Fighting the man… woman… youngling.

Kids fighting

The CRUNCH:
Fighting the man… woman… youngling.

CRUNCH deets:
You are mad. Hopping mad. And just like Mouse, you want to hop, stomp, scream… and then get back at the jerk who made you so mad. It’s time for a butt-whupping but, without an army of outmode Robots to back you up… how to proceed?

The Fix:
With caution. And wisdom.

Fix deets:
One of you awesome readers emailed last week to ask us this question: what do you do when the education gods keep crapping on you? The gist is that the mama’s two young daughters (JK and grade one students) are being shuffled between subs and mat leave replacements. It’s a month into the new school year, neither one has met their permanent teacher, and the inconsistency is taking its toll. This sucks. I don’t understand why staffing decisions aren’t made pre-summer-vacay so the September nuttiness is a little less nutty… but I digress.

My suggestion was to ixnay attacking the incipalpray and use it as a learning opportunity to finesse her daughters’ ability to embrace change. Here’s why:
1. Approaching a new/unexpected situation positively is a critical life skill. The earlier you teach a kid how to adapt, the easier it is to teach AND the easier it is for her to juggle all the curveballs being thrown her way. A quote I like from my fave personal trainer: get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Applies to both fitness and life, non?
2. I don’t think it’s a battle worth fighting. Sure, she could complain to the school. And she could form a posse of PO’d parents complaining. And the admin would get their back up, and it would get emotional, and they’d basically be told to talk to the hand now and in any other stand-off because the admin will have labelled them as “those” parents. Buh-bye any future teacher/BFF/frenemy swap requests and, depending on how much they’ve truly let you down, hello school swap.

So that got me thinking some more about when it’s worth the fight. There’s a mom in our hood who goes toe to toe with the school board every year to keep her daughter (who has down syndrome) in our local school. I definitely think that’s worth fisticuffing the school board, no matter what blacklist that mama bear’s name is added to. But a child being separated from her sisters/friends/community and bussed to another school because it’s more convenient to the TDSB… it’s just not easy to spin that as a “Wow, look at this exciting opportunity for you!” change-adapting teachable moment.

So that got me thinking some more about how best to fight. We’ve been dealing with a grumpy old neighbour for over a year now. What started as an argument about downspouts ended with a city-issued order to move our backyard treehouse one foot north. If you think that sounds a little cray-cray, well, so do we. We played cat and mouse with the city at first, but then we Googled it, learned the law was on our side, wrote this too-long-for-a-blog email, and fought the man. And a mere eight hours later (did I mention we hit ‘send’ at midnight?), the city closed the file and also apologized. Woot!

Here are our tips if you’re considering dropping your gloves:

  • Think about the situation objectively, which might also mean asking around for an honest opinion. If it’s something you’ll look back on as a minor blip, you’ve got better things to do with your time and at least one better person to spend it with.
  • Be nice. Whenever we talked to the by-law officer, or any of the grumpster’s family/friends, we were our usual charming selves. No yelling, no finger-pointing, no swearing. Slow down with deep breaths (just like Mouse!) and think before you speak to filter anything that might be perceived incorrectly. To have any kind of pull in a school, get chummy with the staff, get involved with school council and hang out/help out in the schoolyard/classroom/office so everyone knows your familiar friendly face. Catch way more flies with honey, peeps.
  • Don’t jump the gun. We sat on our response email for a few days so it wouldn’t be overly emotional/reactive/insulting. Unless there’s an immediate deadline, it always helps to let an argument simmer while your response percolates.
  • Research, brainstorm, and come up with a logical/rational/legal leg to stand on. This might again mean asking around and even turning to a pro if you’ve decided it’s worth it. We figured out that the zoning by-law we were supposedly violating doesn’t apply because our treehouse was built before it came into effect. Sure, we tugged a bit at those heartstrings, but the sympathy vote alone wouldn’t have been enough. If we’d relied on “our neighbour’s a bully,” or “our kids have so much fun playing there,” or “it’s a lot of work to move it,” without the law to back us up, we would have received a blank stare. Maybe a shoulder shrug.
  • If it is worth the fight, don’t give up. In the words of a superstar non-fighting fighter: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Booyah Mr. Grumpy!

Remember this:
Some fights are worth it. And some are not. Taking a minute to assess before reacting means you’re far more likely to succeed if you do decide to duke it out parent-style. Which means using your words… hands (and light sabres) are not for hitting!

Email us or leave a comment below if you have anything to add or ask!

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