Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Right Response

I'm asking for your advice today. Here's the hypothetical:

Susie says something mean to you on the playground. Do you:

(a) Respond "I don't like it when you say that, because it hurts my feelings."

PRO: This is what adults tell you to say. Presumably, that means it's the "right" thing. You are the better person. If a teacher is called in to resolve the dispute, you will be in the clear.

CON: Kids don't talk this way. Nor do adults in most relationships. Kids will mock you.

(b) Respond in anger, saying something mean to Susie.

PRO: It feels good. You are justified in being angry, so go ahead and be angry. Maybe you can inflict some reciprocal damage.

CON: It's mean. You might get in trouble. Susie may turn other kids against you.

(c) Ignore Susie, possibly with a dismissive comment that you have better things to do with your time than argue with her.

PRO: Feels pretty good. Doesn't escalate outright. Doesn't give Susie the satisfaction of a negative reaction from you. You're in pretty good shape if an adult hears what you said.

CON: Will likely make Susie angry, and she may turn other kids against you.

My nine-year-old posed this question to me, and these were some of the possible outcomes we discussed. She found all of them unsatisfactory, and I can see why.

I tried to explain that there might not be a "right" answer. She found that even more unsatisfactory.

What would you do?

*     *     *

This reminds me of when I was about my daughter's age. I was friends with a girl in my neighborhood. My last name was Greene. Hers was Beach.

She called me "Greenbean," which I despised, so she kept doing it.

I asked my mom what to do. Mom's suggestion: "Call her "Beach Ball."

I have laughed about this for nearly forty years. Encouraging name-calling is horrible advice. More importantly, everyone knows that Beach Ball is just dumb, while Greenbean is downright mean.

I now stand in my mom's shoes, and I don't have the right answer either.

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