I’ve had a lot of noise in my head lately about how to protect children, especially after writing two articles for the Gazette on Penn State, and viewing this awesome clip of my friend Lynne Marie speaking at an anti-violence rally.
One of the things that bothered me the most was my son worrying about being left at basketball practice because of “that coach who molested that kid and no one called the police.”
So I’m trying to take my own advice and give my kids some real power over their bodies. This morning we opened the super fun box of Christmas delights so we could start working on some Christmas crafts.
Miss M and Miss G were fighting over a little baggie full of foam Christmas beads. I was busy cleaning up the remnants of the exploded box, so I told them to walk away, use their words, etc. (You know, all the things you yell at them from across the room when you can’t get there fast enough to break it up.)
But it wasn’t working, and Mr. R decided he was going to get in on the action. He went over and started slapping at the two girls who were already slapping at each other. Miss G just took it as a challenge and started slapping both Miss M and Mr. R. But Miss M started to cry.
I pulled them all apart and looked right in Miss M’s eyes. I said, “I want you to practice this with me. ‘NO!!!'” and I put my hand out like stop-in-the-name-of-love. At first she just looked at me with the tears still coming, like, are you yelling at me? What’s going on here?
I said, “I want you to practice your strong voice. When you cry and scream it only makes him want to hit you more. You have to make him want to stop. So, do this. ‘NO!!!'” The other girls started practicing.
“That’s great! Miss C, let me hear your strong voice!” She did it again, and the other girls took a turn.
I said, “Now try to make your voice really low,” because they still sounded like 3-year-old-girl squeaky toys. I showed them again but just sounded like a bear with indigestion. They knew it. “Ha ha Amy you sound like a bear!”
I said, “You’re right, I do. Now growl and say ‘NO!!!'”
We kept it up for a while and laughed at our silly voices. I told them that it was always OK to do this, and that I wanted to see growling bears instead of crying.
Then it was time to make lunch so I put out their drinks and snuck into the kitchen. Right after I disappeared, I finally heard a very loud “NO!!!” from Miss M. I winked at her but didn’t say anything (she likes to work stuff out on her own – you’re not really supposed to know about it).
The kids will sometimes sit at the table and wait while I make lunch. During this time, Mr. R likes to touch Miss G’s cup and make her cry (for a 2-year-old boy, this is a very interesting cause and effect toy). So after about thirty seconds in the kitchen I heard four girls yell “NO!” I glanced through the doorway and saw four stop-sign hands aimed at Mr. R.
It was lovely to see this, but it’s something I have to keep practicing. I’ve taught kids this from the start and like everything else, I have to teach it over and over. Like yesterday when we had to pull out the old “If you’re angry and you know it” song sheet and review what we should do when we’re angry.
But I do hope this will stick with them. I might start using it myself, in fact, when I’m surrounded by children who are hanging on my body or whining for me to do something for them. And most importantly, I have to work it into the conversation while my own boys are home. They’re getting some damn good fighting skills just from wrestling with each other, but I want them to feel that powerful in case they’re ever in a situation where the person is someone who isn’t just playing around.