April 22, 2005

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Adam...

NOTE: The names in this entry have been changed to protect the innocent--or not-so-innocent, as the case may be.

So there's this kid in The Boy's class--let's call him "Adam." Adam has...issues. Now I always figured that Adam's issues just stemmed from his relative immaturity (he only turned 3 in January, so he is by far the youngest child in The Boy's group), but I am beginning to think that Adam is a giant butthead. And please, before you get all indignant that a 30-something woman is harboring personal animosity toward a three-year old, I am here to tell you that I will be unaffected by your tsk-tsking. Adam is a butthead. A big, giant, possibly deranged butthead, who just happens to think my son is fabulous.

Now you might be thinking that we've dodged a bullet here with Adam the Giant Bullying Butthead, since he appears to like The Boy, but you'd be wrong. Among Adam's myriad problems is his total inability (even by toddler standards) to practice self control. So Adam will hug you and call you his best friend one minute, then push you down on the playground the next. Every day I get The Adam Report from The Boy, which sounds like a daily tragi-comedy in progress:

Me: So, what happened today?
Boy: Miss Antoinette took away Adam's smiley face.
Me: Why?
Boy: Adam was pushing people on the playground.
Me: Did he push you?
Boy: Yeah.
Me: Did he get time out?
Boy: Yeah.
Me: Now you know what you do if Adam bothers you, right? Tell him to stop and if he doesn't, you tell a teacher. And if that doesn't work, you push him back and run. He can't catch you, you know (The Boy is slight of build and very very fast. I'm trying to teach him how to maximize his survival skills--he can't win in a one-on-one with this kid, but speed and leverage are helpful).
Boy: Okay, mommy.

Then there was the conversation I had with Adam's mom, in which, between bouts of chasing her younger boy around while her husband stood idly by, not participating in the conversation or, well, anything, she informed me with a sigh that "Adam is just onery and he's always in trouble," and that the daycare owner had moved him up into my son's class because "he was too big and mean to stay with the other kids, and she was afraid he'd hurt them." Which begs the question, "Hey! What about my kid!" but I understand the owner's logic--put the kid where someone as big as he is will push back. Unfortunately, the lesson in Toddler Social Darwinism doesn't appear to have taken. Although, judging by the entirely average sizes of both his mother and father, Adam will learn that lesson soon enough.

I also understand that perhaps Adam's problems are exacerbated by the laissez faire parenting he receives. And frankly, if I were in his mom's shoes I might throw in the towel as well--those boys are pretty naturally rambunctious, and dad doesn't seem inclined to intervene, ever. To mom's credit, however, she has tried every intervention method recommended to her--and is working closely with the teachers in The Boy's class as well as the daycare's owner--but they don't seem to work. Reward witholding and time-outs roll off this kid like water off a duck. And it's still illegal to use ankle restraints in daycares, so that's out.

But we'll be marking The Boy's fifth birthday by enrolling at the local karate school. Of course by then Adam will be a thing of the past--The Boy will only spend about 11 more months in daycare--but I have a feeling that elementary school will present its own challenges for a small, shy boy.

In the meantime, I've been tutoring him in how to throw a punch. He knows enough not to break his fingers, but he still needs to work on keeping his guard up.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 22, 2005 11:52 AM

Some would suggest your methodology is not politically correct, but its right as rain with me. Children can't be happy self-confident human beings if they are being victimized by bullies. Your child needs to know how to defend himself and I'm glad you're letting him know that he can do just that when he needs to.

Posted by: Roberta S at April 22, 2005 11:58 AM

Adam may actually straighten out. There was a kid very like him in my daughter's daycare. He would walk over to any person, child or adult, and start slapping and kicking. He did it to me once and I wasn't even looking at him. He acted up the worst when his mother was in the room - who knows what that was about. They actually made a rule that she could not take her kid straight to the classroom, nor pick him up - she had to go to the office and have one of the daycare people do it. Once I mentioned spanking my daughter, and that mom was horrified! She never spanked - it teaches kids to be violent! I thought, then God help us if you spanked him. But by age 4 or 5 he had calmed down and acted like a civilized person. We lost track of him after preschool. I hope his self-control lasted.

Posted by: Laura at April 22, 2005 01:38 PM

There's a good reason that the age of 7 is also known as the 'age of reason'. Before that, children have a lot more in common with a house pet than with a human being. It helps in raising a child if you have extensive experience in raising and training cats and dogs. In fact, cats and dogs who are raised by and live with humans have been tested to determine that they have the understanding and cognitive skills of a 2 or 3 year old.

Spanking is a form of negative reinforcement. While positive reinforcement is usually preferred and usually more effective long-term, the short term effects of negative reinforcement are often desirable.

For example, which would you use to keep your child from grabbing at the handle of a pot of boiling water on the stove?

A. Promises of a special treat after supper for good behavior.

B. A sharp slap on the hand the next time that hand reaches for the pot handle.

Which do you think is more effective for keeping the child from getting scalded?

Posted by: Claire at April 22, 2005 01:59 PM

I'm not bringing up the whole spanking thing with Adam's mom--I have a feeling she'd be horrified.

And I hold out hope that maturity will do the trick for him--otherwise I fear that older and bigger kids will adminster their own version of a spanking.

At any rate, he won't be at The Boy's elementary school. And in the meantime, we've made it clear that self-defense will receive no censure from us.

Posted by: BAW at April 22, 2005 02:06 PM

I suppose a choke collar is out of the question.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at April 22, 2005 02:39 PM

Ron: choke collars?

Right on! I was thinking of one of those electric ones used to train dogs where when the master pushes the button on the remote control, the dog yelps and falls on the ground writhing, eyes rolling back in it's head and foaming at the mouth. /sarcasm

Seriously, since corporal punishment is no longer allowed in "modern" schools (thanks, liberals), the kids are on their own to protect themselves. (Ain't it great how liberalism leads to lawlessness and anarchy on the playground and society at large?)

Karate is good. A good sensei will teach courtesy, honor, respect, and humility, as well as the *true* self-esteem that can one can only give oneself.

Posted by: snopercod at April 22, 2005 06:14 PM

Heavy sigh. There are many more 'Adams' in 'boy's' life. Been there. Done that. The punching and running method is generally more effective than 'telling' an adult hired by the elementary public school system. Just be sure to tell 'boy' to make sure to hit the kid when no one is looking so it is his word against the 'Adam'. Once in high school, the morons and knuckleheads get separated from the rest of society and you can breath easier about your own child's welfare. This is a sad but true account from my life. Also, if you do not stand up for your own child, ain't nobody else gonna do it...ever.

Posted by: Marie at April 22, 2005 08:04 PM

I just stumbled across this quote by judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown (being filibustered by you-know-who) which perfectly summarizes the current situation in public education after 35 years of "progressive management":

"Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. . . . The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible."

Hey, does this tie in with the Paris Hilton thread?

Posted by: snopercod at April 22, 2005 08:53 PM

Actually a choke collar is used for consequences of the dog's own choices, rather than an imposed discipline. A shock collar is too easy to misuse to be safe, unless you're already proficient with a choke collar; sort of a choke collar at a distance, avoiding the necessity of light lines and careful setting up of temptations.

You don't let a dog pull on a choke collar; he has to watch you all the time, because there you are, walking him on a slack leash, and he forges ahead a little, so he can no longer see you : then you stealthily and silently and quickly reverse course and he of course flies back in your direction airborne as he hits the end of the retreating leash. ``Holy cow, I'd better watch this guy.'' Well, he can't watch you unless he stays back with you. It's all the dog's choice. If he forges, he gets the instant ungratification of missing your about-face; and if he stays back where he can see you, he gets the instant gratification of being able to follow your turn easily.

It takes about ten seconds to train a dog to heel, especially a hyperactive one, who gets faster opportunities to learn than a timid one.

The shock collar version requires great discipline from the operator to achieve the same simple effect. Mostly a shock collar winds up misused, and you get a paranoid dog rather than a confident one.

Now, with kids in a store, walking away as soon as they're not looking is the corresponding trick. Unfortunately, they don't let you use choke collars.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at April 23, 2005 07:08 AM

Actually, sometimes telling an adult works, but I've only seen it work when a parent told the adult. They don't seem to take the kids seriously, for some reason.

Posted by: Laura at April 23, 2005 09:47 AM

Regarding corporal punishment in the schools: if you hit my kid, save in self defense (not likely, given that he's five), I'll hit you harder. Being liberal has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Michael at April 23, 2005 10:04 AM

Michael, I feel the same way. My husband and I spanked our child when we thought it necessary, but no one outside immediate family (and I mean immediate) ever had our permission to lay a hand on her. Even when we spanked we had her best interest at heart, and I never felt that I could trust other people to that degree.

They outlawed corporal punishment in our school system just this year, and some teachers and principals are wondering what they're supposed to replace it with. I think there aren't enough alternative schools.

Posted by: Laura at April 23, 2005 11:56 AM


Actually, sometimes telling an adult works, but I've only seen it work when a parent told the adult. They don't seem to take the kids seriously, for some reason.

It can be done by a child, but having evidence sure helps. I faced a daily run of verbal bullying — really nasty and relentless — on the school bus in ninth grade, and eventually solved it by taking a mini tape recorder with me one day, taping, writing out a transcript, and turning over tape and transcript to the principal the next morning. The four girls involved were silent as the tomb the day after that. Sweet!

Posted by: Michelle Dulak Thomson at April 23, 2005 12:55 PM

Good idea on the martial arts thing. Our oldest (six years old) is slight of build and a bit nerdy 'cuz of medical issues. He's in preschool since January and regularly gets pushed around by his own Adam. We'll be doing martial arts this summer (he thinks it's training to be a superhero).

His four year old sister is extremely athletically gifted, and will start MA in the fall. She already knows how to make a proper fist, cock it, turn her shoulders into it, and let it fly (but only with Daddy). I figure if she cripples the first boy friend, my work is largely done.

I got my butt literally (and yes, I'm using it correctly) kicked from school to home almost daily by the local troglodyte (he was the only third grader who shaved, but he was 17, after all) in elementary school. The immediate solution was to have my brother and his friends beat the offender like a red-headed stepchild. The long-term solution was to take Tae Kwon Do and comepetitive Judo.

Violence doesn't solve every probelm, but it (or the willingness to use it when necessary) sure solves a some.

Posted by: Unknown Professor at April 23, 2005 04:23 PM

"And it's still illegal to use ankle restraints in daycares, so that's out"

More's the pity.

Posted by: Jim C. at April 23, 2005 05:04 PM

I have been following the collapse of CEDU, a chain of therapeutic schools in Idaho and California. I can't figure out why the therapeutic school industry has blossomed,but there seems to be a common thread: the kids haven't learned cause-and-effect thinking.

I suspect divorce and serial remarriage has something to do with it,

I don't hold much with spanking as a primary tool of installing cause & effect thinking, but surely closing it off as an option doesn't improve the outcome.

Ron Hardin knows what he is talking about. The physical connection between the dog and the human in the correction collar makes sure that mistakes are fewer (although you see people doing it wrong all the time). The ability to randomly consequence a dog at a distance -- what electric collars do -- is easy to misuse. You really, really have to pay attention.

I am in the martial arts camp. Putting a kid in a good program improves a lot of things.

Posted by: liz at April 24, 2005 11:35 PM

Just for the record, I don't recall anyone *ever* getting spanked in school.

The corporal punishment of choice when I was coming up was a rap on the hands with a ruler. Also, I remember my 4th grade teacher grabbing the short hair on the back of my neck once.

Public embarassment worked well, too. For instance, an unruly student might be forced to stay after class and write "I will not..." 100 times on the blackboard.

I think all this talk of spanking on this thread is just a diversion from the fact that these days teachers will be fired or sued if they so much as touch little Johnny or say anything to harm little Suzi's "self-esteem".

If school is preparation for life, then kids need to learn how to behave in polite society and that there are consequences if one doesn't.

Posted by: snopercod at April 25, 2005 07:30 AM