’m not going to rag on the counselor because this “disease” is rampant among teachers, administrators, and parents. They see their role as telling students what to do and how to do it. And that will result in an “argument” every time. In fact, like I told my kids, “If you set it up this way, the student (or child) has one of two choices… either fight or give in.”
Fighting will get them labeled as “rebellious” and “stubborn” which will invite more arguments because the authority figure goes into the relationship at a heightened state of emotion and determined to “win.”
Surrendering or giving up teaches the student that they DON”T have any control over their lives, that they can’t and shouldn’t make decisions for their own life, and that peace at any cost (even their self-worth and wholeness) is and should be the goal. But I’m sorry, that is not the goal. Ever. Yes, in the short-term, it may feel like a “win” for that parent or teacher, but in the end, it’s a lose for everyone. Because what you create by doing this is an adult who cannot make decisions for him or herself, who is quietly miserable, who goes along to get along even in the face of issues that need someone to step in, step up, do something, think for themselves, and get them solved.
Interestingly, yesterday my youngest son had kind of the opposite lesson.
A few months ago during class, a map fell from over the chalkboard, striking his teacher on the head and arm. She sat down on the floor and very nearly passed out. Now, these are fifth grade students in a class where the most dramatic thing that happens is a fire drill they didn’t know about. So no one had ever taught them, “If something happens, go get an adult!”
So the kids tried to take care of this on their own and got told later that they should have gone and gotten someone (hey, points from me for trying to take care of it though!).
My son told me, “So I decided right then that if something happened, and the teacher wasn’t there, I was going to go get someone even though we’re not supposed to be out in the halls.” (No wonder no one thought to go get someone in the first case. They were told they would get in trouble for being the halls!)
Well, yesterday I believe it was just as school started, the teacher wasn’t there, and one of the students threw up with no warning.
My son said, “Everyone else was freaking out and trying to clean it up. I got up, went across the hall, and told Mrs. R, and she came over to help us.”
See? See the difference?
In one situation the teacher has set up that they are an adversary, that they are prepared to argue with you and you will lose. In the other, the student knows and sees that the teacher is there to help when you have a major problem, and you can and should go ask.
But I submit to you, that relationship, that dynamic is set up WAAAAY before the student actually needs it. In fact, the strange thing is, my older two have said in the past that the counselor has said things like, “If you ever need anything, let me know.” To which they have consistently said, “I wouldn’t go to that person.” Well, now I see there’s a reason for that.
When we talk about “safe” adults, adults that students and children can go to when they have a problem… that “safeness” MUST be started and be a continuous part of the relationship long before the kid needs a safe adult to talk with. And I’ll give you a hint: setting it up so that you think you have to “win” any argument with them is not the way to do it.
Parents, teachers, administrators, we are not here to lord things over our kids! We are not to control everything about them. We are to be here to encourage, help, and work WITH THEM… just as the Bible talks about “one another.” That goes for our relationship with our kids as well. But YOU have to teach it. YOU have to model it. YOU have to live it.
If you don’t, all you’re going to get is one long, extended, never-ends argument or a beaten down kid who thinks they are on their own when life gets really rough and rocky. And you don’t want that, do you?