Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Tease or Not To Tease

The other day, my daughter came home from school describing how one of the girls in her class said, "I hate you" to her a number of times that day. I listened and figured it was pre-adolescent girl banter. The next day, she came home and said the same thing. I decided to pursue it. She explained to me that this girl said it when she was walking by her desk. I said, "Well if I called this girl's mother and asked her to talk with her daughter--what would she say was happening before she said these mean things to you?"

My daughter was mortified--"Don't do that!" she exclaimed, alarmed that I might actually do it and cause her mortal embarrassment. Fessing up to me became the lesser of two evils. "Well..." Daughter started, "I might have said that she and the boy she was sitting next to made a cute couple." "So you were teasing her?" I clarified. "What do you think would happen if you didn't say these things to her--would she still say that she hates you?" Daughter pondered this possibility and thought that she would try it the next day.

Sure enough, Daughter came home the next day and said, "I didn't say or do anything today that caused someone to say that they hate me." Breakthrough.

Of course we don't make or cause other people to be mean--they make their own choices. But learning that our behavior and words create an environment for positive or negative behavior to be directed toward us, is a lesson I hope she continues to absorb. We can act like victims and never take the time to look at our part in the situation. When Daughter changed her behavior, the other girl changed her behavior in response. It was the Serenity Prayer in action--being aware of who and what we can change (ourselves) and accepting what we cannot change (another person) and acting on our power. It was a good lesson for me, too.

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