Dear Kid Whisperer,
I have been all over the internet looking for a solution to my daughter’s problem with another student and was hoping you may be able to give some insight and suggestions. The problem is between my daughter and another girl. For the last 2 years, these two have annoyed, picked and argued. I have been to the school on several occasions to help come up with a solution to no avail, and just this last week it has become physical. They have started kicking each other in P.E., in the lunch line, and on their way to art. They also seem to have a type of “competition” going between themselves. They race each other to get somewhere first or are always wanting a book that the other one wants, and each always claims that the other started it. We (myself, the school’s principal/counselor, and the teacher) are out of ideas and options. It has come to moving each child to separate sides of the class and trying to keep one in the front of line and the other at the back, but this is not working either. Last year the teacher tried having the girls work, sit and play together, which only seemed to make the problem worse. Both girls have been told not to speak to each other or interact, and the principal feels that it is not bullying and that both girls seem to be instigating at different times. Both girls do not have siblings and I have been told this is the problem, but this still does not give me a solution. To make matters worse, the other parent has resorted to telling her child to punch my daughter and she has been publicly threatening me. I would be grateful for any advice or possible exercises that the girls may be able to do together that might alleviate the problem. All of the teachers that interact with these two are at their wits’ end with them.
-Jade Arcadia, Missouri
Alright, let’s do this. Let’s get to the low down and dirty of the situation, because as parents of small children, neither you nor I have time for anything else.
Here’s point number one. Before I show you how you and your kid’s teacher can create an AIR-TIGHT strategic training opportunity for you daughter and her arch-nemesis, I need to put forward three truths about your situation.
1) If you are not emotionally prepared to allow your daughter to suffer the consequences of her actions, this will not work.
2) If you react with anger and emotion about, or in reaction to, the arch nemesis or her mother, it will be very difficult to improve this situation. Furthermore, if you exhibit anger and emotion when dealing with issues in your own life, any attempt to make your daughter different than you will almost definitely fail. You can’t tell a kid to do as you say, not as you do.
3) Everything you and the teachers have been doing to this point is more or less wrong. The last thing you want to do is to disallow the two kids to be around each other. The teacher who had them work together was the closest to doing the right thing, but since it didn’t work, I know that it wasn’t done in quite the right way. Please understand that this is GOOD NEWS because if you are doing the wrong things, all you need to do is to start doing the right things in order to resolve the problem. The right way will be described here.
OK. Now we have a starting point. All of this said, if you are willing to accept this as a starting point, you are now all set to take your first step into a much larger world. If that sounds familiar it’s because Obi Kenobi said it in Star Wars. I cannot guarantee that this will be the last Star Wars quote that will I use.
By the way, this Strategic Training Session works on kids who cause any kind of problem when around each other. For example, two of my 3rd grade students LOVE being around each other so much that they giggle and guffaw to the point that it becomes a problem for the class. I just finished using the same STS with them last week.
Enough exposition already. Here it is. First I will show you what the teacher can do, and then I will show you what your part can be. Your part is optional, but the teacher’s part is mandatory. Use of your part will speed up compliance on the part of your daughter, but you can take it or leave it.
Here are our Love and Logic STS’s.
As we join our little angels, they are kicking each other while in line for lunch. Teacher thanks God and knows that these two are finally going to learn a valuable life lesson. Teacher approaches the little angels.
Teacher: Oh, no this is so sad. I’m going to have to do something about this. But not now, later. Try not to worry about it.
Later, at recess, the Little Angels are called into the Teacher’s room.
Teacher: (with a smile and a calm voice) Oh, man. You guys are really terrible at being around each other. I think this school owes you an apology. We have lectured and warned you and all of that. Sometimes we have even gotten mad at you. On behalf of the school, I’d like to apologize to you. Do you accept my apology?
Little Angels: (stunned) Uh, OK.
Teacher: Great. Thanks. Now that we have this fresh start, I am going to offer you the chance to get really good at being able to be around each other without causing a problem for each other or anyone else. I know that when I am bad at something, I need to practice being better at it. I used to be bad at playing softball, but I practiced and now I’m really good. You both are terrible at not causing a problem when around each other, so you are going to practice until you are experts at not causing a problem. Every recess you will sit here at this table and sit next to each other. You can do anything you want as long as you don’t speak and you don’t cause a problem. Every recess that you can do that perfectly will tell me that you have gotten better at not causing a problem. I will let you know when I think you are experts at not causing a problem. If you agree that you are experts, you can stop practicing. Also, if you want, you can practice during class by working near each other and we can count this as practice. You will be allowed to practice during class time for as many seconds as you cannot cause a problem. So good luck. I have faith in both of you, and remember that I will love you no matter how long it takes you to become experts! So let’s start practicing right now! I know you can do it!
The Little Angels begin sitting next to each other in silence.
Home STS (optional)
This will supercharge the consequence at school and will help the Little Angels understand that home and school are on the same page. It is totally unnecessary for the other parent to be on board with this. Here’s the Love and Logic™ home STS that should take place the same day that the school STS begins.
Little Angel #1 walks through the door, fresh off the school bus.
MommyJade: (smiling and with a calm voice) Hi, honey. Welcome home. Hon, I owe you a huge apology. You have been so terrible at being around Molly without causing a problem for so long, and I have never given you a chance to practice getting better at being around her. I’m so sorry about that. Do you accept my apology?
Little Angel #1: What are you people up to?
MommyJade: Won’t it be fun to find out? Until Mrs. Hetrick tells me that you have become an expert at being around Molly, I’m going to give you a chance to practice being around Molly when you come home.
Little Angel #1: Oh, brother. OK, well, Molly isn’t here, and you have that restraining order against her mom.
MommyJade: True. That’s why we’re going to use your little sister’s doll, Ms. Emily. I’m going to put her in this kitchen chair, like so, and you are going to pretend that this is Molly. Every day, you can choose how much time you want to practice with Ms. Emily. You can choose ten or twenty minutes and you will do this practice immediately when you walk through the door. I love you and I can’t wait for the news that you have become an expert at being around Molly so you don’t have to practice any more. I know you can do it!
- Keep This On Them For a While: This needs to be done until the Little Angels’ behavior has become perfect around each other. In this specific case, since the behavior has been going on for years, this means that they are able to sit through several recess training sessions in a row perfectly and haven’t had any issues at all for at least a week in class. Remember, she has to suffer. Remember when “suffering the consequences” was a thing?
- Don’ts: Don’t warn, lecture, use anger or threats. This would allow them to put the pain that they are feeling on you instead of on themselves for their poor decisions. Don’t tell them how long they will have to practice.
- Do’s: Do be calm. Do keep your expectations high.
- Be Ready to Reapply the Consequence: These two will act out in the same way once they have earned the right to stop practicing. I guarantee this. The teacher has to be ready to 1) Apply the empathy and 2) Delay the consequence. Once they cause a problem, with each other the teacher should simply say the following:
Oh, no. This is sad. I’m going to have to do something about this. But not now, later. Try not to worry about it.
Then, at her convenience, the teacher should go back to the same consequence that was used before. Pray that the Little Angels test that limit immediately once they are done with their first round of practice. They are just testing to see that the limit is still in place. This is healthy and normal. Be concerned if she doesn’t test immediately!
Let me know how this goes! Of course, feel free to share this with her teacher, and ask her to message me! I will keep troubleshooting this with you until you have success! May the force be with you!
-The Kid Whisperer