I teach school, grades pre-K (4 year olds) to 12th grade (17-19 year olds). I am no stranger to insolence. Yeah, I remember back in the dark ages when I was a teenager and knew everything worth knowing, and my teacher mom was an idiot, an old fuddy-duddy, she was plain uncool and just not with it. It still amazes me how much smarter she got in the few years it took me to reach the advanced age of 21.
Still, being confronted with teen-aged insolence still manages to raise the short hairs on the back of my neck. Anybody who has seen a snarling cat or dog who has THEIR fur ruffled and fluffed up with the adrenaline rush of fury knows full well the sensation of your own fur raising, prickling at the back of your neck. It is a glorious rush of feeling I now recognize and understand, and have learned to control (most of the time), so that I don’t actually kill people. What it does now is get my mental wheels turning, weighing options as to how best to address this child who has challenged me.
Most of my students will tell you that I am a very easy-going teacher, slow to anger, and willing to provide a second chance to correct a mistake. However, like when I was raising my own children (not the children of others I am raising five days a week in my classroom), I have learned that the motivation is the primary determinant of whether to offer a second chance, or whether to stomp them into the dirt instead.
People make mistakes. Mistakes are unintentional, and we learn from them. Mistakes are not things we punish people for, unless the mistake becomes a lazy habit, and there is no correction after multiple reminders. Most of the time, it can be clearly seen that the problem was a mistake. Sometimes, though…..
Sometimes, it is not a mistake. Sometimes the child flops his big, hairy toe over the line you have just drawn in the sand, and dares you to do something about it. When that happens, you must address it, and without hesitation or delay. There is a reason God made you bigger than your children. It is so that you as their parent can gain the upper hand of authority when they are small, and then gradually transfer to them adult freedoms and responsibilities as they age and it is appropriate to do so. When done properly, you have few problems as they grow larger and more autonomous.
When not done properly, you have my students – who raise the short hairs on the back of my neck.