Arghhhh. Did you hear about the school that stamped kids’ wrists with a small “needs lunch money” note? Nothing permanent, not a sign that says “loser,” just needs-lunch-money, displayed so the parent saw it.
Parents are going nuts. It’s a “scarlet letter,” they say. It’s calling the kids out as poor and inviting bullying, parents insist. It’s just so cruel; The stamp shames kids by branding them as POOR!
First off, the kid was “branded” as needing lunch money, not as being indigent and sub-human. Sounds like the parents are little more paranoid about the meaning of the stamp than the average child would ever be.
But even if it was the case that some kids used the stamp to shame the kid (and yes, it would be the bullies shaming the kid, not the stamp): Nothing makes me crazier than parental outcry and self-righteous rescuing from scenarios that are age-appropriate for a child to handle.
Yes kids can be cruel.
But so can adults, and never in the history of civilization has a person ever managed to avoid all that cruelty. Instead, as humans living with other humans, we are forced to manage it.
My kid got teased recently for not being able to say his “r’s.” I was three feet away from him at the park but I said nothing to the offending kid. I certainly did not appear aghast, clutch my pearls and exclaim “well I NEVER!” (I’m not a big fan of solidifying kids’ positions as victims.)
Instead, I took my son aside and told him to look the other kid in the eyes and say Get the f$@# out of here with that nonsense, picking on something I can’t help. And then that spawned a conversation about the importance of sticking up for anyone getting teased, and unabashedly saying WTF is your actual problem, Stewart? Melvin can’t help that he has zits. Jesus Christ, get a life Stewart.
My kid is six, so maybe the wording was different, but the sentiment was conveyed.
Does it royally suck that Johnny’s parents are forgetful and/or low-income, and that the stamp-strategy allowed kids to exploit that? Yes.
Do I have empathy for Johnny in the event that other kids whisper and point, or even tease him for it? Absolutely, yes.
Would I be angry at the rude kids and tell my kid it’s okay if he vocally defends himself, even if It means being a little bratty? Yes.
Would I be aghast at the school and expect them to change their bizarre-but-desperate parent-reminding strategy in order to protect my kid from possible teasing? No.
I’d probably call the school, apologize for ignoring the paper note reminders in my son’s folder, and ask them to please chill until my next paycheck. And that’s about all I’d say to the school.
Instead, I think my parental resources would be better spent talking to my kid about how to handle life’s inevitable bumps and bruises.
Just something to think about as usual, from the therapist who learned early-on to say “must be nice to have been born with perfect teeth through no effort of your own” when her vampire smile was teased, and who hopes her own kids gain perspective, assertiveness, and resilience through their own somewhat unmeddled childhoods.