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Bad Boy or Lagging Skills?

Here we are...In a new neighborhood, at a new school, new parents and kids, new teachers, new principal. There's so much NEW, almost TOO much new.

But behaviors, those aren't new. And neighborhood kid drama, that's not new either. There will always be kids that are viewed as the bully. There will always be kids that the parents talk about. "I don't want my kid going over to so-and-so's house!" or "Stay away from so-and-so!" the parents will say. It's just reality. That type of stuff will never go away.

But how do we deal with it? How do we navigate through it? How do we guide our OWN kids through this?

Now THAT's the tricky part.

This morning we walked to school with one of the neighborhood kiddos, their grandmother (the sweetest woman who is helping to raise her grandchild), my son, and my hubby. It felt...normal. It felt like we've lived here for years, and they were like family.

But as we walked, we got to talking about the neighborhood kids, and the relationships between them.

I'll make this part short so we can get down to the strategies and not so much the stories...because the reality is, it doesn't matter WHAT the stories are. They're all the same.

What if I told you that the "bad boy" or the "bully" or the "insert your own label here" jumped out the window from upstairs, down onto the roof of the garage, and then down onto the cement while they were over at a friend's house? What if I told you that that same kiddo punched their friend because the friend wouldn't play the game that they wanted? What if I told you that that kiddo was leaving their trash behind after they were playing in the pool, and that when they were asked by the adult to come back and throw their trash away, they denied that it was theirs and walked away?

Would you be surprised? Are these crazy NEW stories that you've never heard of happening in a neighborhood? And what do you think is going on at SCHOOL? Do you think that these behaviors are "under control" or "don't happen" in the classroom? Or what about the playground? I'm sure they're not happening there, right?


THIS stuff is not new. I'm sure every single person that reads this post can think of a child that their son or daughter plays with or goes to school with, or a student that they've had, or a client that they've worked with, or a kid that they knew growing up that was "like that." And that's the thing, when we think of these kids, we think..."Oh yeah, I remember so-and-so...." And then we think of all the things that they did, or the things they said, or the things our parents said about them. But what did WE do to help them? What did WE do to support them? Did we do anything? Or did we just stay away?

So back to our walk to school...My conversation went a little bit like this...

Me: Hmmm...It sounds like R (If you read my first blog post, YES it's the same kiddo...again, are you surprised? You shouldn't be.) is having a tough time when he's playing with the boys. I'm thinking that it's tricky for his brain to go with the flow and be flexible when the kids don't want to follow his plan.

C (We'll call her C, but it's the sweet grandma I'm referring to): Exactly. R got so upset one time that he punched my grandson in the arm!

Me: Hmmm...Yeah, I'm thinking that we might have to teach R some strategies for when he starts to get upset when his friends don't want to follow his plan. I'm sure that's tough for him, and we really need to teach him some ways that he can manage and regulate his emotions.

Now the look on her face...Oh how I wish y'all could have seen it! I could tell that she was relieved. I could tell that she felt hopeful. I could tell that she was thankful. And I'm telling you that I KNOW she was, because the words, "Thank you," came out next.

I mean, who replies with Thank You? Probably a person who has run out of things to do, things to say...I mean, when going over to the parents' house and telling them that their kid punched your child, and STILL nothing happens. Of course you feel defeated, depleted, and frustrated.

So here's the thing. My goal is to create a mind shift in our NEIGHBORHOOD. This is not the first neighbor who has talked about R with me. Are you shocked? You shouldn't be. Again, this stuff happens ALL THE TIME. But what do we do? Talk about it with each other over wine? Nope. We DO something about it. Because in order to see change in the kiddo, we need to TEACH them the skills that they are lacking. And in order to do THAT, we must figure out what is lagging, come up with a plan WITH the child, and work with them in order to see that change.

So of course, there's more to it. As we're walking to school I was thinking...Oh those teachers. Those teachers need support too. They need to speak the same language as US neighborhood folk. They need to know about the strategies we'll be using. Because if we're all not on the same page...well, you can only imagine. I mean seriously, if I could put money down on the strategies that I THINK they're probably using, I betcha I'd be one rich woman.

Bottom line is this..You cannot punish "bad behavior" out of a child. You must figure WHY the behavior is happening, the skills that are lacking, show empathy towards the child, come up with a plan, and TEACH them strategies that they can use to support THEMSELVES.

We're all in this together. Parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, NEIGHBORS....We're ALL in this together. And we're better together. We're stronger together. And together we can teach our children the skills they need to help them navigate the world around them, form successful relationships, and make responsible decisions every single day.

***For more information on lagging skills and strategies to support our kids, tweens, and teens, I definitely recommend reading Ross Greene's book, Lost At School.

And to continue the work, we'll be reading EYES ARE NEVER QUIET in our Fall Book Club. In order to join us, you can purchase the Book Club in our Products. We'd love to talk about behaviors and strategies to support ALL our kids with you!

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Kim Gameroz is a change agent for schools and districts who seek to revolutionize classrooms by taking on a systematic approach to teaching social and emotional skills.

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