Last week in the cafeteria, I observed a teacher move a disruptive child from one end of the table to the other end of the table. The boy hung his head down and was clearly not a happy camper. He definitely was “feeling the pain” of getting in trouble. When I saw this unhappy boy, part of me wanted to go talk to and comfort him right away. But I knew that if I did, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to think about what he had done and why he had been disciplined. It is difficult to see a child who is hurting—whether emotionally or physically. When a child falls on the playground, I will admit that I am one of the first ones to jump and be there to comfort him or her. However, there is a difference between the physical pain of falling and the emotional pain of getting into trouble.
In either case, one important piece of the puzzle here is how the adult reacts. After a child falls on the playground, the child will most likely look up to note the reaction of the adult. If the adult panics, the child will probably begin to cry. In the case of the disruptive child in the cafeteria, the teacher chose to calmly walk over, speak to the child, and ask him to move. While the child sat at the far end of the table, he was waiting for an adult to fly in and rescue him—to comfort him in his emotional pain. But thankfully, this young boy had time to “feel the pain” and think about his actions. After an appropriate amount of time, the adult then had the opportunity to meet with the child and discuss ways not to make the same mistake again.
Rescuing our children right away isn’t always the best response. Another type of “rescuing” that I witness daily has to do with academics or organization skills. When our kids forget their uniform, homework, or lunch, our initial response is to come to school as quickly as possible to drop off the necessary items. But sometimes it is better to allow our students to suffer the consequences of forgetting homework, etc. so that they can learn responsibility. Let the child make mistakes or receive a failing grade in the early years before it really counts. I encourage you to try to stick to the “one rescue per grading period” theory. It is fine to tell your child “No, I can’t bring your ________” in order to teach him or her to be responsible.
At LCS, our teachers are willing to go the extra mile to help a student, but we don’t want to enable the student. Figuring out exactly how much help to give is key. I encourage you to let your child fall and be there for them as they stand up again. That is exactly why we are here: to teach, to mold and to shape lives for Christ.
An LCS alum, Mrs. Luci O'Byrne serves as the Elementary Principal. You can email her at email@example.com.