As many of you know, I work at an elementary school. This lets me see children interacting in a safe social atmosphere daily. I find this really interesting. Seeing how children deal with their problems is often enlightening for understanding how adults deal with their problems as well.
This learning something about adults from the children happened not too long ago.
We have a new student without many friends yet. He has made a couple of friends with a group of boys who do not seem to treat him very well. They call him names and pick on him. Nothing serious, but not the way most "friends" treat each other.
However, even after his mother asked him stay away from the boys and us to keep them separated, he continues to interact and play with them when no one is watching. We can tell the boys not to play with each other on the playground repeatedly, but he continues to make his way over to them. It is his first impulse during free play.
Don't get me wrong, most of the time they are fine. None of the interaction is even to the point of me considering it bullying. He just gets irritated with how they act and talk and it makes them feel even more inclined to act and talk that way when they see they are getting a rise out of him. They are ribbing him for ribbing's sake, not out of malice.
I tried to figure out what would make a person, child or not, continue to voluntarily hang out with people they are constantly tattling on and accusing of hurting their feelings. The only thing in this boy's case I could see as a causal factor is that he is new to the school.
He doesn't have any other friend options at this point. He can either play with them and be mildly upset or be lonely and play by himself. In his case, he repeatedly chooses to be "abused" over loneliness.
I don't think this is much different than adults. Many adults I know will continue to hang out with people they don't like simply because they think it's better than being alone. In fact, some of the adults I know will even say bad things about their friends behind their backs because they have no adult figure like the boys do to tattle to. This gossip in adults is much like tattling with kids. It's a way to voice dissatisfaction and "wrong doing". Instead, they just say what a bad friend they have and continue hanging out with them when they're lonely.
It's really amazing what humans will put up with to avoid loneliness. In many cases, they'd rather be unhappy with others, than be alone and happy or neutral at worst. The examples above are very moderate in their consequences. However, I do think this acceptance of abuse in any form can often stem from the fear of loneliness. Not every time. Just often.
As adults, here's my suggestion. Maybe try choosing the loneliness once in a while instead of abuse. There is no reason to let negativity into our lives.
some back story
"The girls are always getting in trouble at the middle school I work at for the clothes they wear, but they never say anything to the boys," said one of my co-workers.
I replied, "Well, it's not like boys are wearing tube tops and short shorts with skin and parts hanging out everywhere the majority of the time."
"Yeah, but for example, one boy had a shirt with a woman in a very small bikini that was pretty sexually explicit. How is that any different?"
"Well, one is a picture on a shirt and one is an actual middle school girl. Most boys don't get that worked up over a picture, but they can have some seriously twisted thoughts about the girl sitting next to them with a low cut shirt and miniskirt. It's more about preventing those thoughts from leading to physical actions than censoring pictures."
"Yeah, but that just goes along with the whole blame the victim mentality and saying that girls bring sexual assault on themselves. The boys should just have more self-control."
My full thoughts
I had the above conversation with a co-worker last week and I didn't really know how to respond at first. I felt like she was missing something, but I didn't want to get into an argument over something as sensitive as sexual assault with a female co-worker while working at an elementary school.
So I made a mental note and moved on.
Now that I've had time to think over it for several days, I can better articulate my point.
First, a disclaimer: I am not blaming any girl for any violent crime committed against them by a male or even another female. I've had several of my closest female friends go through terrible experiences because of the actions of men they thought they could trust and it is awful to listen to their stories.
I do think young boys (and all boys for that matter) need to be explicitly taught and given time to practice self-control.
BUT, that is missing the point in this argument. A failure of self-control can lead to a very scarring episode for one of those middle school girls. Punishing the boy, boys, or offender of whatever age or sex is reactive.
It doesn't stop the act from being committed.
The saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is extremely apt in this case. A dress code for both girls and boys can help to prevent many issues from ever coming up. Especially since self-control as a cure is something that is coming under more and more scrutiny by the research being done in neuroscience.
Both David Eagleman and Patricia Churchland have argued very convincingly that self-control can largely be an illusion of the conscious brain. Their research, and that of many others, has shown that the non-conscious aspects of the brain account for over 90% of all brain activity. This includes decision making and things closely related to it - i.e. self-control.
Much of what we take for granted under the title of "free will" is actually a very complex interaction of hormones, neurotransmitters, neurofactors, and environmental pressures. It is quite easy to say that boys should have more self-control, it is another to actually explain what that means. Middle school is a time where most students are going through puberty and their hormones and other bodily functions are going out of control. It seems that asking them to overcome and defeat their biology is asking a lot when a dress code can help to prevent much of it from ever being an issue.
Do I think the boy should have been wearing a sexually charged t-shirt? No. However, I don't think the t-shirt and the female dress code are the same thing.
I recently read a book titled Scarcity by two academic researchers,and
This was a big year. I originally set out four ambitious goals on the whiteboard I keep in my bedroom, but only met or exceeded one of them. Despite that, I feel like 2013 was my best year yet.
Four original goals:
Non-goal related accomplishments: