The other day my 12 year old son, we’ll call him Alex, got in trouble in school (and rightfully so). Alex stole food off his classmate “Brandon’s” lunch tray. Alex didn’t steal the food because he was hungry, forgot his lunch, or any other pitiable reason. No, he was upset that Brandon was sharing food with everyone else except him.
Alex’s version of the story:
When Brandon didn’t offer food to him, Alex asked for some food too. Brandon told him no. Alex asked, but why not? Then Alex said he listened to his other peers who said, “just take some anyway.” Then a mild scuffle ensued.
Was it rude of Brandon to purposely exclude Alex? Yes, but of course I don’t have the full story. These two boys have been friends and enemies on and off since Preschool so this didn’t surprise me. The problem is my son only stole the food because his friend wasn’t being fair. He wasn’t being treated exactly the same as everyone else. I don’t know if maybe Alex was mean/rude to Brandon in a class earlier that day/yesterday/last week and it was simply payback and in Brandon’s eyes finally fair. Don’t get me wrong I think my child is wonderful and I want to believe that he was severely wronged and that he never was ornery, mean or provoked his classmate. Realistically though…I know Alex can be a little stinker.
Ever since they decided we shouldn’t have winners or losers, and everyone gets a trophy we’ve been raising these fragile egos that don’t know how to cope with failure, losing, or any unfair treatment. They have this, “but where’s mine?” mentality if they don’t get something someone else did.
Blah, blah, some study claimed children do better with positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement/punishment…blah, blah, blah. This study has been completely misinterpreted for years. It doesn’t mean you reward everyone for everything. Not getting a reward isn’t punishment, taking away a privilege is. To me it means don’t stand a kid in the corner for getting a low grade, or make him/her wear a dunce cap in front of everyone.
“Robert” got an A+ on his spelling test but “you tried” so you get a sticker too even though you only got a C. Where’s the incentive to try harder?
I was part of the last generation that didn’t get praised for EVERY-LITTLE-THING! If I followed directions it wasn’t, “Good job!” I knew I was just expected to do as I was told. When I did a task well and finished in a timely manner I’d get told thank you. If my little league team wanted the trophy for our age group we had to actually win games. When we didn’t win I learned losing wasn’t the end of the world, brush it off, move on, and try again next year.
These kids are growing up thinking the world is fair, why work hard because either way you’ll get the same thing, and don’t try to better yourself; you’re perfect the way you are, it’s the world that needs to change.
It becomes quite a shock when the fairness bubble parents, coaches, and teachers have created bursts. What do you mean I don’t get a promotion too? Why did Jim got a bigger raise than me? They don’t know how to deal with the fact that either A, Jim’s a harder/better worker or earned it or B, sometimes life’s not fair and management likes the person they promoted better.
Back to the two boys squabbling over snacks at lunch. I want to teach my son to be fair and share but to understand not everyone is going to play nice. You have to let it go. Yes, I’m proud of him for wanting to stand up for himself, just not how he did it. I told Alex next time, either move to another table or stand up to Brandon by telling him he’s being rude then move on. It’s not worth a weeks worth of punishment in school just for a stupid snack.
PS If you’re still reading, sorry about the tangents.