Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So There's This Boy...

...and his name is...well, maybe I won't say his name.  But I will tell you that he is in Josiah's group violin lesson, and his behavior is horrible.  H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E.  When the teacher asks everyone to stand up to play a piece, he sits down.  When the teacher leads them in a G scale, he plays the whole thing a note off, just to mess it all up.  When the teacher tries to give instructions, he doesn't listen but instead plays a shrill trill on the E string.  Everything he can do to communicate his disrespect is done, it seems, with not a shred of self-control present in his little body.  And not only does he not control himself, apparently no one else can either.

I feel sorry for his private teacher; I don't know how she takes it.  I feel sorry for his group teacher; her strategy seems to be to placate him and let him have his way, with only occasional verbal requests for him to behave properly (and it goes without saying that those requests are generally ignored by him).  I feel sorry for his dad who has to deal with his behavior (I've never seen his mom, so I don't know the story there).  And you know what else?  I feel sorry for him.

He wouldn't act that way unless he had been allowed to get away with his rebellion and disobedience during the formative years of his early childhood.  It seems to me that this is clearly a situation where his parents need to take responsibility for the troublemaker they have created.

But here's my reason for venting in this post about my vexation with him.  My heart aches for him...and for his family...and for those whose paths cross his; and I long to reach out to him and his family and help them see that it doesn't have to be this way.  But how do I do that?  How would Jesus treat him, if Jesus Himself were sitting in that rehearsal hall?  What kind of conversation would Jesus have with his dad?  How can I (and Josiah) be Jesus with skin on to this lost, hurting boy...and his bewildered, hurting dad?

I have no interest in becoming a self-righteous Pharisee, looking down the end of my nose at the sinner before me; and even more, I have no interest in raising one.  I want to help Josiah to be humble, to truly grasp the idea of "there, but for the grace of God, go I."  At the same time, my blood boils and my mama bear instincts come out when I see that boy messing with my son.  I want to go up to him and growl menacingly, "Don't you dare, kid.  I know you think you can get away with anything, but don't even think about laying a hand on my son."  Today, when he literally reached out and started physically bugging Josiah, I was proud of my son when he turned to the boy and said, "Quit it!"  And in fact, after we left the lesson, I said, "If that happens again, you can say that loudly to him, so that the teacher can hear you and know what is going on!"  :)  But I also tried to emphasize that we're commanded to not sin, even when we're angry, so Josiah has a responsibility to be careful of how he speaks and acts to that boy, even when Josiah is provoked.

I know that because we homeschool, we rarely encounter situations like these.  We're insulated from the disobedience, disrespect, rebellion, and bullying that appears to be so common in the world today.  We act deliberately and work hard to build and maintain a culture of respect in our home.  Maybe that's why behavior like this boy exhibits is so shocking to us.

More than shocked though, the emotion I mostly feel is sadness.  That poor boy.  He's going to have such a rough path through life unless he learns to bow his head in submission to authority.

How can we help him?  What can we do?  I'm stymied.



Anonymous said...

Oh, boy! With my son in the public school system, I am all too familiar with situations like this. The two most important things you can do are, of course, PRAY about the problem from all different angles and also teach Josiah to USE HIS WORDS which is exactly what he did when he told the boy to "Quit".

Stacey said...

These kinds of situations make me crazy!!!! I am in your boat with you. My kids have been raised to be respectful and obedient. I think we live in a society where anything goes and we don't want to stifle the kid he might become. also there is the aspect that spanking is out of the question. Next up you have people who are too lazy to be consistent with the discipline, it is just easier to give up, give in and let them do as they will. I struggle with the feelings of feeling sorry for the parents because I don't. They created these little monsters. Then I step back and think...Maybe they were never taught how to raise kids. Were any of us? Maybe they had horrible examples of parents themselves. Maybe they are coming from abusive backgrounds and they go the extreme opposite of discipline to avoid any semblance of abusive behavior. At the very least there has to be some kind of accountability. I would say that you could offer the father a book one that you know has worked for you or someone you know. About parenting difficult strong willed children. Tell him you know how hard it is to be a parent in theses times and that maybe there is something in the book that could help. Pray about it and I am sure God will guide you.

Julie said...

Yeah...I would have had lots of wise words maybe 12 years or so ago but now not so many. My feet have become tired from walking in the shoes of that person. Since I absolutely know that one particular child is NOT in violin lessons (unless Steve is trying to surprise me), I know it's not mine...this time. ;)

I think showing love but not allowing the bullying to take place is a good route to take. Learning about him and his family in a nonjudgmental way. Getting to know the dad first to learn about his bewilderment. You have amazing parenting skills, and, honestly, many people just don't.

You are right that the adults in his life are the ones responsible. He is the hurting child who seems to be acting out to find his boundaries. But many just don't know how to parent. Or have so much woundedness in THEIR background from overdiscipline or abuse, that they know they are NOT going to treat their child that way but don't have alternatives.

And in a group setting like this, you most definitely can talk to the instructor if time from your child is being taken consistently for this type of disruption. (I would take the route with the parent were I the teacher that the child doesn't seem interested/ready or is bored with violin and maybe should try something else or take a break. The "this is not a good fit" route which I have been on the receiving end of in a similar situation, btw).

But there may be other issues like a learning disability or autism or any number of things. Maybe there is something that you don't know and could find out by asking... again, getting to know the parent first.

Some of my good friends have autisic children, and if you didn't know better you would say, "This parent just needs to do x,y,z and get that child under control" when they are doing all they can and then some. (and were they in this case, the mom would be home with the other brother)

That said...there are times and places for things, and the type of behavior you described does seem a bit disruptive for a violin lesson. So there you have it...once again I have no answers but appreciate your heart and concern for others. Love you! You are a GREAT mom with ministry opportunities all around.

ps...remember the last line of your post said "thoughts"? mine got a bit longwinded and jumbled.

Lana said...

I agree with Julie, get to know the family. Talk to them, be a friend to them, learn their back story (if they are willing to share it) but most importantly pray for them.

In being a teacher at public schools I have seen many children like this. Yes, some do not know the way to act because they have not been taught. And once again I agree with Julie that there might be issues like autism or a learning disability. In addition to that I have seen wonderfully respectful children turn to actions like this when something very painful and confusing happens in their lives (such as a death, moving, a member of the family leaving...or entering the household, etc.) I have seen children who seem to have it all together act like this and the only way that I can figure it out is that they are trying to control something in their lives and work through the issue the only way they know how...which is not always the best way.

But keep praying, that is the best you can do.

Davene said...

Thank you so much, ladies, for your input. This was exactly what I was looking for: people to be honest and help me consider some angles that I hadn't thought about.

I think one of the challenges is that I'm finding it very difficult to get to know the family because I've never met the mom and it feels very awkward to strike up a conversation with the dad during or after the lesson. Maybe my new strategy will be to ask Jeff to go to all the group lessons with Josiah so that HE can talk to the dad! :)

Thanks again; each of you is a blessing to me!

Stephanie said...

You know, another angle might be having Josiah talk to the boy. I believe there is more than one lesson here....As much as we want to protect our children from all of the bad in the world, we can't. Now, in the scheme of things, this isn't that bad but it is a wonderful introduction to accepting differences, choices we make with regard to our behaviour, & the consequences to those choices.

Maybe Josiah could befriend this little boy and ask him WHY he feels he has to act up. Maybe that little boy just needs a friend.

Either way, we will keep him in our prayers that he gets whtever it is that he needs. Good luck and please keep us updated on how this turns out!


Steph and Christopher

Ceci said...

Maybe talking to the dad in a way that brings out the background of the child. I always was appreciative of those that gave me ideas as to different things I could pursue w/ M. Because I didn't get any insight from the doctors, I was glad to research other avenues for the doctor to pursue.

Two other things. Some children act out b/c they need/want attention. He might not be getting it at home and violin is the way he gets it, in the wrong way of course. And also if he doesn't love violin, then he is going to act out.

Praying for you Davene as discover avenues to talk to the dad.