Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Entitled Prince At Home Finds Himself A Peasant Among School Peers

Dear Tazi:

I think I may have made a mistake in parenting my youngest child. "Roderick" is my child from my second marriage, and better than a decade younger than my other two children from my first marriage. Admittedly, we have all spoiled Roderick, making him feel special in ways that he is...well, average for a child his age.

Every milestone Roderick has made has been met with cheers of glory and celebration - from when he first started using a sippy cup to the first time he used the potty. No event was too small for us to cheer on Roderick, we all love him so much! I think this is where the problem started.

My family (husband and older children) and I would assist Roderick with age appropriate activities like puzzles and games whenever he started to get frustrated. We would let him think that he had accomplished the feat all by himself, and praise his good work. When we would play a board game or checkers with him we would always let him win, and if he was losing in spite of ourselves we would allow him to change the rules midway through the game so he was winning. We hated to see Roderick cry over something so silly.

Roderick started kindergarten this past September, and it was a difficult transition for him as well as me. I was used to having my little man home with me all day, so to have to hand him over to the teacher was heart-wrenching. I am afraid quite a few tears were shed by both of us those first few months. Roderick's first term did not go well. There were many parent-teacher conferences about his inability to play nice and make friends; apparently Roderick has gotten so used to being the center of attention and winning at everything that he does not know how to lose gracefully. He has taken to throwing tantrums in the classroom when things don't go his way, and the other kids make fun of him for it.

Now, I am not one of those parents who thinks her child is perfect, but I think the teacher should stand up for my Roderick when the other kids are picking on him or excluding him from playtime activities, and I told her so. I get the impression she thinks I am one of "those" parents, if you understand what I mean! Roderick has been complaining that he does not want to go back to school because the other kids are mean to him and that the teacher does not like him (he actually says that she "hates" him!). While I realize that there needs to be give and take on both sides, I don't think Roderick's teacher realizes this as she seems to want to put all of the blame squarely upon Roderick!

I have tried to get the school principal to intervene, but she just backs up Roderick's teacher. Tazi, I am willing to admit that my child was quite spoiled at home and that perhaps this was not the best course of action to take during his most formative years, but being bullied by his school mates while the teacher stands by and does NOTHING isn't exactly undoing the damage, now is it? In fact, I am certain that is is causing further damage to Roderick's psyche.

I would like to pull Roderick from this school and either send him to a private school or home school him myself. My husband is firmly against either course of action, saying that pulling Roderick from the public school and coddling him in private school will teach him that it is okay to run from a problem. He also refuses to allow me to home school Roderick, claiming I am not qualified to do so and he is not going to pay tuition to someone who is. Tazi, I have no idea where this attitude is coming from! My husband and I have always been on the same page when it comes to Roderick, or at least it seemed that we were, but now he is telling me that I must thrust my little boy out into the world to fend for himself! Isn't there a happy medium somewhere in between our two viewpoints? I am willing to compromise, but it seems that nobody else is!

Good Mother

Dear Good Mother:

My Mommie tells me that I cannot have treats anytime I want, that too many treats will make me fat. She says she is being mean to be kind instead of killing me with kindness.

For once a dog has a good idea!

It sounds to me that you and your family have killed Roderick with kindness, metaphorically speaking. He is unable to function in a world where he does not get his way and is not celebrated for simply being. This alone would make for an extremely difficult transition for him, but the fact that you gave into your sorrow and cried with him as you "handed him over" to his teacher only added to your child's stress. So yes, you have made a few mistakes in parenting your son. I am glad that you can recognize them, but your refusal to help mend the result is what concerns me.

You say that Roderick's classroom teacher just stands there and allows the other children to pick on him. I find this highly unlikely, especially when you consider that your source of this information is your son. Could it be that the teacher reprimands the students for bullying but does not force them to play with a child who refuses to play by the rules? A kindergarten teacher must draw boundary lines for all children to obey - and forcing a child to play with someone whose behavior upsets them crosses a line. How do you think your son would feel if he were forced to play with a child he did not like? Well, it appears that your child is the one that the other children do not like.

I think a few sessions with the school's guidance counselor will be helpful to Roderick. Hearing the rules from an unbiased, outside source who is trained to deal with children's issues may help Roderick to see why his behavior has to change. Sometimes, the rules that exist at home do not exist outside the home. This is a basic rule that even the youngest of children can grasp. If you don't believe me, ask Grandma! There is a reason children behave differently at Grandma's than they do at home!

The counselor may even suggest a change of classroom to give Roderick a fresh start. I do not believe a change of schools (or even home-schooling, where the problem is rooted) is necessary. Speaking of behaving differently at home, the time has come to gradually introduce changes to Roderick's home life - and to tolerate the tears that come along with these changes. As painful as it sounds, it is the only way to help Roderick grow into a fully functioning citizen.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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