Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The virtue of the week we're working on in our household, which was pulled at random: assertiveness.

It has been eerily appropriate because assertiveness, bordering on aggression, is exactly what our family dinner conversations have centered on. Here is a sampling of quotes from our offspring this week:

"He pinched me really hard, right here," Max pointed to his shoulder, "then punched me--hard--in the side and kicked me."

"I get hit on the playground. Serious," she nodded her head, "one, two, three times," she counts her fingers. "I tell the teacher and," she pauses, then throws her hands to her sides, "nothing."

"Oh yeah. My Taekwondo teacher hits us. If we're not paying attention," Max's eyes widen, "he takes the equipment we use to kick and whap! right in the back," he imitated the motion, "But he's only hit me once. It didn't hurt." (Sidenote: Parents are not permitted to watch the classes. This never sits well with me, but is somewhat understandable in a place where everything is stolen or pirated--business ideas, recipes, movies, books, etc, so one feels the need to protect their interests & livelihood.)

"I said, dame la pelota, por favor* three times. And," Zora made a dramatic, director's-cut gesture, "nothing. No respect."

"I told the teacher what he was doing," Max lowered his gaze, "and she told me to hit him back."

If your eyes are the size of saucers and your heart is in your stomach, then you have an inkling of how I reacted to my children's summaries of their school days this week, some terribly normal and others quite concerning. What is going on?! I feel a bit lost for words, while 'Abdu'l-Baha's keep echoing in my head,
"It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child's character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse."

Where is the parental line between protecting your kids and not keeping them in a bubble? Where is the balance between social-freaks and uber-cool? Or am I creating false dichotomies? You can bet we're going to speak to the Taekwondo guru, but this bully at school? Josh and I foresaw this happening--a primary reason for putting him in Taekwondo in the first place. But it still makes me want to march into the principal's (my brother's) office and give him a piece of my mind. If you read this post, you have an idea of what that looks like. Ain't always pretty.

Josh went to visit Max's classroom today. He was able to monitor some break time activities and see the kids in action in the classroom. The bully in question responded well to firm words and Josh asked him, "Do you want me to teach you to read?"
BullyBoy nodded his head excitedly, affirmative. Josh still has to talk to the principal, but it looks like he may be able to offer some positivity into this boy's life. The likelihood is he's behaving that way because there isn't much of it in the first place. And we turn again to 'Abdu'l-Baha's sage advice,
"Every child is potentially the light of the world -- and at the same time its darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance."
Word, 'Abdu'l-Baha. Word. Even though it gives me chills.

So, dear reader, whaddyasay? Have any solid advice in your back pocket?

*Give me the ball, please


  1. Could it be a cultural thing? It is here...

  2. You bring up an interesting point and I'm curious to know what you, as a social studies teacher and international traveler think about this. I believe that we are part of an ever-advancing civlization (read: things just keep getting better, while certainly there are old systems and traditions crumbling around us, it is making way for more united efforts and wider visions). With this in mind, are there parts of cultures (every culture) that need to be eliminated--or, at minimum, changed significantly? Just because something is "culturally appropriate" or "culturally normal" mean that it is, in fact, okay? And how do we assess those points as we venture more and more into other lands and cultures? The world as we know it, afterall, is becoming smaller and more interconnected every hour, whether we want it to or not.

  3. As I read your blog, what stuck in my mind is that your kids are aware of how things SHOULD be, and need to be given props for having "gotten" the lessons you've been teaching them about peacefulness. Going to the teachers/principals may work and may not. This type of situation seems to be one of the hardships that we're supposed to accustom our children to. Not to throw them to the wolves, but to learn how to cope and negotiate in the world. One suggestion I have is to consult with them about THEIR response to what happens to them, and allow them to figure out, with your guidance, the best way of dealing. As with the cat-calls you get in the street, this is a Dominican reality, at least for now. The key, I think, might be in how you respond to it.