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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Pusher man.

Henry got in trouble yesterday for pushing. I've never known him to be a pusher, but hell, no one's perfect. The teacher took me aside after school. It's not a teacher I know well (they have a few teachers and they sort of rotate, or something, I'll never make sense of the system at work in this place) but I recognized that pinched expression, and I thought, crap.

"Henry was being… not very nice," she said. Which I thought was a less than productive way to express her displeasure, don't you? "He was pushing."

"Oh?" I said, and gave her a little shove. Ha ha!

"Oh?" I said, and kept my hands to myself.

"Then," she added, "when he asked him to apologize, he refused, and when we told him that [INSERT KID'S NAME HERE]'s feelings were hurt, he said, 'That's fine.'" She shook her head. "He said, 'I don't even care about him.'"

She seemed shocked by this. Had she never met a five-year-old before? Do all the other children immediately and sincerely express regret for hurting another's feelings? Do none of them attempt to save face by claiming not to care? Do I have the only full-of-crap preschooler in the universe?

I assured her that I would talk with him, but I didn't have to, because Henry gave me an EARFUL. WELL. That other kid was not following the rules, he was supposed to clean up the blocks when block time was over and he did not clean up the blocks when block time was over and those are the rules, and he wouldn't listen, and Henry was going to get in trouble for not cleaning up the blocks but it wasn't fair because everyone has to follow the rules.

In other words, he had a bad day. I tried to talk to him about pushing but lord, he knows he's not supposed to and he didn't want to talk about it and he kicked at trees the whole way home and called everyone in the universe stupid (sorry, even you). Should I have lectured him until he wept? Being a kid sucks sometimes. I opted to give him a break. I expect he'll stop pushing by the time he's in college.

P.S.: a new Wonderland post is up.

Reader Comments (78)

Omigosh. It's so nice to read that other people recognize that kids are kids . . . and boys are boys. I have a 2y/o son who can be a bit on the wild side (read: doesn't sit in front of tv/video games). Whenever we're at friends or relatives it seems he's often the one getting yelled at. For the most part, it's because the kids he's playing with are older and have mastered hiding behaviors (or the other parents seriously don't like us or our kid). Over the holidays he kept trying to play with his 6y/o cousin who kept complaining about him being too close, wouldn't share his toys, and constantly taking my kid's toys from him. At one point he even kicked my son under the chin. (yes I did yell at him for that). No one saw this but us. Then we had to listen to (not so subtle) remarks about how unruly our kid is. I'm not saying our kid is perfect, but he seemed to get into more trouble displaying 2y/o behaviour than his 6y/o cousin (displaying 2y/o behaviour).The worst are those without kids!
January 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
I would have let it go. I remember when my 6-1/2 yr old got into trouble in the 4K for punching a not-so-nice girl. She was in big trouble, but behind the scenes we all did a cheer because the not-so-nice girl had been tormenting her for months and it was about time someone put the bully in her place. That was the LAST time she bullied my daughter. Sometimes you just have to let the kids work it out on their own.

p.s. congrats on the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I was interviewed too. :-)
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly (aka Indigo)
Delurking to comment, it sounds as though Henry is a completely normal 5 year old boy,that's too bad the teacher doesn't seem to recognize this. My son would have said and done all the things Henry did, especially kicking a tree on the way home and complaining about all the injustices in the world. You handled it perfectly.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
My mother-in-law has a master's in early childhood development, and her son (my husband) was in trouble of this sort pretty frequently in preschool and elementary. Went to the principle's office his first day of kindergarten, even...he clocked a kid in the head with a wooden block. Turns out he just has a sort of inflamed sense of justice, which makes for a difficult childhood, full of vigilante punishment of wrong-doers who leave blocks out, but makes for a very responsible, dedicated, civic-minded adult. So...good luck getting from here to there- it's worth the trip!
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLSR
Children have to be taught empathy. Doesn't look like you're doing a very good job.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNot on the bandwagon
The truth is always in the eyes/elbows of the beholder.

As noted by a previous commenter, it is clear that you would have received an equal number of supportive comments had Henry been on the opposite side of the push-and-pull exercise.

And that would have been just as swell.

What becomes pushingly clear is that this damn game of parenting is immune to objectivity. Pushers unite and more power to Finslippy for making us believe in the less than obvious.

Henry is a gem, of course!
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertsena
So, NOTB, how do you teach children empathy? By yelling at them to be empathetic after they've had a bad day, or by showing them empathy? I'm asking because you seem to have everything figured out.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Whether or not I would have handled the situation as you did (and I honestly don't know how I would've handled it), what I *do* love is that you listened to your child, evaluated the event in light of the kind of kid he is, and trusted your judgment as what an appropriate mom-reaction should be. Since I'm always such a knee-jerk kinda gal, I take such a lesson from this. Will Henry push again? Who knows. But I do know that given how you reacted, he knows he has a mom who trusts and considers him -- and I suspect when he's older and having to make some serious and possibly life-altering decisions, the fact that you've cultivated this relationship is going to take both of you far.

Nice job.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChookooloonks
My first time her (I came via someone's @reply to your Twitter).

I have a 5 year old, a three year old and a one year old.

From what you said, I think you handled it well. I would like to second Isabel's comment.

As for the naysayers, CUT ALICE SOME SLACK.

Seriously people. Parenting is the hardest gig on the planet. We beat OURSELVES up enough already (at least I do).

We don't need others to beat us when we are down.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngella
No kids of my own, but 9 nieces & nephews, as well as numerous friends with 2 or more kids has given me plenty of experience with frustrated 5 year olds and the ways that frustration gets expressed. One friend's son could never say "I'm sorry", it was so hard for him to look you in the eye when he knew he was wrong. It was a pride thing, not a lack of empathy. We figured out that, while he couldn't say it out loud, he was signing it whenever he knew he was in the wrong. (The kids had learned some sign language at some point)

I think you did the right thing. You're HIS mom, you took time to hear HIS side. You definately taught empathy in your response and maybe next time he's frustrated he'll deal with it slightly more appropriately. That's how growing up happens, isn't it?

January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Yea, I don't get the sense you really want to here what I have to say.

I just can't condone comming down on teachers trying to do the right thing or parents that ignore behaviors that should be addressed. I know that doesn't make my opinion popular.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNot on the bandwagon
I feel like several aspects of my life would be healthier and happier if I just had the balls to say "Dude, I don't even care about you."
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmyChop
If more mothers were like you, we'd have fewer teachers with pinched looking faces.

You're an awesome mother. And Henry will thank you for this fact. Someday. Not today. I mean, he's 5. But someday.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I think NOTB and the others who are getting down on Alice are making some wild leaps in judgement. Alice clearly writes to be humorous and therefore may embellish/exaggerate in descriptions. I think claiming that Alice is "ignoring behavoirs" is more than a touch presumptuous. Also, assuming that people "don't want to hear what [you] have to say" is a cowardly way to debate. Everyone's child misbehaves and each situation needs to be judged on its unique circumstances. There is no One Way to raise children. If Henry were walking around purposefully pushing kids in a Bad Seed kind of way, do you really think Alice would just blame the teacher and brush it off? Clearly, he's not and she's not. I'm sorry to feed the trolls but those holier-than-thou comments really get right up my nose.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
I have been in that teacher's position (although hopefully without the pinched face). I don't know to what extent she was overreacting or not, but I used to work at the Y, with kids in the 4-7 age range, and if there were pushing/hitting incidents (or other issues, like with one of my favorite kids who would occasionally play with toilet paper IN THE TOILET, yuck!) we absolutely had to write them down (in the case of 1, any sort of hitting/pushing, 2, any kind of injury, even just a tiny scrape, or 3, a more serious behavior problem), and report the incident to the parents. Partly this was to cover our own butts, like someone said earlier--if A pushes B, and B's parent complains, we need to be able to say that we're aware of what happened and we've addressed it. Partly this was so that if one incident led to a series of incidents, we had a paper trail, and also the parent wasn't surprised out of nowhere with the fact that kid A had pushed another kid each day that week, or whatever. (We did, unfortunately, have to kick a child out for violent behavior toward another child, more serious that what Henry did.) Partly it was just because part of a teacher/caretaker's job is communicating with the parent about the kid's day, and unfortunately, when you have 10-25 kids, it's the negative things that it seems more urgent to discuss.

From what I know about you, I think you're probably a good parent and Henry is probably a great kid, and it's not that I think that the pushing was a Serious Incident. But I do think it was worth telling you about, and something that it would be worth discussing with Henry, even briefly, partly just so that he would know that you and his teachers communicate, partly so that he would have it reinforced for him that Pushing Is Wrong (because it is--pushing doesn't make someone a bad person, but at the same time, having an off day doesn't turn unacceptable behavior into acceptable behavior), partly so that you could hear his side of the story and help him learn to express himself clearly, and partly so that you could help him think about better ways to deal with frustration in the future.

I totally get that he's a little kid, and that little kids behave like this (often, rarely, or almost never, depending on the kid). I don't think it makes a kid "bad" to lose his/her temper. I absolutely loved working with that age group, as frustrating as it could be, and sometimes my most difficult kids were also my most rewarding kids. But I do think that calmly addressing these events as they occur (when the kid is calm enough to listen), even if they are the exception rather than the rule, is necessary.

Like I said, I'm not sure about the teacher's attitude about reporting this to you--but I do think that she was absolutely right to do so. And I still think that you are great, and that Henry is great, and I'm sure I would love the kids of everyone who has responded that their kids occasionally/ often/ sometimes hit/ pinch/ push/ spit/ whatever. Yup, it's what kids do -- but it's also what we're responsible for teaching them NOT to do. As much as we might want to do those same things sometimes.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertadpoledrain
Yeah, Alice, ignoring this behavior by posting about it on your blog in a public forum and inviting comment? Titling it "pusher man"? TALKING to Henry about pushing? And while the teacher was bringing the drama, when you plugged your ears and said "Lalalala I am not listening?" Dude, you're in total denial.

Simmer down, all you glass-house pot-calling omniscient misspellers. The author clearly comprehends the implications of this comparatively simple issue.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbraine
Aw. Glad mom was able to hear Henry out on what was the cause and didn't just continue his bad day. :)

Reminds me of my daughter's one and only trip to the principal's office when she was in 1st grade. She and her two best buddies were goofing around after school during the after school day care provided there - "Kid's Club" - and one of them said a 'bad word' beginning with S. *gasp* Well buddy number two looked shocked and said, "What did you just say?" and my daughter, quite nonplussed as she heard those words coming from me rather frequently (a word is a word, people) replied, "He said 'Shit.' You aren't supposed to say that at school, Eric." Unfortunately, just then the day care teacher came walking up and overheard the conversation and sent her straight to the principal. She nearly got kicked out for the rest of the week.

Oy. Some people are SO sensitive.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKeri
Where did I say that I thought the teacher was overreacting for telling me about the pushing? I was glad she told me; the part I found amusing (and not offensive) was that she took seriously his claim to "not care." In fact she was telling me about his pushing because it was so unusual for him, and she thought maybe he wasn't feeling well. But that part didn't really serve the narrative.

And that's what this is, a narrative. It wasn't a defining parenting moment served up to garner anyone's approval or disapproval.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralice
I don't have kids but I know parenting is f'ing hard and being a kid does really suck a lot of the time! Kids don't learn empathy from lectures, but from receiving it (as noted above) and "bad kids" (if there is such a thing) probably don't worry about getting in trouble for not putting blocks away. In fact, at age 5, I'm guessing worrying about getting in trouble is more appropriate, as far as moral development goes, than being magically able to refrain from pushing when frustrated. Jeez, trolls! Henry is sensitive and Alice have him a break when he deserved one.

PS - yours is the one site I can always rely on for a laugh, thank you for the round-up of the parental ineptitude stories, it made my day.

PPS - holy crap, another Charity in the comments!
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharity
oh, the mama drama. i didn't think twice about this post (Go Alice!) until i saw your twitter with the judgey and all.

Five-year-olds are FIVE. If teenagers have trouble with impulse control -- that whole frontal-lobe development thing -- doncha think people who've been on this earth for five years might have an even greater challenge with fitting into accepted society?

That's why we send them to PRESCHOOL instead of giving them briefcases and sending them off to run countries and stuff.

Anyway. Like I said, Go Alice!
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterislaygirl
Sounds like both the kids had a bad day.
January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
I love that I am not the only person who is having trouble with their young child(ren)! Just yesterday my 2 year old son's daycare provider, jumped me when I walked in the door and said my son had a "issue" with hitting! What 2 year old or even older chid doesn't try this! And I need to work on this...what?? He is 2!! The boy hit must have had it comin...just kidding. I just don't know what she expects me to do...I can just tell him, NO DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!
January 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKendra
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel so much better today knowing that I'm not the only one who takes these rules so seriously, I mean, has a CHILD who takes these rules so seriously! I'm talking majorly incensed about others not doing what they are SUPPPOSED to do already!!!! It really stresses her out!
January 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermamatutwo
Why can't you just accept that your child's behavior was unaccetable? We all get pissed off at others, have a bad day, etc. Doesn't give us the right to inflict bodily harm on others.
January 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLikwid Cyrkle
Oh, "Likwid," piss off. Seriously, that's so not what I'm saying it's ridiculous. No one inflicted bodily harm on anyone, no one couldn't accept anything, it was a moment in a very full life. Go make up names somewhere else.
January 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralice

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