Crushing the 7th Grade Gentleman

fightingLast night, after getting the coolest hair cut ever, Sandor got a phone call.

I could only hear his side on the conversation.

“He said what?”

“Oh man, yeah, I’ll handle that in the morning.”

“Thanks, Buddy”  he said as though he were in a business meeting. Then he hung up.

As casually as I could, I asked what was going on.

Sandor said, “This new kid at school he called my friend Katie a name.” Then he leaned over and said, “He called her a slut.”

“That’s horrible! ” I responded. These kids are only in seventh grade.

I thought about the girls in his class. Seventh grade is tough and wonderful.  All the girls are going through a really beautiful and hopelessly awkward phase. Soon they will all look like through breeds but for now….

Alex jumped in “If you get in a fight, you’ll get suspended. Do not let that happen.”

“Yes sir. I know. I’d never throw the first punch. But I can’t let him go around saying that kind of stuff.”

I looked at him. “So what are you gonna do?”

And then with a calm, almost dismissive air he assured me, “I’ll handle it Mom.”

At that point I wanted to demand details but I have to let him be a man, a good man and a gentleman.

If I stop him from defending this girl because I’m worried about the outcome and his future, what message am I sending? If I squash his attempt to be honorable and a gentleman what kind of man will I be left with. One that looks away when somebody is being bullied or robbed. Who avoids conflict because they don’t want to get in trouble.

It’s a fine line parents walk now. Zero tolerance has left little room for heroics .

But the truth is, when I listen to his 7th grade stories it’s the hot headed boys who throw off their back packs and start swinging, who are in most of the fights and get in trouble. Something offends them and they all start throwing the haymakers.

Sandor knows how to punch but he’s also very reflective. He thinks things over, sometimes too much.  I guess I need to relax. If he says he’s gonna handle it… will be handled.



Training Our Boys To Be Losers

absEvery magazine,  poster and ad campaign seems focused on helping our girls with their self esteem. There are  lots and lots of commercials about making sure our girls feel good about themselves. And I’m glad. Girls are brilliant, beautiful creatures. As my oldest daughter Mary says, “I’m awesome, have you met me?”

But our boys are being left in the ditch. These days a lot more girls go to college than boys and that difference is increasing every year. We spend a lot of time and money telling girls they are smart and can do anything but when was the last time you saw an ad on tv encouraging boys?

We tell girls their bodies are beautiful, no matter what size. But not the boys. Trust me, boys worry, a lot. I can name half a dozen 12 and 13 year old guys who have been in my kitchen recently and made fun of their own soft bellies, skinny arms, lack of defined abs or puny legs.

Unlike lots of girls with the same issues, guys tend to make fun of themselves before others do. The danger of boys lacking self esteem is they act out in a different way than girls.  Girls cry or get catty, boys start fights and turn into bullies when they think they aren’t good enough. Or they simply disappear into the back ground.

In school, boys with muscles are absolutely more popular than the smart guys. But that’s nothing new.

But the truth is a many athletic guys peak in high school. They are super stars that fizzle as adults. And because no one encouraged them to develop their brains as well as their bodies, they go on to live average lives . For some that’s great, but many of these guys are way too smart to be stuck in minimum wage jobs.

All the time,perfectly good boys, intelligent boys, tell me they aren’t smart. They tell me they are good at sports or gaming so they don’t plan on going to college or a trade school. They are already planning on small lives and smaller careers. And nobody really seems to be correcting them. Girls on the other hand we push and encourage constantly.

Several years ago when Sandor was in 3rd or 4th grade Alex and I went to a “Parents Math Night.” Teachers explained the math they were working on so we could better help our kids at home.  All the parents there had daughters. We were the only ones there for a male student.

When it comes to boys, Bs and Cs are ok, as long as they are passing. That’s about the best we can ask from our boys, right? Why don’t we insist our boys strive for excellence, for brilliance, for their best?

Parents, if you want your boys to be successful you have to build them that way. Teach them to shake hands,and insist they have good manners and be respectful. Boys who are respectful and know how to shake hands are able to get jobs and then be successful. Because bosses like those boys.

Society wants us to encourage our girls to succeed. So, parents you must push your boys to be more than strong. They need to be smart and hard working. And then you will have a successful man.

After The Bully Walks Away

bullyOne of my Taekwondo students is a little fellow, seven years old, round as a bowling ball with terribly buck teeth. His name is James.   When he started six weeks ago his mom warned me that James had all kinds of issues like ADD and mild Asperger’s .  It might be true but he just seems like a sweet squirrely, twitchy little boy to me.

As round as James is he always goes hard, tries  to kick high (knee level) and punch fast.  He gets to class early and stays late and constantly asks me to watch his new combos or made up kicks. James gets so excited that he interrupts and has a very hard time holding still.  But he’s a wonderful little boy.

Last week we worked on falling properly. It’s an easy technique that keeps you from getting hurt if your pushed down. I explained to the students they needed to learn to fall and roll, break their fall with their arms and don’t let their heads bounce on the ground.  We practiced falling and jumping right back up over and over. Then moved on to a new drill.

Yesterday in class James was twitching around, sizzling with a story he had to share. We all sat down to stretch and I said, “What is it James?”

“Ms. Diana, yesterday on the playground a mean guy pushed me down and I fell just like you taught us. I even used my arms!” He was so excited.

“Who was the kid?”

James shrugged, “I don’t know, just a kid.”

“Did a teacher see it happen?”

“No ma’am but I told one. She told me to stay away from him. But I fell just like you told me.”

“We’ll good job James. I ‘m glad you remembered.”

I thought about James getting pushed down as I drove home that night and as I drank my coffee this morning. I don’t want that kid getting pushed down. And if he does I want him coming up like a freight train. I want him to have the confidence and skills that  keep him safe on the play ground. But he’s just a buck toothed bowling ball white belt right now.

Someday James won’t be  proud of how he falls down, he’ll be proud of the way he gets back up.